Taking the helm of a start-up is a leap of faith and a little like strapping yourself in for a roller coaster ride. As you head up the first rise born aloft on a stream of ideas and energy, you feel the wind in your hair and the euphoria of healthy business growth.
Cameron Herold, business coach to successful entrepreneurs calls this the ‘uninformed optimism’ stage – when you’re bursting with excitement, aware there are challenges ahead, but not really able to see what’s beyond that first big rise. A tower of terror or a smooth cruise to early success?
As you continue to round corners and defy the force of gravity, it can turn out to be a wilder ride than you anticipated.
Sure you get to enjoy the euphoric highs. But you’ve got to endure the lows as well.
These twisters can come at you right out of the blue. The moments when you revisit the high startup costs against the low early revenue. The days when programming or development efforts are unproductive. The time when your partner’s positivity is on the wane and it’s up to you to keep things on the up.
On days like this it’s hard to visualise a smooth road ahead. Clear thinking is gone with the wind. You’re pinned to your seat, paralysed and screaming all the way down.
The way Herold tells it, the roller coaster of entrepreneurism has a one-way ticket and there’s no getting off. And how you weather the highs and lows will determine your success.
So let’s talk strategy.
Grab the safety rails and remember the basics. When your mind is whirling with misgivings, your anxiety levels are heightened too. This affects your ability to make smart choices. So take time out for a breather.
A walk in the park, pounding it out with boxing gloves – whatever your chosen medium is. All the science shows that connecting with nature and taking a short burst of exercise are essential for resetting that mind, reducing stress and staying healthy.
It helps you reconnect with your inner adventurer – the one that got you started on this voyage.
When your calm, centred-self returns, revaluate any decisions you made. Make sure they were meaningful, sensible and insightful. The secret to weathering the ups and downs is staying on track.
With your feelings. Strange advice for a business owner? Not so. Understanding your feelings and being ready for them when you round a corner and see what’s ahead, is essential.
Talk to your team, partner, spouse. Identify the scary moments, and be open to feedback about managing them. Bring people inside the volcano and get them to support you. You’ll find out who’s got the strengths to last the distance, and ultimately, it will build resilience in those around you.
Herold asserts that highly driven episodes are a normal part of the entrepreneurial journey – they drive growth and makes things happen. However, times like this must be managed efficiently and used to an advantage, or crisis is unavoidable.
Join a Forum
The feeling that you’re ultimately alone on your journey is one familiar to many entrepreneurs. Share those moments with like-minded individuals and you offset the force-of-gravity vulnerability this loneliness can turn into.
Choose the right forum – one that’s less about advice and more about sharing experiences on the road travelled. Mo Fathelbab, angel investor, corporate culture advisor and Founder of the Forum Resources Network, believes that forums are an important tool in dispelling feelings of isolation and learning from your peers.
Forums connect you with people you can confide in, trust and turn to. If direction is what you need, they can link you with services – legal, financial, planning and support. These can help you put the brakes on or accelerate as required – reducing risk and guess work, getting the pivotal business moments right.
Membership is generally free, so this becomes a cost neutral exercise with big impact!
And when you get back in the front seat, keep in mind that the thrills and spills are part of the ride. It’s a blast one moment, and a dead-stop the next. Your responses will help you stay on track.
Surround yourself with people who can help you tame the beast, and keep your strategy fixed in place. That way, whether you’re racing downhill, pulling out of a lull, or cresting a rise, you’ll stay in motion.
Then put your hands in the air and wave! Because it’s all about enjoying the journey.