Growing Your Business: How Long It Really Takes?
Have you ever stopped to think about how long growing your business really takes? The endurance, the nurturing and the patience required to really help it grow?
We’d all like to think that it’s as easy as purchasing a domain, getting our website built, and firing up our social media profiles. Once all of that happens, we’ll just start to grow naturally, right?
Every startup founder knows implicitly that startup success is a long hard road. Yet we always dream that we are the exception to the rule. So once in a while it’s good to look at some facts to temper our imagination.
I was reading an article written by marketing guru Seth Godin a while back where he mentions that “it takes about six years of hard work to become an overnight success”. Based on a small sample of household names from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, he is an optimist. Here is some data from Wikipedia:
- Microsoft – Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1975, to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800. Six years later, he managed to land a contract with IBM to provide their IBM PC base operating system. Even still, it was another five years before Microsoft went public in 1986, making him an overnight success worth $350 million.
- Apple – It took Steve Jobs two decades to become an overnight dot-com billionaire. Established in Cupertino, California in 1976, Apple really didn’t get on the map until the advent of the Macintosh in 1984, eight years later. Even then, it struggled through the 80’s and 90’s, until the advent of the iMac and consumer products.
- Yahoo! – This company was founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo in January 1994. In April, 1996, Yahoo! had its initial public offering, raising $33.8 million, by selling 2.6 million shares at $13 each. Amazon.com and Yahoo! are the benchmarks in the industry for overnight success, but still required two to three years to really get going.
- Google – Larry Page and Sergey Brin started working on Google in 1996 – but three years later in 1999, few people had even heard of it yet. But add another five years, and Google had made it, going public in 2004 with a market capitalization of $23B.
- Facebook – Mark Zuckerberg, while attending Harvard as a sophomore, concocted “Facemash” in 2003 to get a lost girlfriend off his mind. He later changed the name to Facebook. In 2005, Facebook still showed a yearly net loss of $3.63 million. But within five years it became an overnight success, and now has about 400 million users worldwide.
- Amazon.com – Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com in 1994 and took it public three years later, making him a multibillionaire. Amazon’s initial business plan was unusual: the company did not expect a profit for four to five years; the strategy was actually more effective than his business plan predicted. Very rare case.
Take heed. These examples are generally recognized as the fastest growing companies in recent times, so your odds of matching their speed are not good. Investors will always look askance these days at a business plan which projects Amazon.com results.
Ever heard of this famous quote-“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Is it ever? Building a business is neither for the faint of heart or the speed demon. Climbing Mt. Everest is not done in 3 easy steps: 1.) decide you want to do it, 2.) fly to Nepal with zero preparation, 3.) sprint straight up the mountain in 12 easy minutes.
Build systems for the long-haul and focus on small-connected steps. (It takes 26,364 steps of 7″ each to climb Mt. Everest, and that’s starting from half way up at Basecamp.)
There is A LOT of work that goes into growing your business and some key traits that cannot be left behind, like endurance, passion, persistence, drive, motivation, commitment, patience… the list goes on. All of these things are so important because without them, you’ll quit, give up, get frustrated and walk away. Because there will be times when you put a ton of time, energy, passion, and pure hard work into growing your business, and nothing will happen – not right away anyway.
Have you ever heard the story of Chinese bamboo Tree, the similarities I saw between what one goes through in order to successfully grow a Chinese Bamboo Tree and what one goes through in order to successfully grow a business were striking.
The Chinese Bamboo Tree seed is planted day one, and it sits underneath the soil unnoticed, much like any seed you plant. But unlike planting a flower or a vegetable, the growth doesn’t come with the next season or within 4-6 weeks for you to marvel at and be proud of.
There is no immediate celebration or any recognition of your work.
All during the first year, you just water the seed.
For the entire second year, you continue to water the seed.
The third year… you water the seed.
The passion, persistence, drive, motivation and commitment that you’ve put into growing this tree continues throughout the fourth year – still without acknowledgement. There is not more than a single inch of the tree that you can see visually.
But in the fifth year, something amazing happens. In the fifth year, your endurance is rewarded. Within a 6 week period, the Chinese Bamboo Tree grows 80 feet tall.
80 feet is a lot of growth, every inch of it is impossibility without the time spent during the first four years to nurture that growth. Because what happens during those four years is integral to establishing the support the tree will need to grow that tall, that fast.
When you’re growing your business, there are an infinite number of frustrations, let downs, and times when you’ll put in a ton of work and see zero immediate or tangible results. But that doesn’t mean you should give up and walk away.
But if everyone took the time to realize and acknowledge just how much work goes into growing your business every single day – how much work goes into building that foundation and establishing the support your business will require once it does start to grow – and the compound effect that can have if you truly commit to it, then I know there would be a greater number of successful businesses out there today.
“Don’t compromise on the big things — compromise on everything else.”
Vision. Purpose. Core values. Write these things in stone and never budge. But flexibility in the value propositions, products and services you build to execute your purpose is vastly important. Many entrepreneurs I see fail to ‘bend to the market’ by adapting to what their customers are telling them.
Starting a business is similar to starting a relationship; the best time to start a business is when you have the time to devote your attention to it.
This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with starting a part-time business or starting a business when you are still working at a job. People have different energy levels and different capabilities. It’s just to say that to give yourself the best shot at starting a business, you have to be able to focus on it.
It’s the wrong time for starting a business if you are already experiencing a lot of turmoil or stress in your life. (Starting a business will be stressful in itself, even if everything goes smoothly.)
It’s like Kind of like deciding to have a baby, timing to start a business is never going to be perfect. There’s only so much planning, dreaming, and plotting you can do before you just have to take the leap.
According to Patrick Lee from Rotten Tomatoes, launch “as soon as possible…research isn’t super critical.” Don’t take this to mean that you can just throw a mediocre company together and hope for the best. However, Lee is very much a doer who’s balanced out by dreamers. Trust your instincts and you’ll see when you’re digging in your heels for no reason.
Yes figuring all out can be little overwhelming and stressful and you really have very less idea how to go about it. That’s where Business Coaches come into the picture.
After all, being a subject matter expert in a particular job is one thing, being a generalist for an industry (an organizational leader) is something else entirely. There comes a point where stagnation sets in. You can take yourself only so far without the help of others. Hey, it happens. Consider it part of the startup lifecycle.
Enter the business coach. There isn’t anything else that you receive 100 percent dedicated attention to you. A business coach is somebody who helps you move from where you are to where you want to be, and does so by solely focusing on your goals.
If you are not clear on your vision, then every single opportunity will distract you and impede your progress.
After all, you’ll never really know what you’re capable of until there’s someone to push you outside your comfort zone. A business coach will challenge your thinking, goals and willingness to grow. As somebody who has “been there, done that,” a coach also acts as a role model because of the experience that he or she shares. Additionally, a coach has unique insight that broadens your business awareness.
Think of it this way: When Santa Claus brings you a new toy, you get excited at the thought of playing with it but maybe a little disheartened at the thought of having to assemble all those ridiculously tiny pieces. So what do you need? Directions. You need guidance for how to get from where you are to where you want to be, and once you do, you play with the toy all morning.
Every athlete and every top performer uses a coach to bring out their best. Why don’t you? Coach usually has all the blueprints all the marketing strategies and all the technical recipes out there just for you , made for you and to be used for you.
Is there a perfect time to break free from the 9-5? This may be the most hotly debated subject in the freelance and entrepreneurial world. The answer to the question is, alas, “no”. There’s no such thing as a “perfect time” to start your own business. You have to choose the right time for you. And The right time is NOW!!
While there is no ideal starting point for freelancing and entrepreneurship, millions of business owners have launched successful businesses without ticking any of the boxes (financial, preparedness, clients already lined up) for an ideal start.
Truthfully, only you can decide when you’re ready to start. You may find it’s better to start when you feel ready than to wait for a perfect start. It’s also worth noting that many freelancers and entrepreneurs find the choice taken away from them through redundancy, ill health, mortgage, family obligations, etc. and many of those business owners have thriving businesses, too.
Growing your business doesn’t happen overnight. This notion of overnight success is an urban legend, and very misleading. If you’re starting something new, expect a long and challenging journey. But that’s no excuse to move slowly. Many entrepreneurs think they are running, but find themselves falling farther and farther behind a rapidly moving target. Time passes quickly in this mode.
If you don’t have realistic expectations, you can quickly get into the wrong state of mind. You’ll be thinking that to be a success your business has to make you a billionaire in three years. Then you’ll give up way too soon.
Many people start a business thinking that they’ll turn on their computers or open their doors and start making money, only to find that making money in a business is much more difficult than they thought. You can avoid this in your business ventures by taking your time and planning out all the necessary steps you need to achieve success.
Few of them are- Getting Organized, Keeping Detailed Records, Documenting Everything, Analysing Your Competition, Understanding the Risks and Rewards, Being Creative, Staying Focussed, Being Consistent and Providing a Great Service.
Now the main Question!!
How long will it take for my business to grow and grow profitably? It ‘the most common question new business owners ask me all the time. After all, many leave well-paying jobs to set out on their own, and it only makes sense that they want to know when their risk will pay off. But, unfortunately, the answer isn’t always cut and dried.
I would love to tell you the number of months it will take you to reach profitability after opening your business. But I’m no soothsayer; this is practical. If I did tell you all you wanted to hear, then you should not trust me.
The short answer is it takes at least 4 years just to get pointed toward a real business, and I’d argue it takes 7-10 years to make your startup truly the success that you had in mind when that idea came to you.
Having been part of the journey of thousands of startup founders and having started lots of companies myself, I’ve noticed a very consistent pattern in how those formative years come together which I’d like to share with you and get deeper and deeper with my next set of podcast videos. (Keep your eyes peeled in for that section for real juicy secrets that marketers don’t want you to know)
While you’re surely going to have to have the insight and decision making to be able to build a great company, it really comes down to the emotional fortitude to see it through. Just remember that it takes a long time. There’s no shortcut and that’s OK.
When it comes to business, the early bird catches the worm. You can actually be playing offense rather than defense, which will allow you to work on growing your business. (If you need extra motivation for waking up early, follow Before 5 AM on Instagram.)
I would end this post by giving you an example-
There’s a story about a woman asking Picasso for a drawing. He drew a quick sketch on a napkin, and said to her, “That will be $5,000.” She exclaimed, “But that only took you one minute!” Picasso replied, “No. It has taken me my whole life to draw that sketch.” The one-minute sketch is generally years in the making.
Despite the advent of social media, most things gain traction and spread at a deliberate pace. Even if someone likes your service, it’s generally not going to be a priority for him or her to go around telling his/her friends about it or liking your service on Facebook. Think about your own behavior – When’s the last time you went around telling everyone you know about something you liked, even if you genuinely enjoyed it? People should do this more often. Spread the word about something you like today!
Also Write in the comments what steps , actions or ideas you have in mind for your business and is there something you are struggling with so I can help you out ?!