How Long Should You Push Before Giving Up? A successful entrepreneur reflects on how naivety kept him going forward although things were really rough.
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Becoming an entrepreneur takes fortitude. There will be obstacles to overcome and naysayers to ignore. That entrepreneurs are stubborn is hardly surprising -- it's practically required.
When I was young, I believed the secret to success was simple: I had to work harder than the next guy. The only way I would fail, I rationalized, is if I quit. These days, I look at projects I take on a little differently.
You see, I've been working on bringing the same technology to market for almost 20 years now. When I began trying to license the innovation -- a rotating label -- I received rejection letter after rejection letter. There were so many that I could have wallpapered my home with them twice over. If I had followed the advice I give today, I might have walked away at that point. But I didn't.
Companies had told me they loved the idea. It obviously had huge market potential. Think about how many cylindrical products have labels on them. Implementing it was going to be very expensive and time-consuming, though, I learned in time. But, "So what?" I thought. I was capable of hard work.
I was just naive enough.
I kept at it, and eventually, hundreds of millions of Spinformation labels ended up rolling off production lines, for which I was well compensated. The label was featured on prominent brands, such as Nescafé coffee in Japan and Jim Beam's DeKuyper liqueurs here in the states. It retailed at Walmart. Alex Trebek endorsed it. It was a bona fide award-winner.
But then it dried up. Like most things do, it came and went. I was forced to move on. Over the years, opportunities have resuscitated it and dragged me back in. To put it bluntly, it's never been easy. For years it's felt like I've been pushing and pushing.
In the beginning, the largesse of the obstacles in the way didn't faze me. Neither did my lack of experience. Maybe it should have. I was successful, yes. I was also willing to make a lot of sacrifices.
When Spinformation was no more, I created a new business, a business that nearly pulled itself to market. It was a different experience entirely. Hot Picks -- the guitar picks business I co-founded -- took work, but I didn't have to push. People loved our product. It was a hit from the start. Our booth was packed at trade shows. Stores sold out of it. We used MySpace to drive online orders. At every step of the way, the market pulled it through. Spinformation was the opposite.
Both of these ventures were successful. Hot Picks was a success much more quickly and less stressfully though. So what I pose to you is this: How much are you willing to sacrifice? For how long are you willing to keep pushing?
Think about how much time and effort it will take to launch that product or service before you dive in. If you're constantly pushing whatever it is you're selling, and you're spending too much time and money to do so, maybe it's time to step back and reevaluate. Maybe it's time to switch gears.
I am fortunate. I was trying to license Spinformation. So although it did take a tremendous amount of time, it didn't take a bunch of a capital.
When do you choose to move on? There isn't a right or wrong answer. But what I've learned is that I'd rather work on projects that the market helps me bring into existence opposed to those I have to force through sheer will, until I'm nearly out of breath, uphill. I want to work on projects that don't require a lot of pushing, in other words. There really is a difference. I didn't know it at the time. Now I do.
You will feel the difference, if you let yourself, when you experience a project with pull too. It goes something like this: Sure, you might spend money you don't quite have, and have to work your ass off, but in return, the industry -- the market -- will soon be pursuing you. You'll be able to get meetings. Getting PR won't be a problem. People will start chasing you.
So, which would you rather do? Push, or be pulled?
Just recently I decided to start a new business. The reason I jumped in was because everything is in place: production, technology, the team. A few weeks ago, I went on my first sales call to see if I could actually get an order. At our first meeting, everything went right. It was the right product, at the right time, at the right price. It was practically breezy. Sure, there's a lot of work ahead, but I'm optimistic. When the universe aligns itself -- that's a beautiful thing.
Of course, experience is a double-edged sword. Because I went the distance with Spinformation, I'm now able to identify projects that require less money, less education and less time from a mile away. They sure are fun.