Maybe you are staring at the blank screen and don’t know where to start. Or it could be when you are looking at your phone and don’t know who to call next. How about when your beta customer tells you something isn’t working and you don’t have the skills to fix it. Or maybe you see an article and you learn that someone is “in your space”.
All of these and thousands of other scenarios are examples of when an entrepreneur must look in the mirror and recommit themselves to the mission that they have committed themselves to. Just like anything the entrepreneurial journey is one with peaks and valleys. But because the entrepreneur tends to personalize everything associated with their business these peaks tend to be higher and the valleys lower and they come at you fast and furious. It can be quite a roller coaster ride.
Sometimes it hits you 3 days before your closing, when you have already committed the money to new projects and the Venture Capitalist calls you to tell you that they are pulling out of the deal. Or it could be when your distribution partner decides to end your key distribution deal. These are the times that the entrepreneur has to dig deep and decide how committed they are to their mission.
Each of the 5 C’s (Conscious, Curious, Creative, Customer Focused, and Committed) are important. However, there are examples of entrepreneurs who have been successful who lacked one or two of the first four. Maybe they created a new technology and hired someone who was customer focused. Maybe they had a vision and was able to find someone creative to figure out how to make the business model work. But to reach their goal everyone has had to be committed to their cause. They have had to overcome obstacles to achieve their vision. These obstacles may have been small ones like having a key recruit back out of a job or they may have been big ones like having a major competitor enter your arena.
It’s ironic that this has been the hardest blog post to write in 3 years. Some work stuff came up, it’s summer which means I am taking time away from the lake and I haven’t seen any other “Update” posts in a while so I wonder if anyone is out there. These things cause you to ask yourself, why should I keep going? That’s what happens to the entrepreneur. They begin to question all of their basic assumptions. Are we really building something my customers want? Do my employees believe in our mission? Is my family really supportive? These doubts are normal and exactly when the committed entrepreneur breaks through.
However, there is a fine line between committed and stupid. We all hear romantic stories about Fred Smith and how he spent his family’s money without their permission to prop up FedEx in the early days. But we don’t hear about the guy who squandered his wife’s trust fund on bad investments and a Porsche dealership. The woman who was supposed to be set for life is now 76 and working as a nurses aide.
No matter how committed you are you have to know when to throw in the towel. There are three constituencies to look at when evaluating this decision. First, are my customers (not just one group, but all of your different customer bases) supportive and willing to pay for what I am delivering? Are my investors fully informed and willing to keep supporting me? Do my employees continue to support the mission and what we are trying to accomplish? If all three of these are true then you aren’t crazy. If you lose one group for an extended period of time, maybe it’s time to throw in the towel.