Being an entrepreneur requires you to take that first step out of your comfort zone, even if you start part time and keep you “day job.” The entrepreneurship press abounds in exhortations to take action. Rightly so, since to paraphrase Newton’s First Law of Motion:
Changing your business or professional life requires your initiating a new direction. Perhaps the only thing more difficult than beginning a new venture is starting it up again if it founders. Better to maintain momentum.
About four years after starting my real estate company the market collapsed. Leading into the recession of the early 1990s, my business stagnated. Shortly before I had borrowed a lot of money to finance expansion. Faced with a load of debt and shrinking client prospects, I teetered on the verge of bankruptcy. Regrettably, while I had been preaching the folly of believing real estate prices would endlessly rise, I did not take the steps necessary to keep my company moving forward. I had to start up again. The second time was arduous compared to the first.
There is no magic formula to maintain momentum. It requires tenacity and planning. And,
Here are actions you can take to keep your momentum going:
- Think counter to the crowd. If most of your competitors think the market or your industry is going in a particular direction, find the source of this collective wisdom. You may be surprised how often it is baseless. The economy is not a plutocracy. If everyone thinks prices have to go up, they are probably headed down.
- Think counter-cyclically. While you want to exploit an improving market, this is also the time to be planning for the inevitable downturn. In the previous 160 years, there have been 32 cycles of expansion and contraction, on average one every five years. Just about when you realize the good times are here the bad times are about 18 to 24 months away.
- Business development above all else. Whether you are new to your business or a veteran who relies solely on referrals, and no matter what your product or service, you exist to serve people. Your primary task is finding the next person whose life will be improved by your entrepreneurial endeavor.
- Never grow up. As your business matures, you will be tempted to routinize processes. While this is important for accounting, inventory, and other similar functions, the roots of your company must remain adolescents. Remember that time when you were not sure about pretty much anything so you tried just about everything? Such is the essence of entrepreneurship.
Each of these four will compel you to constantly re-examine your products, services, market position, and customer base. By doing so you maximize the chances that if one or more of them changes you will be at the forefront rather than being caught flat-footed.
What do you do to maintain momentum in your life?
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