The Five-Year Entrepreneurial Itch

How do you keep going when the shine has worn off, and your passion becomes a pain point?

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Last month, we celebrated five years in business at my enterprise, Infographic.ly. A landmark, really, when you consider the reality of what it takes to keep a company going today- it’s definitely not easy! Amidst all the celebrations, I found myself in a particularly reflective mood, looking back at how we got to where we are now- the ups, the downs, the incredible highs, and the crushing lows, all shaping the business as a whole.

Carla Saliba

When the going is good, you rarely question things, focusing instead on the euphoria that comes with running a successful enterprise, but when things don’t go to plan… well, that’s when you really find out what you’re made of. That’s when you find out how much grit you have as an entrepreneur. There are times where you’ll find yourself staring blearily at your laptop at 3 am wondering why you thought this was a good idea. Setbacks and hurdles become part of your daily life, but the journey to being a successful entrepreneur is rarely linear. We tend to concentrate so much on getting through the first year of business that we rarely talk about what comes next. How do you sustain the energy, the enthusiasm, and let’s face it, the passion, that you had at the beginning? It’s hard work, and something I don’t think we talk about nearly enough.

We’re all guilty of glorifying entrepreneurship and failure at times, focusing too much on the negative aspects, when really there is never going to be a perfect balance, and everyone can relate to that.

As Infographic.ly hit its five-year milestone, the overwhelming emotion I felt was pride. Not just for the company and its success, but for myself and the team as well. In retrospect, the time has flown by, but during those moments where it was hard to keep going, we did, and that is certainly worth celebrating too. So, as we enter our fifth year of business, here’s how to stay positive, productive and most of all, passionate.

1. REMEMBER THE POSITIVE

This may seem like the easiest thing in the world, but it takes just one thing to make you feel like the world is caving in, and you’ll struggle to remember the good. That’s why you need to focus on the positive where possible: a nice comment from a colleague, excellent feedback from your client, or appreciation from your peers- it could literally be anything, however small, that keeps you going, and fuels your motivation. It’s worth jotting these things down in a notebook as well, so you can refer back to it when you’re in need of a boost.

2. STAY AGILE

Rarely has the economy felt so fragile and volatile, which makes for a challenging business environment. You’ll hear this advice a lot, but I think it’s important to reiterate the importance of agility if you’re an entrepreneur today, especially if you’re working to something like a five-year plan. You may start off with one vision in mind, but be prepared to pivot as the market or client demands; you need to be able to answer to the changing needs at the drop of a hat. Staying rigid is a formula for failure, as we need to constantly adapt, and learn to stay relevant, and being flexible is a big part of that.

3. CELEBRATE THE MILESTONES

Celebrating company milestones, as you would any other big occasion, like an engagement, birthday, or baby shower is important. Surrounding yourself with a community that will support you in this aim is key, whether that’s like-minded colleagues, friends that have been there from the beginning, or a fellow collective of entrepreneurs. There’s nothing like team spirit when it comes to being an entrepreneur, and the thought of celebrating these milestones together makes a big difference.

4. HIT PAUSE

Every now and then, take a minute to collect yourself, and pause. We’re so engrossed in the day-to-day of our job that we rarely step back and see the big picture, or look back at how far we’ve come. Aside from helping you to appreciate yourself more (and let’s face it, we all need to do that), it also validates exactly why you started this journey; remembering where you began, and where you are now. Trust me, it puts everything into perspective. While I could go on with an endless checklist to “success,” the most important thing to takeaway is that you’re not alone; we’ve all ridden the wave of happiness one minute, only to be followed by a disheartening defeat the next. It’s a rollercoaster, but one in which we’re all experiencing together. Remember that, and you’re already halfway there.

Related: We Need A Change In Arab Attitudes Toward Entrepreneurs That Fail

Carla Saliba

Written By

Carla Saliba is the founder of Infographic.ly, a data-design and visualization agency based in Dubai, supporting companies communicate data to its stakeholders clearly and effectively. 

Since launching Infographic.ly in 2013, Carla’s unique ability to make sense of complex information has piqued the interest of global brands. Her list of clients includes MasterCard, TED, Reebok, and Mercedes-Benz, among others. Carla’s work has also been featured in international publications, such as Wired Magazine, and Entrepreneur, in which she regularly contributes on the subjects of business, design, start-up culture and leadership. Although a trained architect for over nine years, and a 17 year career in design-related disciplines, it was upon completing her Master in Business Design at Domus Academy in Milan that she discovered her passion for infographics and entrepreneurial ambition to launch her own agency.

Carla’s expertise has afforded her invitations to speak at international conferences, as well as train government and educational institutions across the GCC to build design capabilities in-house. Her work with translating information through design has gained the attention of Apple for which she delivered an inspiring and educating sessions for business professionals to delve into creativity as part of the ‘Today at Apple’ series. Carla also devotes her time to local initiatives she is passionate about. She sits on the board of Omneyat, and is a Responsible Leader Alumni for the BMW Foundation.