Many experts are certain that successful entrepreneurs are the ones with the most inspiration (passion and dream), while others will assert that it’s about more perspiration (working harder). In my experience, both are always required in heavy doses. There are no “can’t fail” shortcuts or “get rich quick” scenarios.
That’s why all those so-called million dollar ideas I hear about as an investor don’t get me excited, and entrepreneurs find that working twenty hours a day often generates nothing more than sweat, instead of the desired sweat equity. Moving a dream into reality requires balancing on a tight-rope of passion supported by unending efforts to move heaven and earth to make it happen.
For success under in this challenging and stressful environment, it’s important to recognize every small element of success to keep your inspiration alive. Here are five key ones to celebrate:
Enjoy the feedback from every satisfied customer. This is the confirmation that your product or service fills a real need in the marketplace. Talking to real customers is the best way to keep your inspiration alive, as well as the best way keep on track with changing trends and future innovation ideas.
Note the growth of your team and your own leadership. Overcoming obstacles and learning is one of the biggest inspiration for most entrepreneurs. Similarly, it will be very satisfying to see the productivity increases from your leadership and mentoring. Enjoy watching key members of your team grow from followers to leaders.
Celebrate the ability to pay yourself a salary. Having enough revenue to finally give yourself a salary is an inspiring event, and one that you should savor. New business models that provide an ongoing revenue stream, or a secondary stream from advertising, raise your margins and can give you some additional satisfaction.
Watch that patent provide a real barrier to competitive entry. Re-live that moment of inspiration that resulted in an innovative design and implementation for your product, and is now providing you with a sustainable competitive advantage. This may also be the moment when you get your first big acquisition offer, rather than a clone appearing.
Appreciate the media accolades and peer success feedback. Enjoy that first video interview at an industry conference, or the newspaper story which enhances your startup visibility and credibility. Feel the inspiration from peers asking for your secret, or peers trying to model their efforts after yours.
At the same time, you can never let up on the work and the sweat required for continuous innovation, exemplary customer satisfaction, and staying ahead of competitors:
- Marketing is a never-ending challenge. Even with the perfect product, your customers won’t even know you exist without marketing. Surprisingly, word-of-mouth and viral efforts require more work and a larger budget than you would expect. You have to react quickly to changes in the marketplace, and adapt to new customer requirements.
- Managing cash-flow personally and continually. Cash-flow challenges must be part of your daily workload, especially if the business is growing fast. This is a task that you should never delegate. Keeping expenses down must always be top priority. One approach, which is even more work, is to keep tasks in-house rather than outsourcing.
- Increasing customer focus and loyalty. Using the new social media channels for customer interactions and feedback is a great boon, but it requires daily attention and work to respond to customer requirements, fix satisfaction issues before they escalate, and build the level of loyalty required to make every customer an advocate to friends.
In my experience, I have found that if entrepreneurs can sustain the inspiration, even the hard work becomes part of the fun and satisfaction, leading to success. All of one, without the other, is not sustainable. How well are you doing in that balance between inspiration and perspiration?