(By Julie Bawden Davis)
“Between the starting line and the finish line is where you do the hard work and burn the most energy. It’s also where you encounter steep inclines, fatigue and setbacks, such as cash flow shortages, hiring issues and burnout. During this middle mile, there’s a huge temptation to quit, which Steenerson believes is one of the reasons roughly 60 percent of businesses fail in the first five years.“
Early in his career, Daniel C. Steenerson accompanied another insurance broker on a sales call, but found himself excluded from the transaction because he lacked a certain financial services credential. That experience prompted him to take the required exams, but he initially failed every one.
“The feeling of failure was terribly uncomfortable,” says Steenerson, a leading authority today in the disability insurance field and president and CEO of Disability Insurance Services. This feeling of discomfort is the hallmark of what Steenerson considers one of the biggest hurdles to experiencing success as an entrepreneur: the all imposing “middle mile.”
“Using a marathon as a metaphor, there are two really exciting times during the development of a business: the starting line and the finish line,” he says. “At the starting line, you’re eager and focused on your goals. Near the finish line, you are exhausted but elated, and it’s easy to stay motivated.”
Between the starting line and the finish line is where you do the hard work and burn the most energy. It’s also where you encounter steep inclines, fatigue and setbacks, such as cash flow shortages, hiring issues and burnout. During this middle mile, there’s a huge temptation to quit, which Steenerson believes is one of the reasons roughly 60 percent of businesses fail in the first five years.
Here’s how to make sure you make it through the middle mile and cross the finish line to wild success.
Avoid getting stuck at the starting line. A surefire way to failure as a business owner is to be all talk and no action, says Craig Gussin of Auerbach & Gussin Insurance and Financial Services. “So many business owners fail because they get stuck at the start line and fail to follow through.”
You can dream and plan and set goals for yourself all day long, but if you do nothing tangible to see those goals through, you’ll simply spin your wheels.
Embrace discomfort. “Some business owners fail because the terrain is too treacherous, they become winded, or they simply don’t have the fortitude to continue,” says Steenerson, who eventually passed his CLU exams after rising two hours early every morning before work and then hitting the books again every night.
“To gain something, you have to be willing to give up something,” he says. “Foregoing sleep to study was difficult, but it was the only way to meet my goals and grow. Nobody likes to be uncomfortable, and it’s a natural inclination to avoid discomfort, but it’s necessary to be successful. This can mean working late to ensure deadlines are met or making lifestyle changes in order to be able to invest in a new venture. Either way, sacrificing comfort now can mean success later.”
Stay on course. Entrepreneurs who falter can get overwhelmed by the daily demands of business and the rigors of that middle mile. When they become physically and mentally tired, they can become complacent and settle for good enough.
“Head in the right direction by focusing on excellent service and high-quality products,” Gussin says.
While giving your all, keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how rocky the course, and you will reach your goals.
Simplify whenever possible. Like marathoners, successful small-business owners determine how to achieve maximum results with the least amount of effort, Steenerson says.
”Working hard is important, but deploying your resources in the most effective way possible is even more critical,” he says. “Simplifying processes makes it much easier to accomplish more in less time. It also makes it quicker and easier to share your knowledge and bring team members up to speed when necessary.”
Never stop visualising the finish line. Keeping your eye on the prize can help ensure you reach your goals. “Remind yourself why you started your journey and allow your destination to inspire you,” Steenerson says. “Many business owners fail because they simply lost sight of the finish line coming up around the corner.”
And as you trudge through the middle of the course, believe that your efforts will eventually pay off.
“Small businesses rarely progress at an even, regular pace,” Steenerson says. “You can work very hard for three years seeing only gradual progress and then suddenly experience a big surge in revenues or profits. Although the surge appears to happen in a moment, it is a cumulative result of many small steps.”
Now that you know some of the common hurdles entrepreneurs face on their ways to success, you can survive the middle mile and reach your small-business goals to the sound of cheering.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”