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Success in the startup world is rare. So rare, in fact, that the most successful startups are named after a creature that doesn’t even exist. “Unicorns” are out there, sure, and not just in Silicon Valley. But they don’t emerge overnight.
Every founder encounters stages of his or her entrepreneurial journey that induce self-doubt and uncertainty about the future. It’s simply inevitable. While some entrepreneurs are able to persevere through hard times, many others falter during these periods and end up shelving projects indefinitely or abandoning their company entirely.
No matter what obstacles you face, having a clear long-term vision for yourself and your company can keep you moving in the right direction. That vision will require flexibility, and it probably will change over the course of your journey. The point, though, is that when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, your chances of finding a way through or around them increase when you’re committed to moving forward no matter what.
Life may be about the journey, but maintaining your sanity and making progress as a startup founder often means focusing on the destination. So the next time your small company is up against some big challenges, keep these forward-thinking strategies in mind.
1. Let your intention—not your idea—guide you.
Staying the course as you work toward your vision doesn’t always mean sticking to your original business idea. Whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, there are probably countless ways to achieve it.
The word “pivot” has become a cliché in the startup world, but that doesn’t change the fact that many of the world’s most successful companies drastically altered their business model at some point on their trajectory to success. PayPal, for instance, began as Confinity, a company that enabled Palm Pilot users to send IOUs to one another. Three of its early employees eventually had an idea to develop an online dating service that incorporated video, so they embarked on their own to start YouTube, which probably hasn’t sparked that many romantic dates. And everyone knows that the world’s most innovative retail company started out as a bookseller.
Most entrepreneurs decide to start a business because they see a problem that they think they can solve. Their attempt at a solution might fail at first. In fact, it might fail repeatedly. In the process of failing, though, they’re able to collect the data that points to either the right solution or a better understanding of the problem.
2. March to your own beat.
Entrepreneurship does invite an overabundance of introspection, but sometimes that’s the only way to produce something original. Looking inward and identifying ways to optimize your offering is a technique that some of today’s most successful entrepreneurs have mastered.
Mike Gaston is the co-founder and CEO of Cut, a next-generation media company that fuels fandom through innovative storytelling. His entrepreneurial journey has taught him to take a contrarian approach to industry trends and made him realize that so-called “best practices” can always be better.
“I decided that we would never experience radical success by trying to copy our competition,” Gaston says. “Lacking the resources to compete with them in the way they conducted business meant we could take a different path by focusing on the value I believed we could bring to our audience.”
Gaston points to the pastel, single-hero images that typically represent Cut’s work. Something that might seem trivial, like the saturation on a logo, might be what signals to buyers the unique value you can provide. Shifting your mindset to an inward focus can help you find competitive advantages that other companies don’t even know are possible.
3. Recognize that perfection is not the goal.
No matter how successful you are, success remains a relative achievement. If you feel like the only way to succeed as a founder is through perfect execution, you’re setting yourself up to fail.
Even Apple has experienced less-than-perfect quarters, most recently due to software issues, market saturation, and political developments beyond its control. You can’t call the tech giant a failure simply because it overestimated a quarter’s revenue projections.
Rather than obsessing over what’s perfect, obsess over what’s next. You can’t worry about getting perfect results, but you can worry about getting the most out of every resource at your disposal and putting every tool you have to maximum use.
As you grow, you’ll continue to face bigger challenges that require imperfect solutions. Your job is to solve them as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible. Do that, and you’ll survive to do it again. Survive enough challenges and you still may never achieve unicorn status, but with luck, you might accomplish what you first set out to do. And that’s the most admirable feat of them all.
February 10, 2019 at 07:09AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs