You start your own business so you can call the shots, set your own hours and earn unlimited income. The initial excitement of working for yourself gives you an adrenaline rush. You're motivated to make phone calls, attend networking events and generate publicity--whatever it takes to get your business off the ground.
A few months later, however, reality hits. The road to small-business success is rougher than you expected. You have to wear all the hats in your company, deal with rejection and discouragement, and cope with living on an erratic cash flow. As a result, your enthusiasm wanes. Instead of being motivated to take on the challenges of the day, you feel tired, irritable, and ready to give up and look for a "real job."
With your business dream at stake, what can you do to re-ignite your passion to succeed? How do you get motivated to promote your business when you've seen few results from your efforts? Where can you find the encouragement you need to push the pace when you feel like dropping out of the race? Here are six tips to help you light the fire again:
1. Picture yourself achieving your goals. "Visualize your dream--customers walking in the door, stacks of checks coming in, clients calling, booked calendars. You must dream it--and work it--to make success happen," advises Renee Walkup, president and founder of SalesPEAK Inc., a sales training firm in Atlanta.
When you feel discouraged, it's often because you've lost sight of your goals. "Concentrate on what will happen, not what hasn't happened yet," Walkup advises. "Even if you have only one customer so far, tell people business is great, because it will be."
2. Ignore the naysayers. "When I began my business, someone said I was crazy to quit my high-paying position to start a company," Walkup recalls. "I heard every negative story you can imagine." Fortunately for Walkup, she didn't listen. "I put on a happy face and stuck to my work. Sometimes people throw negativity at you because they have their own agenda."
3. Build relationships with like-minded people. Start-up can be a lonely time. You're the CEO, marketing director, receptionist, technical support person and janitor all rolled into one. Where do you get the support you need when you're trying to launch a business by yourself?
Join trade associations, your chamber of commerce, networking groups or any organization that puts you in contact with other entrepreneurs. "Hearing other people's stories of development helps you keep your perspective and realize you're not alone," says Danielle Kennedy, a renowned motivational speaker and author of Seven Figure Selling (Berkley Publishing Group, $12, 800-788-6262). "You'll be amazed how many times business owners have to fail in order to grow. Sharing [those stories] gives us courage to continue to try and to grow."
Barbara Winter, founder of several small businesses and author of Making a Living Without a Job (Bantam, $12.95, 800-323-9872), also stresses the importance of associating with people who share your experiences. "Although I didn't realize it at first, my early business days would have been happier if I knew a few other women entrepreneurs," Winter recalls. "It wasn't until my second year in business that I met some women who were also building their own businesses. Those relationships became powerful, positive forces in my life."
4. Find mentors. Whom do you admire who is successfully doing what you want to do? Write to them. Call them. Find out how they got where they are. "My husband and I have been partners in our sales education consulting company for 18 years," says Kennedy. "I can't tell you the number of people we've mentored. We often invite new business owners to spend the day at our operation. Successful business owners have no problem sharing."
Why learn the hard way? Mentors have already overcome the obstacles you're now facing. They understand what you're going through and can offer insights and advice that will motivate you to keep pursuing your goals.
5. Take care of the boss: you. Even if it's only a few minutes, "take time out of your day to exercise," Kennedy advises. "Go outside. You need fresh air. New business owners tend to hole up indoors for days at a time."
How do you find time for exercise when you're beyond busy? Kennedy suggests incorporating fitness into your business day to help you manage stress and get you charged up. "Good health and exercise curb the emotional roller-coastering that sometimes comes with failure," says Kennedy. "When you lose a prospect, hit the pavement and go for a walk or run. You'll feel better after 30 minutes and will have forgotten the first hurts of the loss."
Also spend time on activities that help you develop mentally and emotionally. "Really successful people constantly try to get a better understanding of themselves and the factors that make them happy--and generate more of those things," says Winter. "They keep building their self-esteem by doing things like reading personal development books, listening to inspirational speakers, and participating in seminars and groups that help them uncover their best selves."
6. Take action. Feeling discouraged because business is slow? How do you break out of the funk? Get busy!
"I make a massive amount of calls," says Barry Farber, author of Diamond in the Rough (Berkley Publishing Group, $12, 800-788-6262) and president of Farber Training Systems Inc., a sales, management and motivational training company in Livingston, New Jersey. "Once I dive in and start seeing a little progress, my whole attitude starts to turn around because I know small progress eventually becomes big business. That keeps me going. Everything starts with that first little step."
Kennedy agrees. "Call past customers--even if you only have one so far--and ask for referrals," she advises. "Make cold calls, warm-up calls, hunch calls--where a name pops into your head and you follow up. Ask lots of questions and listen to your prospects. They'll tell you what they want, and the sale will be right in front of your face."
Every business owner experiences setbacks. Successful entrepreneurs, however, have learned how to ignite their passion to succeed despite discouraging circumstances. When you focus on your goals, spend time with positive people and consistently take action, you'll get motivated to do the things that will turn your small-business dream into a profitable reality.
Sean Lyden is the CEO of Prestige Positioning (a service of The Professional Writing Firm Inc.), an Atlanta-based firm that "positions" clients as leading experts in their field-through ghost-written articles and books for publication. Clients include Morgan Stanley, IFG Securities, SunTrust Service Corp. and several professional advisory and management consulting firms nationwide.