Successful entrepreneurs never give up on their dreams of building a viable business. They climb over and around all obstacles. There is no impediment too great. This unflagging attribute is a key characteristic of triumphant business builders.
Entrepreneurs face potentially catastrophic situations. They possess courage, hope and a deeply held belief that they can survive the moment and continue to prosper. Personal strength, greatness, self-confidence, maturity and wisdom are by-products gained through unfathomable adversity. The axiom that men become great mariners when sailing on troubled waters, not calm seas, also applies in the business world.
Hardships may be financial or related to employees, clients, vendors or investors. They may arise through human error or market conditions.
I can see, in my mind’s eye, the depressed face of an entrepreneur who can’t make payroll or has just lost a substantial client. I can sense an owner’s profound frustration upon learning a product has failed and there is a lawsuit to manage. We can empathize with a founder’s pain when there has been a fire, theft or betrayal.
During my 40 years in business, I have experienced situations that elevated my blood pressure and caused sleepless nights. They were emergencies that had to be resolved or the business would fail.
In the early days of MarketStar, a small technology client located in Canada would not send payment for the services we had rendered. We had to have the money to survive. I called the client’s president repeatedly and sent multiple fax messages. He would not respond to my pleas.
I decided to fly to Vancouver to meet him at his office, unannounced. He was startled to see me.
“I’m here to collect payment.” I said. “I won’t leave until I have a cashable check for $50,000 in my hand. I will sit in your office as long as it takes.”
A few minutes later, I had what I came for and returned home, satisfied with my actions and the results. MarketStar would not be added to a long list of defunct businesses. A treasured personal motto learned in my youth served me well; When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
For some the obstacles are insurmountable and they quit. The dream they pursued comes to an inglorious end.
As I visit with former entrepreneurs, I have learned that immobilizing doubt and fear rule their thinking. They become paralyzed and unable to act. Disheartened, they feel helpless. They can see no good options, no appropriate answers to their state of affairs.
Having failed at four different start-up businesses myself, I can sympathize with their dilemma. In many cases, the best decision is to turn out the lights and close the doors.
For dedicated and persistent entrepreneurs, business failure teaches invaluable lessons that can be applied in the next venture. Most successful entrepreneurs have started and stopped several ill-conceived enterprises. I know of only a few lucky executives who have launched an award-winning business on their first try. Most of us need multiple attempts. We are, by nature, persistent souls.
Here are a few suggestions to help when the going gets tough.
• Don’t panic. Don’t give up. Be at peace. Have faith. Know you will develop an answer. Take time to understand the situation. Obtain all the facts. Find out what happened and why.
• Consider every possibility to solve the problem.
• Invite a trusted mentor to advise you on the matter.
• Engage employees who can help.
• Make a decision, then act.
• Evaluate the results. If they are unsatisfactory, try something else.
Great leaders are survivors. They have weathered life’s stormy seas. They are persistent and never give up. Please send me your stories of the tests you have faced.
Alan Hall is founder and chairman of Grow Utah, a not-for-profit entity with a mission of stimulating economic development through entrepreneurship. He can be reached at email@example.com