Startups are tough. You’re out there carving a path that no-one else has carved before. You have no idea whether you’ll succeed or fail. You encounter well-meaning worriers and envious doom-sayers. And on top of that you have to get a business off the ground. How do you keep going?
If your motivation has failed you and you feel like giving up, here are eight steps that will help to get you back on track with a few related resources from our video site, Passion Meets Momentum.
The first step is to make sure you’re focused on your passion. Sometimes it’s easy to get dragged into things that don’t belong to your core values, or that aren’t part of your central vision, because someone told you it was a good idea. Forget that advice. Take, instead, the advice of Jason Goldberg, who completely retooled his startup when he realised that his passion was gone. He relaunched with an idea he was passionate about and that he believed the company could be the best in the world at and now Fab.com has over 1.3 million users and generated over $20million in revenue last year.
The second step is to prepare to struggle. Startups take a long time to get off the ground and as sure as other people don’t always share your priorities, there will be setbacks along the way. Build a support network you can rely on: make sure you’re on the best possible terms with your investors and your bank; see what sacrifices your family are prepared to make to help you get off the ground; bring in a mentor or a coach that you can trust to help you weather the rough times. Marco Börries highlighted the importance of asking the uncomfortable questions early on.
The third step is to know when to quit ahead of time. Be honest with yourself about the resources at your disposal. How long can you tough out the slump for? How much money do you have in the bank? How much stress and how many late nights can you bear? What are you prepared to sacrifice? Decide how long you want to allow yourself. It’s liberating to know exactly when you will cut your losses if things aren’t working out. Everyone dreads the possibility of having to close down early, but knowing that you’ve got weeks or even months before you have to quit the race gives you the breathing space you need to get back on track. The self-imposed deadline is a great motivator, too.
The fourth step is to choose what to quit on. There are commitments that you will have accumulated over the years: that not-for-profit board you sit on; those talks you give at a local school. It’s a harsh decision, but you have to look at everything you’re committed to and decide which ones give you the most value. Cut out the activities that don’t contribute directly to your success or your wellbeing. The core of being ‘lean’ is eliminating waste in everything. Here is Michael Jackson on understanding business development and what to eliminate there (hint: it’s the bullshit).
The fifth step is to refuel your engine. It’s far too easy to get sucked into a downward spiral of bad meals, insufficient sleep, poor concentration, tough days, late evening, bad meals, insufficient sleep… and so on. The bottom of that spiral leads to depression and ill-health: you can’t run a successful startup if you’re a burnt-out case. Take time to get some exercise, cook and eat a good meal, reconnect with friends, sleep well. Your health and wellbeing demand no less.
The sixth step is to remember your strengths. You have a wealth of experience behind you and you have certain traits and characteristics that make you strong. Nurture those talents and take pleasure in deploying them well. If your startup demands skills that you don’t have, hire someone to fill the gap. You’ll feel better working with someone who complements your expertise than you will if you continue to struggle alone.
The seventh step is to recapture to the dream. Spend some time remembering what first inspired you to start your company. What was it you wanted to do? Spend some time visualising how it will feel when you’ve achieved your goal. Talk to people who will reflect enthusiasm back to you and rekindle the initial flame. It pays to revisit and revise your business model canvas for visual reinforcement of what you are doing. Watch the video from Tom Hulme on how to visualise your business model.
Step eight is to make some progress today, no matter how small. Pick one priority task that you can work on, rather than trying to achieve everything at once. Leave the big ideas for tomorrow and make one phone call, write one email, fix one bug.
Experiencing a setback isn’t the same thing as failure. Tenacity in the face of setbacks is what leads to success.