By Adelaide Lancaster (Co-Founder, In Good Company)
Taking the plunge into entrepreneurship is simultaneously exhilarating and paralyzing. If you’re like most entrepreneurs you’ve been living and breathing your business idea for what feels like forever, growing its potential in your head with each passing moment. And despite the anticipation and excitement, when the time comes for action, you feel stuck. Where do you even begin? How do you go about building an empire, changing an industry, or creating a legendary business?
The key to success for most entrepreneurs is learning to toggle back and forth between thinking big and moving things forward which often requires taking small manageable steps. Here are three ways to make some progress.
Tip #: Get in the Right Frame of Mind
Entrepreneurship is a marathon not a sprint. It’s easy to succumb to the feeling of urgency to do everything now. But burnout and entrepreneurial fatigue can mean sabotage for your business as well as your personal life. Prioritize longevity and keep one eye on the horizon. Think about what pace you need to set now to maintain your stamina and enthusiasm for years to come.
Establishing good habits and resisting bad ones go a long way to preventing burnout. I have several strategies for staying refreshed: setting and sticking to my work/life boundaries; making space for creative thinking time; and taking vacations. When I don’t practice these habits, I feel compromised and overwhelmed. When I do, I am optimistic, creative and energized.
Tip #2: Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
Think about the big questions that drive your business. What challenges are you trying to solve? What changes are you going to make to your industry? How will you know when you’ve succeeded? While these questions can help to keep the big picture in mind and your mission in focus, they don’t exactly inspire a neat step-by-process. And the truth is that there may be multiple, viable alternatives instead of one clear “right” answer.
Instead of pre-determining a hypothetical outcome, get clarity by experimenting with various strategies. Experimentation will help you get more information, test the market, and build momentum for the big master plan. It will also help you get products into the marketplace faster and help you resist the inclination to be a perfectionist. For example you can test retail concepts with a pop-up store, improve products with focus groups, and test services with pilot participants. Consider the biggest question facing your business and what experiments might yield the necessary data.
Tip #3: Brush Up on Your History Lessons
What businesses or entrepreneurs to you look to for inspiration? It’s important to identify businesses you want to be like when you grow up. But remember, these entrepreneurial superheros had beginnings too. Do some research to find out their early days were like.
Learn from their lessons and take note of their milestones and decisions points. Seeing their journey helps to demystify the process and makes your business heroes human. It’s helpful to know that all business heroes had doubts and doubters of their own.
It’s also important to dismantle your own myths of the overnight success. For example, few people realize that Hanky Panky, the famed lingerie company, had already been in business for 27 years before they scored the front-page Wall Street Journal article that made them a household name. Instead of focusing on their impressive brand recognition or their significant market share, see what insight you can glean from Hanky Panky’s recent decision to build a robust e-commerce site after being exclusively wholesale or their recent introduction of several new product lines. What can your business learn from this example and the examples of the giants in your industry?
Keeping your focus on building long term momentum, establishing good habits and taking small steps can help build momentum that will take you closer to your business goals.
This post was originally posted at The Young Entrepreneur Council. The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.
About the guest blogger: Adelaide Lancaster is co-founder of In Good Company, a collaborative workspace for women business owners in NYC. In addition, she consults to small business owners helping them to create and grow businesses that meet their needs and goals.