From the December 1996 issue of Startups

The launch Of a new business is accompanied by endless enthusiasm and energy. Several months into a venture, however, these feelings often begin to wane, as operating the business becomes routine. Although every business faces high and low points, the key to success lies in maintaining constant motivation and focus despite this natural ebb and flow. Several strategies exist to help entrepreneurs do so.

"When a clients comes in, I find out about their business--where it's headed, and what about it gets them fired up," explains David Hall, business counselor with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. "Those are essential elements to concentrate on in order to maintain motivation and focus. Since it rains a lot here, I put together the acronym `DAMP' to remind local business owners about the importance of setting and working toward goals. Actually, it's D=AMP. The `D' stands for their destination goals, which are a direct function of their abilities (`A'), motivation (`M') and persistence (`P') in achieving them."

"Goals are amazingly powerful tools," states business consultant Terri Lonier, author of Working Solo: The Real Guide to Freedom & Financial Success with Your Own Business (Portico Press, $14.95, 800-222-SOLO). "They capture our thoughts of `what might be' and turn them into `what will be.' They also clarify our thinking, and clarity is power."

To achieve success, entrepreneurs should always be armed with a list of goals to keep their destinations constantly in sight. Short-term goals are equally as valuable as long-term ones, for they enable feelings of accomplishment along the way. A popular strategy for generating goals is to imagine meeting yourself a few years in the future and envision what you'll be like. What does your future hold? What type of things are you doing? How did you achieve your success? A second strategy involves revisiting your business plan and mapping out the short-term goals needed to reach its long-term goals. Whatever the approach, the most important aspect associated with goal-setting is committing those ideas to paper. As Lonier notes, "The act of writing down goals transforms them from imagination--the realm of your mind--to reality--the realm of the world, where things happen."

Another solid strategy for staying motivated involves establishing and maintaining regular contact with other entrepreneurs. Since successful self-employment is frequently accompanied by feelings of isolation, such contact is necessary to regain a sense of community. In addition, the value of locating someone with whom you can share your goals and try out new ideas cannot be overstated.

Many entrepreneurs find motivation in the seasonality inherent in their businesses. "There's always something new and fresh, which really keeps me going," explains Charlene Ricca, 57, co-owner of Legacy Christian Books and Gifts in Canton, Illinois. "I not only have the holidays, but there are special days with the churches, like minister appreciation day, and I just got in some special gift items for that. There are different things all the time that keep me excited. It's never the same-old same-old."

Resource Box Information:

Visit your local library or bookstore for resources to help you stay motivated, focused and refreshed.

(1) A Goal Is a Dream With aDeadline: Extraordinary Wisdom for Entrepreneurs, Managers, and Other Smart People by Leo B. Helzel and Friends. (McGraw-Hill Inc., $12.95, 800-338-3987).

(2) The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. (Simon & Schuster, $10, 800-223-2336).