I want to build a business and have just left a company to do so. How do I stay motivated and upbeat day-to-day after coming out of a large organisation?
Five years ago I was in that very position. I remember so well how it felt to leave an interesting, well paid job to start SmartCompany.
The first months, well really the first year, was a lonely, difficult journey.
In fact, it was so hard staying upbeat and motivated on dark days that I vowed that once SmartCompany was established, I would return to the start-up space and create a publication that would have helped me in those early days. Hence, of course, StartupSmart.
So what can I advise you to do to stay motivated? There is no one silver bullet but lots of little ones that you fire off to suit the situation.
1. Set ambitious targets: I had an ambitious board and together we set aggressive targets. There is nothing like a big target to keep you motivated and focused.
2. Mentors: I had a great group of mentors with a range of skills whom I could ring about specific problems, including some of my board members.
When you are stuck a different perspective on the problem can get you moving again. And sometimes it is just reassurance you need.
3. Remove yourself from the office: I got very good at walking the streets. In any start-up business you can on occasion get battered.
It might be a deal you were sure you have landed, falling over at the last moment. Or a staff member resigning or letting you down.
When I received a really bad blow I would calmly take myself downstairs and prowl the streets of Melbourne, ending the walk with some stern advice to myself: just get on with it. I also learnt over time to take any pain quickly. Pain passes. You find solutions. You move on.
4. Don’t burn out: You must think of yourself as your company’s best asset. You can’t get sick, you can’t not sleep, you can’t let things get on top of you.
And you can’t afford to be distracted by difficult family relationships. One way to avoid this in those difficult first years is to stay very focused on your health and family. If you go to the gym, don’t miss it for work.
Physical exercise is hugely important in de-stressing you and helping you stay motivated. Make sure you work on your personal relationships every day.
I have had entrepreneurs tell me they often seek out the friendships of other entrepreneur because they can combine friendship with thinking about work. Me? I like to mix things up.
4. Jettison crap jobs: There are things that drive everyone nuts in a job. For me it is setting up spread sheets and running accounts management.
The first person I employed was a bookkeeper who took care of all that. How did I justify the cost?
Well, my time is worth, let’s say $200 an hour, and I could be out selling and landing big contracts while my book keeper costs $55 an hour and she does the job far better! You are far more motivated if you are doing jobs you like.
5. Fear of failure: This is a great one. Why are you going to keep going? Because you are not going to fail and nor are you going to half succeed. Sharing success with your staff is a great feeling.
6. Read StartupSmart every day: Go to webinars, keep reading and learning. Join discussion groups and stay connected. The day-to-day can swallow you up so make the effort to network and learn.