Most business books will tell you that few businesses survive their first year, and even less last in subsequent years. After what I’ve experienced, I can see why. This month, I enter my tenth year in business. There were times I wondered if I would make it – and times I almost didn’t. I am still standing because of a few things that I believe all entrepreneurs need to survive.
Whether you’re about to start a business or you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, here are three cyclical musts.
Values. Until we clearly articulated our core values, I was in a state of constant frustration and flux. I wondered why our people weren’t living up to my expectations and why our clients were draining the life out of us – and why we had turnover of both! I’ll admit that it was challenging to determine these values at first. What looked good on paper is not always the same as core values, which are what we truly believe in. It took us about a full year to bring them to light, but it was a year well-spent. We have more clarity and less frustration. Decision-making is easier because we are all in alignment and rowing in the same direction.
Company values should be put in writing and put into action every day.
"It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are." - Roy Disney
Grit. Growing up, and even through early adulthood, I didn’t think I had what could be called a ‘natural talent.’ I came this far because of my strong work ethic and utter refusal to give up. What I have learned, over time, is that this perseverance and tenacity were my natural talents. Once I combined that with a passion, it became clear I had grit. Running a business is challenging. There are constant curve balls. Lots of ups and downs. I call it the wave – it hits us in the face when we least expect it. It’s too much for some – and they give up.
To make it as an entrepreneur, you must be laser-focused on the end goal, so you can withstand the unpredictable waves that occur.
“Grit is sticking with your future day in, day out and not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years.” - Angela Lee Duckworth
People. Entrepreneurs are notorious for getting in our own way. The lucky ones have people who will give us valuable perspective. I receive guidance from a variety of folks – coaches, mentors, other entrepreneurs, and my peer group. These people have kept me from making grave mistakes, and they’ve supported me when the damage was too late for prevention. They’ve helped to guide critical business decisions that helped my company to remain sustainable and relevant.
Do not go at it alone.
“Surround yourself with good people; surround yourself with positivity and people who are going to challenge you to make you better.” - Ali Krieger
What will the next ten years hold? If it’s anything like the last decade, I can only say it will be full of lessons. But, I do believe, as a leader – and as a company – we are better-equipped to enter that next chapter.