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Any entrepreneur gets into business for themselves in part because they relish or at least welcome the challenge that it presents. No one can hope to succeed in something so difficult as guiding a startup to the point of maturity or acquisition without obstacles that need to be overcome, and the commitment to weather those challenges as they arise.
Often, it can be hard to know exactly what challenges your business will face. Different fields and industries have different attendant problems, and different choices made along the way can open up a whole new set of issues along with the opportunities it brings. Planning helps you and your company to cope as they crop up, but the exact contours of the specific challenge you’ll face are as impossible to see as the future.
Any entrepreneur who has been through the startup experience will tell you that sales are a challenge that is near universal in its applicability and pain. There’s a reason that sales are a subspecialty in the labor market, and that the rest of us are glad it isn’t us; trying to sell can be a long and painful process, with enough failures to discourage those without an almost pathological persistence. Whether it’s a dedicated salesperson or you as the founder, selling your product is a particular challenge as a startup; in addition to trying to balance your company’s growth and continued development, you’re also trying to break into a market and sell without much in the way of reputation or name recognition. It can be a long and difficult process to convince anyone to part with their money, and that pain is more acute for startups looking for a foothold and some positive revenue.
The difficulty of sales ties into another challenge startups face: that of their competition. Competition is an accepted part of going into business, save for those companies operating on the bleeding edge, but that doesn’t make it any easier for companies looking to break into the market. Selling your product means getting consumers to choose your offering over those of your competitors, which can be an uphill battle for upstarts. Just as you’re trying to cut into your competitors’ business, they’re trying to hold onto their market share, but often with more time and experience and resources. And you’re not just competing with other companies in your space, but with the status quo and inertia; most of us are creatures of habit, and the things we buy aren’t likely to change without reason. The job of any startup in selling into a market is to give those consumers that reason to change.
Trying to sell and compete means trying to balance your present drives against future goals. You want and need those current sales, yes, but you also don’t want to lose sight of your plans and goals in the pursuit of short-term sales, nor do you want to let slip the quality and improvement in your product in favor of devoting more resources to selling. It’s a difficult balance to strike given the need for revenue and income for recruiting and hiring and attracting investors. There’s no entirely right answer as to the deployment of resources and hours towards the two ends, and only a founder can say as to what they have in mind for their company and the direction they want to take it.
Perhaps the biggest challenge that you can’t anticipate is the myriad of minor problems popping up along the way that require solving. It can be easier to foresee some of the bigger issues that will arise, but any business involving people and workspaces and products and all the elements that make up a business is inevitably going to create problems along the way that need to be addressed. Whether it’s illnesses among your team that delay development or power outages that strike your office or delays with your supplier, there are seemingly countless ways that your plans can be driven off course that simply can’t be planned for. All that can be done in those situations is to deal with the issues as they arise and keep moving forward as best as possible.
One challenge that can almost certainly be accounted for is fatigue. As a founder, you’re pouring untold hours and energy into your venture, often with no breaks save for the scant few hours of sleep you get a night. Certainly you can’t justify even a mini-vacation to yourself, not with the amount of work left undone. But that output of effort can provide diminishing returns without a chance to relax, recharge and catch your breath once in a while. It’s a difficult thing to get a founder to admit to, much less accept; in that way, the challenge is less fatigue than accepting your own limits and the need for some semblance of balance to maintain your sanity.
Challenges are part of any business, unavoidable as they are inevitable. The key for any founder looking to maintain throughout the ups and downs is to recognize them for what they are: both tests and training, opportunities to learn and gain experience that can guide you further on in your journey towards your ultimate goal. #onwards.
July 11, 2019 at 08:17AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs