Wouldn’t it be nice if business success was easy? If there was a formula for success, like all the self-help gurus would have us believe?
My answer to those questions is no. I think it’s good that business is challenging and difficult at times.
It’s only through fighting past the tough times — and puzzling through the challenges — that we learn. And once we’ve put the effort in, we appreciate the success we’re able to create more than if it was handed to us.
“Your best teacher is your last mistake.”
The trick to enjoying running your own business is to expect the ups and downs, and the twists and turns. Welcome them. Embrace them. And take full advantage of what they’ll teach you.
Here’s what to look for:
Economic ups and downs
Right now, the economy in the US seems to be slowly heading up again after six long years of struggle. Most businesses felt the recession in some way. Some didn’t survive it.
A changing economy is to be expected. Over the life of your business, you’ll see the economic climate go through times when it favors your business, and times when it squeezes your opportunities to a bare minimum.
Income that disappears
You’re humming along, and things are going well, when suddenly the rug is pulled out from under you. Whether it’s losing your biggest client, a sudden turn in the demand for your product, or a health problem that means you have to dial back your hours, your income will dip from time to time.
An inadvertent hit product or service
Sometimes the products or services you least expect to do well turn into sleeper “hits” that sell beyond your wildest expectations. This is not a bad problem to have, of course, but it’s something you may need to make adjustments around.
Potential projects that fall through
You’ve been working on reeling in a new client for months. Or you’ve been talking to a potential partner. The new source of income is so close, you can taste it. And (you’re embarrassed to admit) you’ve even started planning how you’ll spend your new income.
And suddenly — it’s gone. Plans change, and you won’t be able to count on that source of income in the future.
Sales that fall flat
A service or product you offer has been a reliable source of income for months and years, and sales have begun to taper off. You know you need to make a change: will you keep it and update it? Pull it and replace it?
Potential partners come out of nowhere
Sometimes — when you least expect it — you’ll meet someone who will change the course of your business. Oftentimes you don’t realize it at the time, but looking back, you’ll see that change started to happen when you and that person crossed paths.
They may become a business partner, a brainstorming partner, or simply a source of inspiration. Once you find them, your business changes for the better.
You’ll get discouraged
If you’re lucky, you’ll have a long and winding trail to walk as you build your business over the years. There will be ups and downs, and in the down moments, you may feel discouraged. Expect this: it’s natural.
“Success is never so interesting as struggle—not even to the successful.”
You’ll celebrate small victories
There will be many small moments of victory, and you’ll be a happier business owner if you find a way to celebrate them. Mark them on the calendar, keep a journal, report your successes to your business colleagues and family members. Every small victory deserves recognition, even if you’re the only person celebrating.
Guaranteed: your business will shape shift
Businesses evolve. Try to go into your business with a strong vision of what you want to accomplish, and a weak vision of how exactly you’ll accomplish it.
Because as time goes on, the tools and techniques you’ll use will change. You’ll respond to your customers, you’ll learn new skills, and you’ll have more opportunities at your disposal.
Don’t get attached to exactly how you’ll get to your destination.
What should you pack for the journey?
Pack your bags with plenty of persistence. You’ll need it for the trip. Remember, it’s the journey, not the destination.
“Achieving a goal is nothing. The getting there is everything.”
Take along your flashlight. Your business journey will feel like walking through the woods on a dark night. The flashlight in your hand will show you where to place your feet in the space directly ahead of you, but you won’t be able to see beyond that. And that’s OK: that’s how it works!
Use your listening ears. This is how you can “see” ahead of you. By listening to what your customers need, you can stay ahead of the game. So when that client bails out, or the big job falls through, or the partner loses interest, or sales fall flat … you have a plan B.
Here’s what it boils down to …
The process is what it’s all about, not the goal. The goal is just what you’re pointing toward.
Human nature dictates that as soon as we accomplish one goal, we set a new one for ourselves. So you see, it’s not about the goal. It’s about the trail we travel to get there.
Let go of your goals. Embrace the process you’ll use to get there.
That’s where the learning happens, that’s where the adventure lives, and that’s where business gets done.