Here's the rundown on the four stages of start-up development that you may encounter:
“This business is going to make me millions!” I remember thinking, following the launch of my very first company. Months later, I still hadn’t found those “millions”. It’s easy to fall in love with our business idea, but the experienced entrepreneur will know when it’s time to remove the rose colored glasses and assess the feedback the market has provided. Regardless of how awesomely-cool you think your business idea is, if it doesn’t make any money, it’s probably not that awesome. Don’t fall into the trap of letting infatuation cloud your judgement.
For many entrepreneurs, a new business involves a new industry, new set of job “duties”, new network, and a very new level of risk that they may not have expected. All the “new” in “new business” can be quite overwhelming at times.
I stumbled into the tech space by necessity, needing a Wi-Fi based business, not tied to any one geographical location that would allow me to work from where ever my husband happened to be stationed. Familiar with retail, and well-versed in the “likes” and “dislikes” of my target market, I assumed ecommerce would be a breeze; however, my lack of tech skills and wholesale relations proved to be a lot more than I’d originally bargained for. The overwhelmed stage hit me like a freight train.
The third stage of business development is my (and probably yours!) all-time, least favorite—the struggle.
You’ve done everything “right”—researched, planned, strategized, customer relations, etc.—but somehow, your young business is still not meeting sales expectations. What’s wrong? Did you pick the wrong business? Are you a “bad” business owner? Was the business’ name a “wrong” choice? These questions fuel doubt and despair within our once-optimistic entrepreneurial mind, clouding our judgment with an overcast of great pessimism.
All good things take time. Sometimes, it takes months to years to start reaping the rewards of the your entrepreneurial sacrifice. I’m always amazed at the number of clients that will reach out and say, “I picked up your brochure about two years ago…”. Growing your business takes time. Keeping things afloat during the struggle period can e quite the challenge. It’s okay—all of us “fund-it-yourself” er’s can empathize.
Now we’re getting the good stuff!
Having started, and closed, multiple companies, I always find myself guilty of grossly underestimating the time it takes for a new business to reach sustainable growth. All businesses are not an overnight success; some take months, and even years, to carve out enough market share to yield the profit margins and brand recognition we’ve always dreamed about. Three to five years to true “establishment” is a good rule of thumb that I try to prepare myself for, when launching a new business. While sporadic and reactive growth may be seen thorough the first five years of one’s company’s existence, such revenue may require a much greater investment to generate, than several years down the road, once your company has and established brand and customer base.
While the four stages of a startup development may differ greatly from that of career progression in traditional employment roles, the potential benefits of launching a successful business. When you are begin to doubt your entrepreneurial pursuits, as you pass through the “Overwhelmed” and “Struggle” stages, reflect on the words of Geoffrey Chaucer, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Only through such challenges will you and your company be equipped to tackle the greatest challenge of them all—sustainable growth. Recognize the four stages of startup in your own journey, and seek to counterbalance the “ying” and the “yang” of entrepreneur “yo-yo” emotions with realistic expectations and objective strategy.
About Hannah Becker:
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