A good friend of mine walked 600 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago last year. The Camino is a famous pilgrimage route in northern Spain, attracting many pilgrims since medieval times. My friend is a fast walker and gave himself 24 days to walk the route beforehand. Thus, he decided to walk as many kilometres as he could in his first few days.
As a result, he injured his right lower leg that took months to heal. In spite of a swollen leg and a broken backpack, he made it through to the end! He was determined to finish and had a fabulous community of pilgrims around him, celebrating with him the ups and downs.
Start-ups experience extreme highs and lows, especially in their first year. Even when success seems to be just around the corner, anything may turn this around to a dangerous downward spiral. Perhaps an investor wants to pull out earlier than agreed, a constant client has changed his mind, or that perfect location for your office that was for sale for a great price is suddenly taken.
All new organizations are based on assumptions. No matter how much research you may have carried out before launching your business, your product or service is based on theory. This is the simple reason why the entrepreneurial learning curve is so steep and full of ups and especially many downs. Since your business is so personal, these occurrences are more extreme than you have ever experienced in your career.
The underlying cause for downs is often demoralization. After you launched your offering sold less often than you had anticipated. Maybe you work harder than ever, 15 hours every day without a lot of (immediate) results.
The question here is not why you shouldn’t give up. Rather, it is do you pivot your business after listening to what your community has to say about your service or product?
Start-up leaders must remember they are not alone, but part of a community: The start-up community, the entrepreneur community, and the community of prospects, clients and referrals.
Recall that learning from lows is not a theory but best practice. Ask your community for feedback and support. Tweak your offering as a result and you will persevere.
And finally, remember that after a low comes a high! During and after experiencing failure, you have learned so much. See this failure as learning and move forward.
As Founder of Kaleidoscope and Business Mentor, Lisette Andreyko works with start-ups on gaining strategic focus. She is passionate about leadership development in start-ups.