Have you ever started a self-improvement program—such as a diet plan or exercise routine—and felt frustrated with it? Maybe at first you’re getting great results, and you’re excited and energized. But after a few weeks, you get into a slump. Your workout seems too tough, or the pounds aren’t dropping off even though you’re counting calories.
When pushing through a challenge like this, I’m always inspired by remembering the message I found in a fortune cookie many years ago: “It does not matter if the results of today’s efforts do not show. They will in time.” It may sound silly, but this fortune popped up at a time in my life when I needed some inspiration, and for years I had it tacked to my office bulletin board.
Starting a business is kind of like starting a self-improvement program. After all, what better way to improve your life than to take charge of your own destiny by becoming an entrepreneur? But just like a fitness or weight-loss plan, launching a business involves many highs and lows. There will be some days when you feel like you’re on the fast track to success, and others when you feel your efforts are going nowhere and you just want to give up.
Here are some ways I’ve found to make slogging through the down times manageable and not lose focus:
Break it down. If you try to do too much at once, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed, so break big tasks into small steps. This is especially important if you’re trying to start a business while still holding a full-time job. For instance, if you’re trying to find a location for your business, step one could simply be looking up names of commercial real estate agents. Step two could be contacting three of them. Step three is selecting one. You get the idea. Break huge steps into small steps, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment each time you finish a step along the way.
Be patient. Books may promise “Thin Thighs in 30 Days,” but the reality is that, like getting in shape, starting a business isn’t a get-rich-quick plan. It takes time to do it right, and cutting corners in the beginning only sets you up for problems in the end. Like a marathon runner, pace yourself and accept that your business may not happen overnight—but it will happen.
Enlist supporters. Whether it’s losing 20 pounds or holding your grand opening, it’s always easier to accomplish a goal when you have a cheering section on your side. Tell your friends and family about your plans for your business and make sure you have their full support. Ask them to hold you accountable for accomplishing the goals you set yourself, and to give you a pep talk when you’re getting discouraged. Often, talking to someone is all it takes to get you back on track.
Of course, a SCORE mentor can be your biggest fan, coach and support system all rolled into one. Don’t have a mentor? What are you waiting for? Visit SCORE’s website to get matched with one and receive free counseling 24/7.