The other day, a friend texted to ask how my new business, Go For Launch, was going.
“Slowly,” I wrote back. Depressingly so, it seems. But I am in this for the long haul, and have only been “at it” for less than three months. I know from prior entrepreneurial experience that most things take longer than you expect or hope they will. This goes doubly so when starting a new business: there is rarely such a thing as an overnight success.
My friend had also launched a new venture recently, so I asked him about his progress. “Zero business, so I’ve given up” was his reply. I said I hated it for him. But what I really wanted to do was reach through the phone and tell him to quit whining, roll up his sleeves and persevere.
When To Quit
Listen: If you want your new business to success, you have to accept that it can and likely will take months to make a dent and gain traction. Most people quit too soon, shortly before they reach the plateau of success.
If you quit too soon, you’ll never know what might have been.
However, the question of when to quit vs. when to keep going is a terrible dilemma.
You will probably have to quit if:
- You are out of money and have no resources left
- You are putting your own or your family’s personal livelihood at great risk (probably due to #1 above)
- You’ve lost all passion and enthusiasm for your business
- You haven’t made any money after an extended period of time; for many entrepreneurs, this could be a matter of months if they don’t have enough cash reserves to keep going
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Why Startups Fail
Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail (source: CB Insights)
There are endless reasons why startups fail in the first place. CB Insights recently analyzed 101 failed startups and came up with top 20 reasons they didn’t make it:
20 – Failure to pivot when necessary
19 – Burn out
18 – Do not use your connections or network
17 – Legal challenges
16 – No financing or interested investors
15 – Bad location
14 – Lack passion and domain expertise
13 – Pivot gone bad
12 – Disharmony with investors/co-founders
11 – Lose focus
10 – Release product at the wrong time
9 – Being inflexible and not actively seeking or using customer feedback
8 – Poor marketing
7 – Need/lack a business model
6 – A “user un-friendly” product
5 – Pricing/cost issues
4 – Get outcompeted
3 – Not the right team
2 – Ran out of cash
1 – Building a solution looking for a problem, i.e., not targeting a “market need”
You can sign up to get the full report from CB Insights for free and also read about some of the costliest failures of all time. The article and the PDF are extremely insightful.
When To Keep Going
You should remain focused on building your business if:
- You can cut your expenses to the bone and still survive
- You are 100% convinced your ideas/products/services have merit
- You have had enough early success to indicate a payoff in the foreseeable future
- You can find others willing to back you financially
Personally, I know I can’t just “risk it all” on a single venture. I keep several irons in the fire to pay the bills while I work on Go For Launch.
I suspect many if not most entrepreneurs start this way—their “side hustle” or “passion project” slowly becomes successful enough, to the point where they can take the leap of faith to make it full-time.
How To Keep Going
I wish I had sure-fire answers on how to keep going, when you feel like your back is against the wall, your business is failing and it all feels hopeless. I just know what has worked for me:
Don’t quit your day job—yet. It is definitely a mistake to push forward indefinitely if you are in danger of impoverishing yourself. However, you may have to dig deep and get supplemental income as you maintain forward momentum in your business.
Plenty of people before you have worked nights, weekends, graveyard shifts—whatever it took to keep creditors at bay as they built their business.
Recognize you are not alone. Understand you are not the first to encounter entrepreneurial roadblocks and obstacles. In fact, you should expect these. Every successful entrepreneur faced (and continues to face) setbacks along the way.
Find a mentor. You must accept help from others in order to be as successful as possible. Even the greatest among us—athletes, actors and other professionals—seek help from coaches and mentors to improve.
For entrepreneurs, there are plenty of resources, such as the Small Business Administration and online resources like Clarify (where you can engage with paid consultants like me) and Quora (a treasure trove of Q&As, popular among entrepreneurs).
Once you find and convince a mentor to help you, commit to putting their advice to work. Be visible and accountable to your mentor.
Read, study, listen and apply. Books can be a tremendous source of information and inspiration. Make time to read uplifting and action-oriented works, while cutting out stuff that just sucks up your time (email newsletters, blogs, TV shows and the like). Refer back to the CB Insights link above; study failed predecessors and learn from their mistakes.
Focus. The ability to focus is rare. It is one of the best attributes an entrepreneur can possess.
I love how John Lee Dumas describes Focus:
Follow One Course Until Success
It is that type of dogged determinism that helps many entrepreneurs reach their goals, after overcoming the steep odds stacked against them.
What Keeps You Going?
What has kept you going in pursuit of your entrepreneurial dreams, in spite of the difficulties? Please share in the comments below.
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Post photo credit: Sarah Parnass
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