There are a number of well-known business leaders, ranging from Richard Branson to Mark Zuckerberg to Steve Jobs to Jeff Bezos among many others, who have given their thoughts about starting and running a business.
With this advice readily available at your fingertips, there is no need to repeat what these titans of business have to say. Instead, I believe I will share my own personal approach to staying motivated when starting your own business.
I’ve broken down my own experience into 10 ways in which you, as a future founder of a business, can get yourself and perhaps, more importantly, stay motivated.
1. If you don’t believe in what you are doing, no one else will
Starting your own business is a daunting and exciting experience. What gets you through the tough times, and there will be tough times, is a belief in yourself that what you are doing is going to succeed. If you believe in what you are doing and your product, you can be your new business’s best sales person. However, if I am a potential investor meeting with an entrepreneur and see that this person does not appear to believe in his product, or themselves, 100%, why would I invest my hard earned money with them?
Believe in yourself, because in the beginning, you might be the only one.
2. Be smart and be SMART.
A cause of an entrepreneur’s motivation levels dropping is running 1000 kilometres out the gate, and before they know it, so much is happening around them they become overwhelmed. It’s fantastic to be ambitious, that is why a person starts a business in the first place, but a little bit of structure goes a long way. That means being SMART.
Being smart is important, but being SMART about your goals is even more important, ie: Being specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. Let me expand:
Specific – Understand exactly what you’re trying to do. Be specific with your goals. Why did you make that sandwich? To feed your hunger. Why did decide to target a specific market? Because that is where your product can best make its mark.
Measurable – Do things that lead to tangibles result. Set targets, map your progression and see if you hit your target. That way you have an indicator of whether you are succeeding or failing. Always know how your new business is performing.
Achievable – Make your goals achievable. It’s excellent that you are ambitious but know your abilities, and that of your new business, set goals that while ambitious, are still achievable.
Realistic – Similar to realistic, but with a subtle difference. Being realistic is setting a target with your current capacity and resources known, at the starting line, compared to achievable, when you are still getting to the stadium.
Time-Based – Time is money is an often repeated cliche, but that does not mean it holds an important listen. It is all well and good to set both achievable and realistic goals, but how long do you have to achieve them? Starting a business takes capital, and time and capital are uneasy acquaintances at best.
Set yourself deadlines. If you have an important task, knowing that you only have so much time acts as a great motivator. An entrepreneur can be their own worst enemy. Do not waste time. I can tell you it feels great when you have met a deadline on an important task. Experiencing that feeling is also a very powerful motivator.
3. Fail to plan and plan to fail: the business plan
One of the most vital documents that will drive your new business is your business plan. The business plan is a both a statement of intent, what you want to achieve, what decisions led you to this point, why you believe there is an opportunity in the market, your initial capital and staffing requirements, legal regimen that needs to be met, projections of how you expect the business to grow over time, what you show potential investors and partners to attract new business, among other facets.
I cannot stress enough how important having a business plan is. If your new business is a new home, your business plan is the architectural drawings of your new home.
4. Get the right staff and choose them carefully
No man is an island, and the same applies to an entrepreneur starting their own business. Sure, there is much you can do by yourself, saving precious capital in the process, but running a business can be an exhausting exercise. Being exhausted, tired or fatigued is a drag on motivation, so at some point you will need to expand your team and hire staff.
Make sure you hire staff that share the values as you, are as motivated as you are to succeed, have the right skills, and are able to work with you and each other. The right people will help keep you motivated and grow your business.
5. Don’t procrastinate
There is that old saying about procrastination. Like not wearing sunscreen, it seems great at the time, but in the long run, you are only hurting yourself. Procrastination is the enemy of efficiency, and efficiency is a key step in staying motivated.
If your business is not moving forward at the pace you think it should be, it can be quite de-motivating, seeing how all your hard work hasn’t moved the needle as much as you hoped. Some things will always be out of control, but not procrastinating and wasting time is one of those things. Keep busy and keep motivated. If you keep busy and achieve the goals you set for yourself and your business, you will become even more motivated to succeed. Success breeds success.
6. Let others help you with your ups and downs
As I’ve already stated, running a new business takes a lot of hard work. Beyond the physical toll the business will take on you, the emotional toll it can have on a person can be quite drastic.
If you are having a tough time getting your business off the ground, make sure to speak to a good friend or family member. Talking about your struggles, even if embarrassing at times, gives others the chance to motivate you to continue. If you speaking to people you value, they will help to keep you going during the tough times. They might even have an insightful piece of wisdom to share that can make all the difference.
7. All work and no play is no fun at all
Starting a business requires a lot of time and hard work, let alone money and organisation skills. Just remember that burning yourself out and keeping your focus too narrow can kill motivation, especially if your new business is not succeeding as you through it would.
Make sure to diarise some time away for yourself (not to be confused with procrastination) to refresh, re-focus and to keep your perspective clear. Sleep is critical, as is a good diet and exercise. That being said, a nice cup of coffee or whatever your poison may be won’t hurt you either.
Upon your return, will be motivated to continue putting the hours into your new business.
8. Be considerate of those around
Being the boss of your own business is a tremendous responsibility, and once your business has developed to a certain stage and hired staff, it is that staff that will look to you for guidance, motivation and leadership.
They will be affected by your mood, and more importantly, your motivation levels. There are several factors that motivate employees, but if their leader is not motivated, they why should they be? A great working environment fosters high levels of motivation.
Remember, the little things matter.
9. SWOTing your way to success
A major challenge of running a new business is knowing whether you are succeeding or failing at any amount, which affects your motivation levels. A useful tool I’ve seen employed is running a swot analysis after a certain period, be it a week, month or whatever it may be.
Standing for Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT), get hold of a whiteboard or piece of paper, and draw a square separated into four distinct sections. Write down your business’s strengths, weaknesses, the opportunities it has and the threats to its existence, one per a block.
It will help lay bare the good and bad things you are doing, offers a way forward, and will help motivate you to keep going, as you will have the full picture of where your business is. Knowing thyself is often the toughest part.
10. Punctuality and professionalism
Running a business often means you meet people you wouldn’t have normally met otherwise. It is imperative that while you act professionally in all situations and arrive on time. It is de-motivating when a client or potential investor run late for a meeting, as it suggests they might not think of your new business worth the effort to be there on time.
You can’t control what others do, but always make sure you arrive on time for appointments. Doing so shows you are motivated and ready to work, going back to the first point I made. Even if you arrive at an appointment early, as those in the army say, time spent on reconnaissance is time well spent.