'It Will Never Work,' They Said -- But It Did
Editor’s Note: In the new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how to scale a business -- and at Entrepreneur.com, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences on our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: the most scalable ideas often seem laughable at first glance. Listen to this week's episode here.
In life and work, you will always find naysayers or those that just don’t have the same vision as you do. Some mean well while others are pretty much always negative. It’s happened to me with my business ideas where I was told it would never work. I imagine you’ve experienced the same thing as well.
However, it shouldn’t stop you from forging ahead, especially if you have the the willpower as well as the research to prove them wrong.
When I started my company Due, I was told it wouldn’t work because the market was too crowded. The naysayers responded that it wouldn’t be sustainable. It was “no” on all accounts from many around me. This included every investor that I talked to. While I didn’t use investors to fund this business, some of you may also get resounding “no’s” from people you ask to invest in what you are doing. This doesn’t mean you’re wrong; they just don’t see the same vision as you.
While it is easy to get discouraged and start to doubt yourself about what you envisioned, you can’t let it stop you. Letting that negativity bring you down could result in mental blocks that will hurt your business moving forward. It’s amazing how much everything really is a mental game. You don’t want to be thrown off that game when you have a business to build and people to prove wrong.
When it happened to me, I let them know I appreciated their input and acknowledged their concerns. Then I moved ahead with what I knew to be true. My first thought was to defend my actions, but I didn’t think it was important, especially when I could use that time to continue developing my business. After all, actions are much louder than words, and if I had any inkling of proving them wrong, I could do so when Due was a success.
Here are some recommendations for entrepreneurs who are in similar situations with the lack of support from those around them:
Minimize talking about your business idea and progress with anyone that has suggested it won’t work. While they mostly mean well, it is not where you should have your head at or where you should waste your energy. I didn’t shut these people out of my life because it didn’t need to be that dramatic. Instead, if I had conversations with these people, I just opted to talk about other things where we had a shared interest, common ground or some neutral beliefs.
Surround yourself with those that do believe in what you are doing and can provide positive and practical advice to ensure what you do will succeed. You can do this by participating in an incubator or accelerator program as well as find a mentor who can guide your progress. Having a mentor and outsourcing talent was particularly beneficial for me when I would get stuck on a part of building Due where I did not have as much knowledge, including some of the technical components. Bringing in these people ignited my passion because they showed a similar level of enthusiasm and belief in what I was doing.
Continually review your research and assess the market for your business. Looking at quantitative evidence that your startup has an audience that needs and wants what you want will keep you focused on the prize. The proof is in the pudding, so the saying goes, and I could see the fact that the gig economy and freelancers were growing at a significant rate, not to mention there was no real complete solution for online billing and payments for this demographic. Seeing the potential renewed my belief in what I was building.
Stick to the fundamentals of building a business. Staying busy with what you need to accomplish will help your mind wandering back to what those who doubt you have said. The physical act of getting things done helped me progress rather than get caught up and worry that these naysayers might be right.
Take time to step back and do something else periodically because this will help you stay in a positive frame of mind. I don’t mean put the startup on the back burner, but take breaks, do something completely different for a weekend, and get rest. All of these activities help reaffirm your passion and determination while the mental and physical rest provides a way to not let exhaustion having you believe what others are telling you.
While I’m not necessarily saying that it feels good to prove others wrong when they said it will never work, I did feel pretty good when sharing my success with those that laughed about the business idea as well as with those that were my cheerleaders and helped build it with me.