Don’t let the headlines fool you. Entrepreneurship is nerve-racking, and it’s not for everyone. For me, this fear serves as motivation — fear of failure and fear of running out of money can be one of the biggest motivators out there. Even Elon Musk describes this stress as “unrelenting.”
I’m now on my third startup, and it’s never easy. Each business has presented new challenges, and the biggest challenge to the growth of Boat Planet has been funding. Our product has gained significant traction, but it’s clear that we’ll need a much larger team to scale our solution nationwide. I knew this when Boat Planet launched, but finding additional funding has taken longer than I initially planned.
When you look at the statistics — such as the fact that only 40 percent of small businesses are profitable — the process of securing funding becomes a roller-coaster of emotions wrapped in a layer of fear. One thing I’ve learned during my numerous adventures in entrepreneurship is that you have to be relentless in the pursuit of your goals. It’s no different than a relationship: It takes hard work, sacrifice and the determination to solve problems as they surface.
What Goes Up
The formation and growth phase of any company is the most exciting part of entrepreneurship. This is when your problem-solving skills are put to the test, and every day brings a new challenge. It’s when you get to show the world what you’ve made as well as test your abilities as an entrepreneur.
It’s also the most turbulent phase. Things can go great one day and feel hopeless the next. The graph of “A Day In The Life of an Entrepreneur” by Derek Halpern perfectly demonstrates how all entrepreneurs are going through the same thing. As impossible as it might seem at times, you can survive the wild ride. Here’s how:
1. Focus on ‘dollar productive’ activities.
It’s easy for entrepreneurs to get distracted when starting and growing a business. There are so many aspects of your business that can be streamlined or improved, and there is an endless amount of information and plenty of experts out there that can help you.
But it’s often difficult to stay focused on “dollar productive” activities. To grow a business, a significant part of your day should focus on activities that produce revenue or grow your userbase. Block off your most productive hours to work on these activities instead of checking email or taking meetings.
2. Make everything a learning opportunity.
You are going to hear “no” a lot. Whether you’re seeking funding, new business, a partnership or are just offering some free advice, the journey is often more difficult than you might have planned. You’ll need to develop some thick skin.
Entrepreneurs must gain trust in their business community, and it’s not something they can earn overnight. When you get a “no,” spend some time analyzing what you could have done differently to get a “yes” next time. If you turn every “no” into a learning experience, nothing will feel like a waste of time.
3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. In a mental health study of entrepreneurs, nearly half of respondents reported having at least one mental health condition. When you’re starting and growing a business, it can seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to take care of yourself. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle becomes a lot harder than when you had a 9-to-5 job.
By exercising, eating a healthy diet and limiting your alcohol consumption, you’ll not only have more energy, but it will also be easier to maintain a positive mindset. Exercise can relieve stress and help you clear your mind, and meal delivery services make it easy to eat well while also saving you valuable time.
4. Write down your goals and celebrate wins.
I like to keep my long-term goals in mind and remind myself of why I started my business in the first place. Set SMART goals (ones that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely), and then celebrate small steps toward meeting those goals.
Those small steps will help you be more productive each day. How? When you celebrate a win, it reminds your brain how great it feels. It will also motivate you to get more wins.
5. Find an accountability partner or mentor.
Determine whether you’d like to have a partner or a mentor from the outset (or look for both). An accountability partner can keep you honest about setting and reaching your goals as well as offer an outside perspective; a mentor can provide you with a vast amount of knowledge and experience to help your business grow.
Even Steve Jobs had mentors in Ed Woolard and John Sculley. According to a study by Endeavor, companies whose founders have been mentored by successful entrepreneurs are three times more likely to be successful.
Being an entrepreneur is easily one of the most stressful and rewarding jobs out there. There are plenty of challenges, and perseverance is key. By learning how to navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, you can achieve true success at the end.