Regardless of how you measure success as an entrepreneur (piles and piles of cash, a comfortable living, independence, etc.) it can be elusive. And, if you’re like most entrepreneurs (particularly first-timers), when you launch your business you probably expect success to hit pretty quick. You built a great product, right? Everyone will love it, right?
Entrepeneurs need sizeable enough egos to be entrepreneurs. You have to believe in yourself and in your business, oftentimes more than others might. You’re the hero in this story, so when success doesn’t happen right out of the gate, it can be a real smack in the face. “You mean, just because I’m great and my product is the next best thing since slice bread, I’m not guaranteed success?” Far from it, and sometimes, entrepreneurs make the mistake of being too far “inside” their own business to see what’s going on around them.
First and foremost, don’t despair. It’s easy to feel a real slump after you launch your business and you’re not that multi-millionaire you envisioned in a couple of weeks. Remember that ego? Well there’s nothing wrong with an ego, and in fact, entrepreneurs need one to succeed, so use it now to bolster yourself against your lack of perceived success. Remind yourself of what it took to get where you are, all of the hard work and sacrifices.
Once that’s done and you realize you’re not a total failure, and your idea isn’t as stupid as pet rocks (which, by the way, sold millions of dollars worth, so go figure!), it’s time to take a step out and regroup.
What’s a “step out”?
Entrepreneurs eat, breath and sleep their businesses. It’s the way we are. We’re thinking about it constantly. One of the risks of that is that we “can’t see the forest for the trees.” We’re too caught up in the details, we’re too emotionally attached, and perhaps too emotionally invested that we can’t look at bigger picture issues.
I don’t think of it as a “step back”, although it’s similar. A “step back” means pausing to re-evaluate and perhaps slowing down to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. A “step out” means extricating yourself from your current position, and thinking about your business as if you’re totally new to it.
What will you see when you take a “step out”?
For starters, feedback you’ve received will start to make more sense, and crystallize into new possibilities. Someone might say, “I found this part of your website a bit confusing,” and before you’ve taken a step out you might respond, “Why? It’s obvious.” But with a new perspective it will make more sense; imagine you’ve never looked at the site before, it’s your first visit…is it as obvious as you thought?
Secondly, you’ll start to see areas of improvement on your own, beyond the feedback you’ve received. “You mean, this isn’t perfect already?” Nope, sorry. Stepping out means asking questions like, “Why aren’t people doing what I expected them to do? Don’t they see the value?”
And even if you weren’t thinking your product was already perfect, and you realized more work needed to be done, without stepping out you may be heading down the wrong path. Should you add feature A or feature B? Look at the product with new eyes and then decide.
Thirdly, stepping out affords you the chance to ask questions like, “How would a new person find out about my business?” And, “Will they understand what I’m offering right off the bat?” Most entrepreneurs, unless they’re marketing gurus (and few are), suffer a great deal when it comes to marketing. They have their specialty, they’ve developed something great, but getting it out to the right people is a whole different story. More often than not, stepping out means realizing how tough marketing is, and more importantly, that it takes time. You don’t build word-of-mouth success in a few days. Your new business won’t go viral in fifteen minutes. It takes time and persistence. Step out, think about where your target audience hangs out (physically, online, etc.) and imagine you’re presenting them with your product for the first time. What will their response be? Will they take notice?
Stepping out is about giving yourself a new perspective. It’s about taking the time to recognize that not everyone is going to “get it” like you do. Not everyone will jump on the bandwagon with your new business. It’s about refining and improving things from the outside, not from the inside where you’re so intertwined with what you’re doing, you may not be seeing everything clearly. Many of us, when stressed out or frustrated will “take a walk to clear our minds.” We’re “stepping out”, and doing it for our entrepreneurial efforts is the same thing. Regroup, refocus and with a fresh pair of eyes tackle what needs doing.
Good luck![tags]entrepreneurship, starting a business[/tags]