In this blog post, I’ll be talking about how I quickly learned that business is a long game. It’s a marathon – and getting to the finish line takes an eternity. Well, what feels like an eternity. Plus, rushing things will only frustrate the hell out of you – you’ll probably end up quitting and running off.
This is the next instalment in the ongoing story of my experiences in business. Let’s continue with the Diary of an Entrepreneur!
Remove your trainers and stick on your slippers
You know what they say: there’s no such thing as an overnight success.
The amount of conversations I have with people where someone suddenly ‘becomes successful’ and someone else says, ‘Have you noticed that [name] business? Yesterday they were nothing, today they’re huge! It’s just an overnight success!’
This really gets my back up. I just want to yell at them and say, ‘Hang on! No, it’s not an overnight success – they’ve been working really hard under the radar for probably decades to get to this point.’
It’s such a common misconception. ‘Overnight successes’ take decades, proving that the whole business thing is a marathon, not a sprint. I think it’s so important to have this mindset upfront before sprinting off on the business journey.
If I was starting all over again, or if I was asked if I had any advice for someone starting out, I would ask these questions:
- Do you have the time?
- Do you have the patience?
- Do you have the resources – physically, mentally and tangibly – to last the duration of what will be the toughest and most demanding journey of your life?
And I’m not even exaggerating – there’ll be people reading this thinking, ‘Oh, come on – how difficult can it be? Bit of sales, making some products, shifting some services – it’s easy.’ It’s not – it’s far from easy. You have to have many, many attributes to be, for me, a good business person who’s in a good position to be successful. If you don’t have them, you’re going to struggle.
One of these attributes is self-awareness – to realise and ask those questions before going into it. There’s a reason you hear so many stories from successful business people of them setting up in their garages, having zero money, having to borrow and beg for things to get them by. It is, literally, the harsh reality of setting up a business – and you have to ask yourself whether you’re prepared to go through that.
Growing a business will always be a marathon
Now, depending on the product, service, business or industry, it differs. You could achieve success in a relatively short space of time, but it’s still a marathon. You’re not just going to get to that success and shut up shop – there’s life beyond that moment.
You look at Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos now with all their money, but years and years ago they all started off in a garage or a dodgy office room somewhere, working from old desks with naff signs on the walls.
I think we’re in an era now where ‘entrepreneurship’ is a key phrase – we get excited by it and get caught up in the romance of owning our own business. However, we all fail to stop and think, ‘Am I really thinking about this? Do I really know what I’m getting myself into? Am I prepared to put blood, sweat and tears into the next 10, 15, 20 years of my life?’
The more ambitious and driven you are, the longer and harder that marathon is going to be – and you’re going to need many pairs of trainers and slippers, because you will wear them out pretty quickly. That’s just the truth of running a business.
Ups and downs
I compare running a business to stocks and shares. You’re investing for the long term, and there’s going to be lots of peaks and troughs, lots of losses and lots of wins. For the most part, they play a small part in the long-term picture of the business – if you can control the stress and anxiety.
I use this to think about business because it’s actually something I’ve been getting into recently – I invest in stocks and shares through a little app (not a fortune, only a couple of hundred quid at the moment). I check it daily and there are days where it’s down and in the red, and the next day it’s gone up. Business is very much the same – and, to be fair, there are probably more downs than ups, so you have to be able to cope with all of that.
New perspective on life
One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve made, especially in the early days, is rushing – wanting instant success and allowing this to influence my decisions. Now, this is probably an age thing. Throughout my twenties I was going at 100 miles an hour, very immature for my age and just completely wet behind the ears. As I moved into my thirties, I began to see and appreciate the long road ahead.
In my forties, I have a whole new perspective on life – personal and business. The pace is slower and I’m more measured, without dampening the ambition and enthusiasm. I still feel like I’m in my twenties as far as the ambition goes – I’ve got that fire in my belly, that belief and optimism. I’m still a dreamer, but I believe my dreams are still firmly based in reality. They’re achievable, they’re just way off in the distance. Most people would look at that and think ‘he’s completely nuts’ – but hey! I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. This is what I believe in, these are my dreams and I’m not asking for permission or opinions on those.
Life experience is overlooked
I do like the drive of trying to get entrepreneurship into people at a younger age, but I still think we need to remember that in your teens and twenties you’re a different person to what you are in your thirties, forties and fifties. Completely different. You can cope with more and I believe you’re able to make better decisions.
Either way, even if you are in your teens, twenties or thirties, it’s still a marathon. You may get a little bit of a headstart when you’re in your twenties, but even if you’re in your fifties, it’s still not too late either. You can still give it a go and you’ve still got a good part of your life ahead of you.
I’ve found that the new mindset I’ve found in my forties has allowed me to focus, have breathing space, make more measured decisions and definitely make a lot less mistakes. What’s more, I believe that momentum and patience has played a massive part in that. Now, I can spend more time with decisions and, I believe, make the right decisions off the back of that experience that I’ve gained.
Grab life by the horns
This is the reason why people need to read blogs like this and listen to podcasts from people who’ve been in their position – to learn from them. When I was a kid, my parents used to say to me, ‘When you turn 21, life’s going to fly by – so take full advantage of it and don’t take anything for granted!’ Did I listen to them? No, of course not! In hindsight? Of course, I should have listened, because I’m suddenly in my mid-forties and I’m looking at my life thinking, ‘If I just knew 15% of what I know now in my twenties, I’d be in a whole different place right now.’
The age and time aspect is something that is very often overlooked by people thinking about setting up a business. Are you willing to dedicate the very minimum of 10+ years of your life to getting this off the ground and becoming that next ‘overnight success’?
Thank you for reading this chapter of the Diary of an Entrepreneur. I must stress, I’m not trying to teach you anything. I’m just sharing my journey, and if it motivates you, then great – job done!
If you want to hear more about my entrepreneurial journey, check out the Diary of an Entrepreneur podcast on all available platforms – I talk all things business in terms of my OWN journey and experience. It’s not one to miss!