Slow Down! Why Starting Slow Is the Right Speed for Business Success

Even if you're in the second half of your life and worried about getting your business started quickly, we'll tell you why taking it slow is your best bet.

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By Rick Terrien

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The following excerpt is from Rick Terrien's Ageless Startup. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Doesn't creating a new enterprise mean that everything's going to happen quickly and with great difficulty? Aren't new enterprises built around hard choices, hard work and endless hours? These are myths, and you don't have to buy into them if you want to be successful.

Consider the word hard. The word often implies something onerous and difficult. Something that we think is hard is something we typically don't want to do. If something is new to us, it's usually something we don't know how to do.

Now, let's put that in context. A new enterprise should be something you want to do. You've been doing new things most of your life, so you can put your skill set to work to help overcome the hard/new challenges. If your new enterprise is something you want to do, the hardness will fall away as you learn more.

That said, how do you rectify the need to learn with the typical rush of scaling a startup? Those stories of manic young entrepreneurs sprinting to stay ahead of their own predictions, investors, and cash flow meltdowns are great for TV. This is often referred to as "building the airplane in-flight." But there are far smarter startup paths available, especially suited to ageless entrepreneurial launches — the slow startup is one such path.

Slow startups are new organizations that are typically self-funded that don't need to meet rapid financial goals. They're enterprises designed their founders' personal goals and aspirations for success. Certainly, there's a need for consistent revenue so the entity's sustainable, but slow startups can be created, planned, and executed in ways that develop slowly over time to match a founder's resources and available time.

How do slow startups affect their intended markets? These organizations benefit the greater goals of the communities they serve as well as the goals of the entrepreneur in several ways. By starting slow, ageless entrepreneurs can:

  • Serve both their founders and their target markets without a rush to meet rapid revenue targets
  • Revitalize their communities and their industries by offering new ways to think about how change happens and causing that change at the pace that best serves the entrepreneur
  • Model new ways of building unexpected business and community networks to solve problems
  • Show their peers and communities just what inspired, vibrant problem-solving looks like and the kind of quality results that come from new approaches
  • Inform and educate communities about issues they're passionate about

These kinds of contributions require the opposite of rushing. They require that the entrepreneur be prepared with sustainable solutions and, more importantly, to have taken the time to understand the problems being addressed and the impact their new enterprise can have on those already in the fray.

If you approach your new startup as a marathon, not a sprint, you can put in place the ideas and attitudes that will help you succeed in the long run. Ignore the rush-to-market hype. You can give birth to your enterprise at your speed. You can grow it on your timetable with the time you have available. If you live by someone else's clock, you'll be accepting other people's definitions of what you should do, not what your own planning and work has inspired you to launch.

Fine-Tune Your Initial Idea

As you start slow, take the time to research what you love as the first step. Let the research take you into challenging new directions, not the same old same old. What's emerging? What's exciting? Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Where in your own life do you see a need for improvement in the world?
  • What makes you mad about the way some things are done?
  • What scares you? It must scare others. How would you fix or miti­gate this issue?
  • In your own work life, what parts of that work are no longer done to the standards you want to see?
  • Where are labor shortages in your work life most acute?
  • Where in your own life do you see businesses and organizations cutting corners that negatively affect their operations?
  • What opportunities are you hearing about from other places that aren't yet represented in your community?
  • What problems or issues are you passionate about and that you think others would benefit by having access to your information?
  • Was there an event in your life in which you volunteered for something that lit you up? Can you bring a different perspective to improving those issues?

You can be a thought leader, no matter your age, by supplying effective services to these markets. Learn from all the things that many in the retirement cohort may be inclined to run from: technology, digital tools and social networks. Take the opportunity to slow down and make changes that utilize the new digital and cultural tools that are appearing. Then hurry up and try them out.

Are you going to get rich with your launch? It happens, but the strongest likelihood is that if you plan it right, you'll have a sustainable job for yourself going forward.

It doesn't take a lot of money to start most new enterprises. It takes the kind of skills and knowledge that most people have but often don't value: time, patience, deep understanding of a specific subject and the ability to take a longer view. Done right, your own small enterprise may be the best security you can create for yourself in this economy. More importantly, you can help create a new, better, and more secure economy that benefits everyone in society.

It's not hard; it's just new. So start slow.

Rick Terrien


I am a lifelong entrepreneur with a focus on sustainability. My own business launches that have exceeded 40 years, 20 years, 10 years and five years. I was awarded U.S. Small Business New Product of the Year, as well as Fast Company's Fast 50 (now The World's 50 Most Innovative Companies).

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