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I will never forget the moment I saw my company’s bank account shrink to just $5,000. As fervently as you believe in your startup’s mission, there’s something cold and hard about a ledger that can make you question all the decisions that have led up to that point.
Fortunately, today I have a different perspective. My company’s revenue has increased 20-fold between 2019 and 2021 and I am confident that we will continue this positive trajectory.
But that was far from obvious when I started this journey 10 years ago. And if I had only looked at elements like our bank account to help me move forward, I probably wouldn’t have survived the dark times.
Over the past decade, my team and I have learned hard lessons and made challenging sacrifices. And during that time, I’ve come to understand that there are four elements that are risk averse and avoid awkward situations, and the ones that ultimately become successful startup leaders: passion, the ability to turn around, perseverance, and patience.
Related: How to Successfully Scale Your Business
1. Long-term passion
Those steeped in the startup world are well acquainted with the need for passion when starting a business. But scaling up a business is a completely different matter. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, and you may not immediately see the results of your hard work. This is the point where many entrepreneurs feel their fire waning, but it’s just when they need it the most.
Without passion it is impossible to stay inspired and motivate your team. In those times when you feel like things are on the wane, it’s important to re-ground yourself in the passion you originally had when you first started your business, and have faith in its ultimate success. Take another look at the sketches of the back of the napkin that floated you in the early days and take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come (even if you’re not exactly where you thought you would be then). The journey is just as meaningful as the end goal and your passion is what will fuel you on that journey.
2. Twisting force
I had quite a few twists and turns after I founded Georama in 2012. I thought of it as a travel planning startup, but a few years later we turned to focus on virtual travel. Then in 2018 I realized we had to turn around again to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the rapidly growing consumer insights space. None of these changes were easy or even obvious, but the ability to execute them was the difference between success and failure.
Often an idea requires several iterations before it can become a successful business. Georama evolved into my current company, QualSights, an immersive insights platform that empowers Fortune 500 brands to efficiently generate deep, authentic consumer behavior information to aid in product innovation and renovation. Being open to the opportunity to pivot to meet market demand was key to this successful transition, and I’m grateful to have the right team to help me make these changes work in the real world.
Related: 5 pitfalls to avoid when growing (or scaling) a business
3. Perseverance in the Face of “No”
The word “no” is a common element in the life of entrepreneurs, but it’s another experience that changes significantly as you move from startup to scaling. When I first launched, I constantly reminded myself that when one door closes, another opens. It was this optimism and perseverance that gave me the energy to keep going. But now that the “nees” are starting to hang in your rearview mirror, it’s important to learn how to let them go and treat every opportunity to ask for support as a brand new one.
I was always ready to give elevator pitches – sometimes during actual elevator rides – to potential investors. I made it my personal mission to track down key figures at industry conferences so I could explain the value of my company. On one such occasion, I had a run-in with someone at an industry event. I happened to see that he was on his way to the elevator and in a split second made the decision to go with him. That 30 second conversation changed the future of my company for the better. If I’d thought about all the “no’s” I’d heard up to that point, I wouldn’t have had the persistence I needed to take a leap of faith in that elevator. It’s important not to let rejection set your path and remember that once you hear your first “yes”, others will begin to follow.
Related: This three-pronged approach will help you scale your business to new heights
4. Patience offers perspective
Often passion and patience don’t mix, and that was certainly the case for me. I’ve always believed in myself and had a passion for our product, but I found myself getting impatient and frustrated in the early days of my entrepreneurial journey because it took so long to get to grips with.
Looking back, I now see that everything went exactly as it should have been. I had to wait for this level of success to understand that nothing simple is worth doing. The patience I have developed over the years has also taught me to enjoy the journey and celebrate the small victories along the way. Time is something few startups have, but sometimes a little extra space and patience is the key to understanding what you need to do to scale successfully.
Ultimately, scaling a business requires strategic focus, hard work and dedication. However, if you keep the four P’s in mind and surround yourself with people who share the same work ethic and passion as you, there’s no reason you can’t make the transition from a shoddy startup to a successful company.