Wait Not, Want Not

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.

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This article was originally published in the September 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Wait Not, Want Not.

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