How To Stay Motivated and Beat The Start-Up Blues

Posted by on August 18, 2009 in Business Start Up Advice [ 1 Comment ]

In the real world, we have to deal with facing down challenges that can’t be overcome simply with motivational catch phrases made famous by Tony Robbins or Dr. Phil. Lately, we’re all taking hits from the recession and the general depression that this has brought on our country. Nationally and locally, business are facing hardships that we as a country haven’t truly had to face in a few generations and we’ve done our best to persevere, but that doesn’t always keep us from being pushed to the mat and the breaking point. The world where business credit was easy to acquire, vendors were lax in their collections, and the consumer was hungry for new purchases is long gone and the small business owner isn’t getting any true encouragement on what to do next.

So what’s the secret? If it’s not a mantra or a chant or a psalm than what is the way to pull yourself off the mat if your prospects are looking bleak? Frankly, it’s remembering the facts about being a start-up. Keep those in mind, and you’ll be able to maneuver your way through Year One.

Negativity: Why be negative when faced with an obstacle? The website isn’t getting the requisite number of hits and you’re baffled about the SEO guidelines from Google. The logo you adore is apparently too similar to one that’s for a restaurant chain in Florida. The only merchant account that you can get wants a 5% fee per transaction. When faced with these sorts of obstacles one must never succumb to the easy way out: negative thinking. Common sense dictates that a “woe is me” vibe around your business will not solve any of the problems you’re facing. It’s just as detrimental as unrestrained blind optimism. Take a deep breath, re-evaluate, consult a mentor, use a magic 8-ball, whatever, but don’t let it ruin the day. Obstacles will always exist. Focus on possible solutions instead of the problem.

The Red is no longer the enemy: Everyone worries about being in the red in their first year. Guess what? You’re supposed to be. No matter how much pre-opening marketing you do, no matter how much buzz you create, you will most likely be in the red for at least the first six months of operation once you’ve opened. Depending on the industry you’re involved in, it could be longer. It’s supposed to be this way. The only way to build cash flow is to be open and gathering a client base actively and that will be a period of time spending working capital and having very little revenue coming in to pay for it. Anyone who shows you a business plan without a period of deficit at the beginning of operations is either walking into opening the business with a client base already established or is not being realistic about their first year. If it’s the former, then they’ve spent longer on pre-opening than the average start-up. If it’s the latter, then they most likely are drinking their own Kool-Aid.

A Few Good Men (or women): “If you’re not smart, surround yourself with smart people. If you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people that disagree with you.” I heard this quote on a television show ages ago and it’s stuck with me. This is what every entrepreneur should consider when building their management team. When you’re starting out, the last thing you need are “Yes Men”. Nothing will get done and there will be no debate when it’s required to enact a change in the strategy. Just as we don’t want one voice in government, we don’t want one voice in the boardroom. The people that work in your inner circle should be those with the requisite experience to help you in areas you aren’t knowledgeable or they should be there to encourage healthy debate in case the strategy needs too change.

Coaches in the locker room tell us what they think we need to hear to keep a positive attitude without much thought to the practical reality that we live in. Remembering the reality about the first year of business will pay off a great deal better than some mantra from a motivational speaker especially one that charges thousands to attend an alarming convention where you are shouted at. You will inevitably have a moment where you see the mat coming closer and closer as you’re about to hit it. As you’re falling, remember the facts and the solutions for how to pull yourself back up from it.

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