Starting and growing a business is a long road, with many uphill climbs along the way. While you may enjoy many aspects of being your own boss and building your own business it can also be lonely, tiring and at times even a terrifying experience. The question is: what is going to keep you putting one foot in front of the other when things get tough?
Building a business is like running the Comrades Marathon: it’s a long distance race, not a short sprint and there are steep hills and lonely stretches along the way. To make it, you need to ensure you have a positive attitude and a deep-seated belief in yourself from the get-go. You also need to learn to maintain this enthusiastic, optimistic mindset for the long haul, regardless of the challenges you encounter.
One of the secrets to ensuring that you keep moving forward, irrespective of setbacks, is to acknowledge up front that setbacks are going to occur: it’s not all going to be roses. In business, as in life, it is as important to be realistic as it is to be optimistic. Mental preparation is powerful. Have a strategy for how to deal with the disappointments, fear and the loneliness that comes with building a business.
When you start on the entrepreneurship road, you need to know what you’re in for, as well as ensure that you have the motivation to keep going day after day. Veteran entrepreneur Menzies shares her top marathon motivation tips:
> It’s not a sprint: If you come flying out of the starting blocks, the chances are that you are going to lose steam and fall out of the race. You need to learn to pace yourself and to mentally prepare yourself for the long road ahead. Hard work and long hours are inevitable and also necessary to succeed, but so is sleep. An all-nighter here and there is fine, but doing months of them on end will be detrimental to your business. Remember that slow and steady wins the race.
> You’re got to do the dreaded training: No runner wants to get up 4am to do a training run, but there are some things that have to be done to ensure your dreams come true and you reach that finish line. Likewise, you have to face the things that you don’t enjoy doing in your business and just do them. Admin is a good example – you may not feel like doing it, but it’s vital to your business’s survival. Poor admin and record keeping is one of the primary causes of business failure.
> Get kitted out: While some people are complete enigmas and can win a marathon literally wearing no shoes, the rest of us need all of the gear, including compression socks and high quality shoes. The same applies when you’re building a business; you need to invest in the right equipment, appropriate office space and technology and, most importantly, a quality team to ensure a successful result.
> Put the hours in: Comrades runners have to clock up hundreds of the hours on the road if they hope to finish the race. Building a business also requires long hours and hard work, especially in the initial years. The reality is that the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. You’ve got to put the hours in.
> The importance of refueling: Runners need energy drinks and nutritious food during a marathon to refuel if they are going to make it to the finish line. Likewise, entrepreneurs need to refuel after periods of hard work and stress. For some people, refueling may be a night on the town with good friends, for others a spa treatment or maybe just taking a day out to watch a new series in your PJs. Whatever it is for you, make sure you do it. Refueling is a necessity, not an indulgence.
> Let go of the bad days: Every single marathon runner has moments when they feel defeated. For an entrepreneur, it’s inevitable. You need to remind yourself during times of disappointment or discouragement that it’s not permanent; a bad day is not a bad business. Tomorrow is a new day that holds new solutions and new opportunities.
> You need a support system: Marathon runners need someone to second them during the race, and having a group of supporters cheering them on makes the world of difference. The same goes for business: it is vital that you have support. Find trusted, experienced, credible people you can go to for advice and encouragement when it’s needed, whether this is a mentor or fellow entrepreneur or a small business networking group. Support is vital for success – for more on this see http://bit.ly/28UopSw .
> Have clear goals: Just like a runner may aim for a sub-four hour marathon, you need to have some clear goals when it comes to your business. If you aim at nothing, that’s exactly what you’ll achieve. Write down your objectives for your business and define what achieving them will accomplish for you – whether that be money, freedom, status, creativity or independence. Once you have done this, you’ll know exactly where you are going and will be motivated to get there.
While building your business can be a tough and lonely marathon, it is also incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. Nothing will beat that feeling of crossing the finish line. The same goes for achieving your goals in your business. Give it all you’ve got, enjoy the good times, hang in during the tough times. It’s worth it.