People usually look at successful entrepreneurs and see two things: the time they started and how successful they have become in that time. You probably have heard someone say, “look at John, he started his business 18 months ago and within that time, he has bought 3 plots of land in Lagos and is currently building a house!” Because of this impression, most people often start a business expecting to go through 2 stages: the time they launch their startup and the time they start packing dollar bills and taking selfies with all the bling bling. When they get to the second phase, however, they start sounding like a character in a popular home movie back in the days: “nnah these people did not explain this thing to me very well.” In my opinion and out of personal experience, every aspiring entrepreneur should expect to go through not 2, but 3 stages. I believe it is important that you understand and expect these three important phases in your business journey. It could make all the difference between success and failure. When you decide to become an entrepreneur, here are the three stages you are most likely to go through.
1. The buzz at the beginning
When you launch and announce your startup there is usually a buzz. We are all familiar with this part. Folks pat you on the back, shake your hand and let you know you can count on them. Everyone is proud of you; people eager to identify with the latest ‘CEO’ in town. You get new ‘partners’ willing to work with you in your new venture. This is the most fun part in starting a new business and for some people, this is the beginning of booming success because this is where connections are made and partnerships are formed that often propel the startup to greater heights. For other people, this is the beginning of the end largely because they are not ready for the second phase.
2. The long lone walk
This is the part people don’t get to see because this is the path you go alone. This is the first 2 years you wait for your startup to break even. This is every day of those 2 years. From your business plan and feasibility study, you expect the business to start seeing profits in 24 months. It’s all there in black and white. Unless you are a seasoned entrepreneur, nothing prepares you for every day of those 24 months. This is going to bed late and getting up early. This is asking yourself for the thousandth time if there is something you are not doing right. This is doing a massive advertising campaign, waiting all day for the phone to ring and hearing nothing. This is when your friends and sometimes family – the very people that pledged their support and patronage – give you a massive no show. This is when you check your blog stats and see 3 hits in 24 hours – and those hits are probably when you visited your own site. When people decide to start a business, they almost always envision being in control of their time, working only when they want and taking a vacation every 3 months. But starting your own business could mean working 20 hours and being awake the remaining 4 hours wondering what’s going on. This is the period most startups hang up and call it a day especially when challenges mount, capital reserves dry up and profits seem not to be coming.If you are going through this stage I need you to know that you are closer to your success than you think. This is the weeping that endures for a night but you still need to last the night. You need to keep yourself motivated. Find something that inspires you and keep doing that every day. Listen to motivational tapes, go through the goals of your business plan, remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing and that your business journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Read books, especially the account of people who have successfully launched and grown their business. You will find some of these stories in our Featured Entrepreneurs section. I went through this stage when I launched my magazine startup and I found a lot of motivation and strength reading Zig Ziglar’s Over The Top. I urge you to keep your head above the water. If you don’t, you might never make it to the third stage.
3. The breakthrough
Most startups don’t get to witness this stage and that is very sad. A lot of them would come up with so many excuses but in the end, I think it all comes down to how they handled the second stage of their entrepreneur journey. This is the phase when you hear about people like Elon Musk or Linda Ikeji or Mikel Obi or Aliko Dangote or Tony Elumelu. This is the time the world hears your name. You have made it; joy has indeed come in the morning. People notice the first stage and this last stage. The second stage is usually kept out of public view.
As you read this, you are probable still stuck in the second phase. Keep yourself motivated. Don’t quit even when it seems the only available option. Find the strength to hang on. Find the wisdom to learn from your mistakes and make the right calls and changes. Do not be afraid to let people walk out on your startup. Success comes eventually; you just don’t get to find out what it feels like if you quit. If you are yet to become an entrepreneur, knowing what to expect makes the journey a lot easier. The only way to start something is to start it. The business idea in your head is not going to make you any money. Find the strength to start today. Go!