From the September 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Feeling immobilized isn't a crime. Neither is procrastination. But it's a pity if you let a great business idea die simply because you can't get motivated.

Unfortunately, this happens . . . a lot. Millions of wanna-be entrepreneurs have had great ideas, the inspiration, even the capitalization, but remain living antitheses to the Nike cliche--they just don't do it. These are probably the people who constantly watch hot new businesses make millions, slap themselves on the forehead, and bemoan, "But I had that idea for a business 10 years ago!"

What most often sets successful entrepreneurs apart from these coulda-shoulda-woulda-been businesspeople? The "real" entrepreneurs simply got off their butts and got going.

Granted, motivating yourself is far from easy. The most sobering reality for any start-up entrepreneur is discovering there's no motivational panacea, according to professional speaker Terry Paulson, president of the National Speakers Association. That's good and bad news: "The good news is there are many [methods by which to get motivated]," says Paulson. "The tough part is finding them."

Not to mention sustaining them. Another important consideration for your pre-start-up stage: The seeds you plant now could grow into motivation-killers later. For instance, Paulson warns, an unrealistic image of what it takes to start a business often leads to a quick defeat. "Many entrepreneurs envision a seamless process leading to success," says Paulson. "They're a lot better off if they start from a practical vantage point and see what lies ahead on the long road of setbacks. It's persistence that'll get them where they want to go."

The best way to stay persistent is by understanding that building a business is a process that transforms your life, observes Robert Danzig, former vice president of The Hearst Corp. and former general manager of Hearst Newspapers in New York City. Danzig is now a motivational speaker and author of The Leader Within You: Master 9 Powers to Be the Leader You Always Wanted to Be! (Lifetime Books).

What is the key to motivation? Danzig believes it depends on staying excited no matter what you encounter on the long journey toward success. "Excitement," he says, "is the fuel constantly firing your engine and propelling you forward."

So how do you stay excited? According to Danzig, achieving motivation involves a five-step transformational process:

Step 1: Create a compelling vision. Write it down in detail so you can see exactly what it is you're trying to achieve. And the more detailed the vision, the better. "It's that vision which keeps you grounded and focused," Danzig says.

Step 2: Increase your commitment and conviction for both yourself and those who follow you on your journey by setting up the steps you think will help you achieve your vision.

Step 3: Generate excitement about your entrepreneurial vision. If you aren't excited about your vision, don't do it.

Step 4: Kick yourself into gear by arousing new ideas for fulfilling that vision all the time. Write down "arouse" ideas on Post-it notes and surround yourself with them so they're always in view.

Step 5: Learn how to listen well. Listen to those who can counsel you in achieving your vision. Don't be afraid to ask questions if you're not clear about what they're saying.


Bob Weinstein is the author of 10 books and a frequent contributor to national magazines.

The Right Help

Once the foundation is in place, you'll discover there are motivators all around you--most of them nearby. Paulson claims people close to him were pivotal motivators in getting his business off the ground. He does, however, confess Paulson and Associates Inc., his change management firm in Agoura Hills, California, didn't get off to a thriving start when he founded it in 1974. "Clients weren't knocking down the door to hire me. In fact, they didn't even know I existed," he says. "I wasn't promoting myself."

It was Paulson's secretary who came up with a simple solution that prompted him to get passionate about launching his business. "She went to the local chamber of commerce and got a list of all the groups that needed free speakers," he explains. "Then she sent press releases telling them about my services and skills.[Getting motivated] was as basic as spreading the word so people knew about my business."

Soon, Paulson was giving free speeches about business topics and promoting himself in the process. "Each contact is a motivator since he or she represents a potential client," he says. "The more people I met, the more excited I became about building my business. Finally, I felt I was moving in the right direction."

Diane DiResta admits her Staten Island, New York, business communications training company, DiResta Communications, also got off to a sluggish start in 1989--until she found a professional business coach who taught her how to motivate herself, that is. "Professional athletes have coaches, but most entrepreneurs don't see their value and feel they must go it alone," she explains.

While coaches are easy to find--there are plenty of Web sites (like http://www.coachu.com) where you can find a coach to meet your specifications--a good friend or colleague can also provide valuable advice and motivation throughout the difficult start-up phase. "It's important to connect with someone you know and trust to keep you on track," says DiResta, "especially if you're launching a homebased business, where it's very easy to feel isolated and cut off."

But you also have to be careful who you turn to for motivation and inspiration. "Most people don't encourage entrepreneurial initiative because it's risky," Paulson says. "If enough people start saying `Give up,' you'll start [to think you should]. It's one thing to get good advice, but it's another thing to be discouraged by naysayers. You need [to associate with] people who say `Stay the course,' and `Don't give up,' especially on those days when you feel like everything is tumbling down around you and you see no end to the struggle."

Always remember your goals and never lose sight of them. "A good way to do it is by declaring your intentions to someone," DiResta explains. "You'll be amazed by what this simple act accomplishes. By declaring your intentions, you're making a commitment to your vision."

In the same vein, Paulson suggests keeping a journal of your entrepreneurial journey. "It's a wonderful way to put your emotions into concrete thinking," he says. "Besides keeping you focused, the process also [helps you] create great ideas."

Along with staying in touch with your goals, DiResta says, it's important for those entrepreneurs in the start-up phase to constantly recharge their batteries so their motivation level never flags. An easy way to do that: Make time to join organizations that have nothing to do with your business. "It's refreshing to meet people in different fields--that can be a wonderful motivator all by itself," says DiResta. "This is a proven strategy for putting things in perspective and seeing things objectively. The simple act of getting away, both mentally and physically, usually triggers new ideas and thinking. Once you start to relax, it's practically an automatic process."

DiResta says some of her best ideas strike her when she's driving. "I can't stress enough the benefits of changing your rhythm," she says. "Exercise is another marvelous way to tune up your mind and spirit. Find time to run, bike, walk or do anything physical that releases pent-up energy." To make sure great ideas don't evaporate into the ozone, DiResta always carries a notepad with her when she's away from her business to record sudden brainstorms.

Of course, there's always the obvious source for motivation: motivational speakers. Paulson stresses the importance of constantly fueling the entrepreneurial dream with inspirational advice. "There's no shortage of motivational speakers out there," he says. "You must sift out the good information and see these speakers for who they are: hope merchants."

A word of caution, though: Says Mark LeBlanc, president of Small Business Success, a small-business resource company in La Jolla, California, "[Hearing a] motivational speaker is like [taking] a bath. It only lasts for about 24 hours and then you have to take another. They get you all pumped up for a little while, and then it's over."

It doesn't have to be over, though, if you can determine which pieces of advice will best help your business. And remember that no matter how compelling a speaker's message, no single person will have all the answers. Paulson's solution: He compiles the best advice from a few of them in a 15-minute motivational tape. "The goal is to internalize the messages that hit home," he says.

Just Do It

According to LeBlanc, there are two kinds of entrepreneurs: doers and achievers. "The doer operates with a to-do list and is fixated on productivity," he explains. "The achiever, on the other hand, focuses on doing the right thing in the right order and within the context of a plan. Doers risk burnout, while achievers meet their goals."

Clearly, there are many ways to motivate yourself. No matter what techniques you use, your goal should always be to see the opportunity in the midst of the struggle. "When Thomas Edison was asked if he ever got discouraged, he'd say, `I found 5,000 intriguing ways not to make a light bulb,' " says Paulson. "You'd do well to [integrate] that attitude into your business."

The process of motivating yourself should start with a powerful vision of your business and how you're going to build it. The more detailed the vision, the better--because it's that vision which keeps you grounded and focused on achieving your goals.

Be careful who you reach out to for inspiration. "Most people don't encourage entrepreneurial initiative because it's risky," notes speaker Terry Paulson. "It's one thing to get good advice, but it's another thing to be discouraged by the naysayers."

Fire Up!

It takes more than vision to maintain motivation, says Mark LeBlanc, president of Small Business Success, a small-business resource company in La Jolla, California. The bedrock of motivation is creating a solid structure for your business, which LeBlanc has narrowed down to a four-step process:

Step 1: Step back and consider all your options before you make a decision.

Step 2: Once you make a decision, forge a plan about how best to execute it. "People who've been in business for a long time always operate with a plan," says LeBlanc.

Step 3: Find creative ways to overcome obstacles. When problem-solving, think outside the box. "Many failed entrepreneurs cite problems as reasons for not succeeding," LeBlanc explains. "But if they were creative and courageous, they'd try to find solutions for the problems before giving up."

Step 4: Build a professional team to help run your business. That team may include an accountant, a lawyer, a printer, consultants, bankers and so on.

Says LeBlanc, "If you apply these four steps to not only launching your business, but to running it as well, motivation and enthusiasm will naturally result."

Contact Sources

DiResta Communications, (718) 447-7720, http://www.diresta.com

Paulson and Associates Inc., (800) 521-6172, http://www.changecentral.com

Small Business Success, (800) 690-0810, mleblanc@san.rr.com