Results, sales, and profits are three words that often signify success. These concepts are preceded by three other terms that identify future business possibilities: ideas, prospects and transactions. Many business experts see motivation as the vital energy that links potential with subsequent accomplishment. Joey Reiman, founder and CEO of BrightHouse, an ideation firm in Atlanta, says, "You need two ingredients for a successful new business: passion and talent. Talent is your ticket in, but in the final moments, victory goes to the passionate; the one who is charged up charges through."
It's easy to be motivated before you start your business, when your thoughts are focused on the eventual sales and profits. But when you actually get going, and success takes a little longer than you imagined, it's possible for your enthusiasm to wane. Low motivation can result in less commitment to your business and will diminish your chances of future success. Consider the following suggestions to help keep your motivation consistently on target.
1. Choose to start a business doing something that you love. The business that you are most likely to succeed in is the one that you love. Freelance writer Marie Sherlock practiced law in Portland, Oregon, for 10 years. "When I was an attorney," she remembers, "I don't think any day went by that I thought, `Oh good, I get to go to work.' " When her first son was born, Sherlock desired a more flexible occupation, yet still wanted to be a professional and earn an income. With her law background serving as a testimonial to her expertise, she began writing for homebased-business and personal-finance magazines seven years ago. "My greatest motivation is that I love what I do. While I'm making less money, I feel more committed to my work. I think I'm actually accomplishing more, even though I now work part time rather than full time."
2. Design a business plan and mission for your future. Steve Hall is a homebased writer in Tucson, Arizona, who also works outside the home as managing director of a management-consulting firm. He feels that creating a vision of where you would like your business to be in five or 10 years can motivate you toward actions that will help you reach the success you are hoping for. "The process of developing a business plan is more important than the plan itself," he says, "because it is a reality check that makes you think about where you want to be and how you are going to get there. It helps you set goals and maintain a strong focus that can serve as your motivation."
Carolyn Stephens, owner of Handmade Desserts in Portland, Maine, feels that a little more advance planning would have helped her visualize the direction of her business and changed some of the decisions she made in the beginning. "There are times when I focus on unimportant details--like washing every dish--instead of looking down the road to the future," she says. "In the beginning, I declined to buy a 20-quart mixer for $1,000 and bought a small five-quart unit instead, forcing me to repeat my baking processes again and again. When I finally bought the 20-quart mixer, it cut my workload in half. If you mentally put yourself in the future, you can anticipate decisions and goals you wouldn't otherwise consider."
3. Build aggressive marketing strategies into your business plan. "Nothing boosts your motivation more than a big new sale on the horizon," says Linda Pinson, a homebased software developer in Tustin, California. "Think how exciting it is to look at your product in terms of larger sales or services." She suggests building aggressive marketing strategies into your business plan to help both your business and your motivation grow. You might want to consider setting goals for growth possibilities, such as expanding from a local into a national market, or increasing product volume; if you present seminars, hire trainers or consultants to do so rather than facilitating all the programs yourself.
4. Create a motivating office environment. Consultant, trainer and speaker Mikki Williams, C.S.P., of Westport, Connecticut, who specializes in motivation and business dynamics, keeps a jar of a motivational product on her desk: PlayDoh. "When I speak, I give out the PlayDoh to remind people they can shape their lives any way they want," says Williams. She suggests creating an inviting and encouraging environment by surrounding your office with materials that personally motivate you. Her office walls are filled with awards she's received, posters with motivational quotes, maps showing where she's traveled in her business, and pictures of celebrities she admires. She often plays inspiring or calming music, and has located her office so that it faces a beautiful pond. To counter any possible discrimination about being homebased, Williams says, "I don't say I work at home. I tell people I own the building where my office is located."
Professional meeting planner Bonnie Wallsh started her homebased business in 1977 in Staten Island, New York. Her office is filled with motivational posters and sayings, along with her favorite personal photographs and plants. She begins each workday by reading a different motivational saying. Among the motivational books in her office are The Pursuit of Wow, by Tom Peters (Random House-Vintage Book, $14, 800-733-3000), and a biography of Abraham Lincoln (excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Soul, edited by Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield, Health Communications Inc., $12.95, 800-441-5569). "In Lincoln's life, he had a nervous breakdown, and he lost elections," she says. "Yet we tend to think of him only as a successful president, and forget that he, too, had difficult moments." Wallsh feels it helps to realize that difficult times are part of everyone's life and that "this, too, shall pass."
Surround yourself with positive thoughts that can lift you and spur you on past occasional setbacks. Hall regularly adds inspirational phrases to his computer's screen-saver--reminders of his goal and vision that continually contribute to his motivation, focus and self-discipline.
5. Keep yourself fresh by alternating or changing tasks. Williams has three desks, and alternates tasks by moving to different desks during the day. She feels that "stirring lots of pots" keeps her mind fresh because each task feels new when she approaches it. "The different stations help break up my day," Williams says. "I start at my creative desk, then go over to the marketing desk to do my marketing. Later in the afternoon, I go the operations desk to pack and mail product."
6. Surround yourself with positive people. Hall says you can help keep your own outlook upbeat by associating with people who share your positive attitude. "People who can brush off negative events quickly and consider such happenings as learning experiences will also help you get through the bad times," he says. "Remember that dwelling on the negative aspects of your business can be self-destructive."
Wallsh finds that hiring college students contributes to a positive environment. "College students are motivated, `up,' and energetic, and they bring that energy to my business," she says. She also tries to avoid what she terms "toxic" people. "When I focus on clients I enjoy, I feel better about myself and my business."
7. Maintain a compatible home-front climate. "Motivation is one of the hardest challenges of a homebased business," says Marion Bentley, a professor of business at Utah State University in Logan who teaches classes in running a homebased business. "If people around you are reinforcing the negative aspects of owning your own business, it's harder to maintain dedication and commitment. If you're fighting the battle of getting a business started along with fighting the opposition of your family, one or the other will suffer."
He suggests that before you start a business, discuss with your family exactly what your new enterprise will require in terms of hours, commitment and dedication.
8. Teach or give speeches to refresh your motivation. Wallsh feels that public speaking or communicating in an academic environment helps to maintain the excitement that motivated you to begin your business. "It's a way to communicate what you are doing," she says. "Telling others about your business brings out an enthusiasm and creates a high that refreshes you and carries over when you return to your desk."
9. Reward yourself for a job well-done. Ron Kogen owns two homebased businesses in Lake Oswego, Oregon. He is both a freelance musician and an accountant. "I love music and have no problem motivating myself on whatever music I want to play. But accounting is a different story," he admits. To motivate himself in his accounting business, Kogen gives himself deadlines, incentives and rewards. "I'm a great list maker, and I think there is a real satisfaction in crossing finished tasks off a to-do list. As a reward, if a tax return is finished by a certain time, I get to watch `Seinfeld.' "
Remember that your motivation is your spark, the connection between conceiving ideas in your mind and transforming those dreams into entrepreneurial realities. If you want to keep your sales, profits and results at their peak, take time to regularly recharge your motivational engine.