Fire Up!

Keep your start-up enthusiasm burning with these secrets from the motivational superstars.
Magazine Contributor
13 min read

This story appears in the November 1998 issue of . Subscribe »

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.

Bouncing Back

Feeling bummed because you lost a major account, let an ideal prospect slip away or got chewed out by a client? What can you do to overcome the "woe is me" syndrome and get your business back on track?

Danielle Kennedy, CEO of Danielle Kennedy Productions, a sales education consulting company in Sun Valley, Idaho, offers four tips:

1. Stay focused on growing your business. "Losing a customer or an order hurts most when your entire business depends on closing that deal," Kennedy points out. "If you've been working various niche markets all along, then you'll have other prospects and customers to fall back on when you lose one to a competitor."

2. Immediately following any type of rejection, call someone who believes in you and your product. "I'd say to my customer `Hi. I just need to reassure myself that you are pleased with our service.' The reply is always good. They might say: `Are you kidding? We love our widgets and are so glad you called. Can we order more?' Tell me that response won't help you forget your troubles fast!"

3. Read inspirational stories of people who had it worse than you. "There's nothing like hearing how your hero or someone you admire got punched in the stomach but didn't lie down and die--they popped up and kept going," says Kennedy, whose book is loaded with stories from legends who describe painful times in their development. "Never giving up is really the secret to success."

4. Don't overdramatize. "Rejection and failure are dramatic words that rarely apply to our situation," Kennedy contends. "Setbacks, or a stall, maybe--but a rejection? A failure? Please??? get over yourself and get to work!"

Get Psyched!

"Enthusiasm makes the difference between success and failure," says Barry Farber, president of Farber Training Systems Inc., a sales, management and motivational training company in Livingston, New Jersey. "You get a fire in your belly. You're pumped up--you get energy because you're excited about what you do."

Are you consumed by the deep-down, burning desire to make your business succeed--or is the "fire in your belly" only a flicker? If your enthusiasm is flagging, here's what Farber advises to fan the flame:

1. Commit for the long haul. "When you realize failure is not an option, the brain stops coming up with excuses as to why you should quit," says Farber. "The more you're convinced that what you're doing benefits people and that you're going all the way in your business--no matter what--the more passionate and hungry you become."

2. Read! Read! Read! "Common among millionaires is that they read a lot-even if they never finished high school," Farber notes. "Consistent reading not only makes you more competent at what you do, it also gives you a greater desire to learn and grow."

3. Surround yourself with positive people. "Negative people douse your enthusiasm," cautions Farber. "You can't afford to be brought down."

4. Anticipate and meet the needs of others. "I've had more business come back to me because I helped somebody out, and later they say `Barry, we need you [for this job].' It's like a tidal wave that overflows--all because you built those relationships."

Mind Over Matters

Long hours, demanding customers, no steady paycheck--every type of business has its unique pressure points. Why do some entrepreneurs handle stress with confidence and poise, while others panic, paralyzed by anxiety?

"A continuous lack of peace of mind is the starting point of stress, negativity, unhappiness and mental breakdown," says Brian Tracy, one of America's leading authorities on personal effectiveness and author of Maximum Achievement (Simon & Schuster, $12, 619-481-2977), "If you make peace of mind your highest goal, you'll not only be happier, but you'll also be more successful in business."

How to achieve peace of mind? Tracy offers the following tips to help you break free from anxiety and perform your best under stress:

1. Accept 100 percent responsibility for your decisions. "No matter what the circumstance, if you repeat `I am responsible [for my response],' over and over until you really mean it, you have taken the first step to getting control of your emotions and your responses."

2. Prioritize your activities. "The best question you can memorize and repeat, over and over, is `What is the most valuable use of my time right now?' The self-discipline of organizing your work and focusing on your highest- value tasks is the starting point to getting your time under control and lowering your stress levels."

3. Concentrate your efforts on one activity at a time. "The ability to concentrate single-mindedly is probably the rarest quality in the American workplace. The most important tasks take large chunks of time. Plan and organize your days in such a way that you allocate these chunks of time so that you can do the jobs upon which your success depends."

The Vision Thing

One factor affecting motivation is confidence. When confidence is high, you feel energized to take on the challenges of the day. But when confidence is low, you're ready to give up. How can you give your confidence a boost when you're running on empty? Visualize.

"Many people spend their lives `window shopping,'? says Denis Waitley, a renowned keynote speaker, member of the International Speakers Hall of Fame and author of Empires of the Mind (William Morrow, $23, 800-393-8309). "Visualization is not window-shopping--wishing you could have it--but knowing you can." How to put visualization to work for you? Waitley offers these tips:

1. See desired results through your own eyes. Visualization doesn't mean sitting there like a spectator, watching yourself make the sale or give the speech. When you visualize your goal, Waitley stresses, picture it through your own eyes. "[Visualize] looking at the audience or hearing the prospect say `yes' to your proposal," he says. "See it exactly as you would live it."

2. Focus on success, not failure. "When things aren't going well, go back and replay your best `performance,' " advises Waitley. "This way, you draw upon previous performance to reinforce the feeling of success."

3. Use all your senses. "Close your eyes and recreate a sunrise or sunset, feel the wet sand on the beach between your toes, or smell the newly mown field," says Waitley. "This exercise will strengthen your imagination, making you more effective in visualization. The mind can't distinguish between real experience and vividly repeated, simulated experience."

4. Rescript. "When you make a mistake, your immediate response should be `That's not like me. I'm better than that. What can I do to correct myself back to the target?' "

Yes, You Can

There's no doubt you need the right mental attitude to succeed in any endeavor. How do you cultivate an attitude that drives you toward your goals? Affirmations.

"Just as other people's words affect you, the words you say to yourself also affect your attitude," says sales guru and bestselling author Zig Ziglar. In his most recent book, Success for Dummies (IDG Books, $19.99, 800-762-2974), Ziglar suggests the following affirmations. Review them every morning and any time you need a lift:

1. I discipline myself to do the things I need to do when I need to do them, because I know that doing them will enable me someday to do the things I want to do when I want to do them.

2. I clearly understand that if I develop yearning power and apply learning power, I will increase my earning power.

3. I am like an eraser. I recognize my mistakes, I learn from my mistakes, and then I erase those mistakes from my memory.

4. I'm a hard worker, but I don't overdo it, because I know that the person who is always busy as a bee may awaken to discover someone has swiped his or her honey.

5. I move forward in my life every day, even if it's only a tiny step, because I know great things are accomplished with tiny moves, but nothing is accomplished by standing still.

Sean Lyden ( is a writer in Kennesaw, Georgia.

Contact Sources

Brian Tracy, c/o Brian Tracy International, 462 Stevens Ave., #202, Solana Beach, CA 92075, (619)?81-2977

Danielle Kennedy Productions, P.O. Box 1395, Sun Valley, ID 83353, (800)?48-8070

Farber Training Systems Inc., (973)?35-9400

SalesPEAK Inc., (770)?20-0832,

Denis Waitley, c/o The Waitley Institute, (619)?56-4201

Zig Ziglar, c/o Ziglar Training Systems, (800)?27-0306,

More from Entrepreneur

Get heaping discounts to books you love delivered straight to your inbox. We’ll feature a different book each week and share exclusive deals you won’t find anywhere else.
Jumpstart Your Business. Entrepreneur Insider is your all-access pass to the skills, experts, and network you need to get your business off the ground—or take it to the next level.
Are you paying too much for business insurance? Do you have critical gaps in your coverage? Trust Entrepreneur to help you find out.

Latest on Entrepreneur