At any given time, we have a number of ideas in our heads that we would love to see come to life. A business proceeds not just from an idea, but a burning desire to achieve something.
Aspiring entrepreneurs often underestimate the sheer and relentless amount of work that goes into setting up a business, running it and ensuring that it goes on to become a successful undertaking. It may start with a brilliant spark, but from procuring funding to setting up an office, to hiring people and selling others your idea — starting your own business is wildly rewarding, and it’s a lot of work.
One often loses track of time. Running a business is like running a marathon. It’s not a sprint — a few weeks of frenetic activity and then putting your feet up and relaxing. No. You don’t get to relax much, at least for the first couple of years.
The story of the tortoise and the hare comes to mind. It’s easy for an entrepreneur to be hare-like: enthusiastic, full of energy and raring to go, confident, and dangerously close to cocky, lacking a plan and discipline, because they underestimate the challenge ahead.
But that is not the way to go. Be like the tortoise. Prepare for a marathon. Here’s how.
Plan for the long haul
When you are selling your idea to venture capitalists and potential investors, don’t simply focus on getting the idea off the ground. Ensure they understand you.
You will have to carve out a solid and feasible timetable to take care of all the nitty-gritty that go into setting up the venture. You will need to talk about product development, website development, marketing (logo, tagline, content, etc.) and, in due time, about your own salary, an equity stake and the timeframe that would see the business become fully operational.
You’ll need to set several short-term goals in order to ensure long-term success.
Where do you see the company in one year? Do the investors agree with you? Are your goals in alignment?
Choose the right business partners
I cannot emphasize this enough. One has to be as careful of who one does business with as they are of who they marry.
A business partner has to be someone you can trust. You should respect their expertise. That person should listen to what you have to say and take that into consideration. There has to be a healthy level of trust and open communication between partners for the partnership to work.
Your vision and values must align. It’s also desirable to find someone who can complement your strengths. I’m a marketing guy and my business partner is a hard-core tech guy. I’m not saying we know everything, but together we cover a lot of bases around here.
A marathon runner needs reliable and professional training and nutrition advice. Ultimately it is this advice that will shape his or her performance and determine if they are able to run the marathon or not.
Similarly, a business person needs to surround himself with people he can trust and who can give him solid advice. The right business partner is a great start.
Do the drudge work with pleasure
Marathon is about resilience, running the long race. The amount of perseverance involved in it cannot be achieved via short spurts of enthusiasm.
I feel awesome today. I slept well last night. And that pizza from the lunch? It was simply delicious! Now that the stars have all aligned, let me go to the gym and burn a few calories off when I actually feel like it. No.
If your goal is to run and complete a marathon, you do not go to the gym when you feel like it. You do not eat a pizza when you feel like it. You take your feelings out of the equation and focus on doing that which you know is needed every single day for successful attainment of the goal.
It takes time to tear down the existing body and build a new one in its place. It takes time to cultivate the stamina and endurance needed for running miles on end. The preparation begins early and you stay on track. That means, you show up for the work needed every single day. Even when it’s raining, even when you haven’t slept the night before and even when you feel like not doing anything and staying in bed.
Running a business is similar in nature.
You show up for work every single day. You bring the same kind of dedication to your tasks every day. You do not let your mood swings or fights with your spouse affect your dealings with potential clients or procrastinate looking into that bug which you know is affecting the website’s performance.
Strive for perfection
Working out is all about challenging yourself. Your first day at training may leave you sore and almost in tears over your lack of fitness, but eventually, you get better if you stick to the regimen.
However, as you perfect a set of exercises, you realize you need to move on to another level in order to keep the current level of fitness.
Similarly, entrepreneurship is all about challenging oneself and finding new frontiers to conquer. You have had a successful quarter or two, don’t start resting on your laurels yet.
Be dedicated to finding new ways of making your customers happy. Keep growing that email list. Keep producing that great content. Keep fine-tuning your website experience. Keep following the trends so that you are able to make the necessary adjustments to survive and thrive in this rapidly changing technology-driven world.
Perfection itself may not exist, but the idea of it pushes us to better ourselves and the competitors. Perfectionism, therefore, is the antidote to complacency.
Be ready to make sacrifices
No, you cannot get marathon-level fitness by eating cheeseburgers and fries and washing it down with beer.
Making sacrifices when you want to achieve a goal is not temporary; it needs to become a way of life. Everywhere we turn, we are greeted by temptations. Whether it’s about what to eat or which website to visit next, we have an endless number of choices. It’s easier than ever to be led astray.
You’ll need focus to keep your day productive, and this means sacrificing your time. As a start-up entrepreneur, you will have to learn to work long hours — for a potentially large reward.
Don’t do things that you know amounts to wasting time. It is essentially as simple as that. You have to define what constitutes “wasting time.” It’s different for everyone, but we all know it when we are doing it.
You may even have to say no to birthday parties, vacations, even put off buying that long-cherished smart TV.
All in good time.
Don’t neglect your health
We cannot draw a parallel with running a marathon and not touch upon this all-important aspect of life.
Businesses may work or they may fail. Partners may come and go. The one thing you will always have with you is your body. You need to, therefore, ensure that no matter how busy you get or how successful you become, you find the time to eat right and work out a few hours each week. Get adequate rest and refresh your mind at regular intervals. The success that comes at the cost of health and relationships is not worth it. That is the blunt truth.
What do you think? What sacrifices have you made in running your business? What lessons have you learned? How did you manage to strike the balance between various aspects of life while running a full-time venture? Please leave a comment and let me know. I love reading about the struggles and success stories of fellow entrepreneurs!
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