Most of the time things just don’t go the way you would like when starting a company. It would be nice if it was easy, but it usually is not. Frankly, startups are hard as hell. There are a lot of character qualities that can help you succeed. For me, persistence, perseverance and tenacity, by far, have been the most important. I know they may seem similar, but in my experience, they have proven to be different and each is useful for different situations.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Take persistence. To me, persistence is a bit like pestering. Even though you have told me “no” a few times, as my offering gets better, I will keep coming back to try to convince you to do what I would like you to do. You have to be careful though. Pestering can get you into trouble. You need to have a good sense when you are pushing it too far, and you have to be offering something of real value. Being persistent does not have to be annoying. I always try to get permission to come back. I ask, “if I can fix what you don’t like, can we talk again?” Whether it is trying to get people to invest or buy your product, no matter how good the offering, often it still takes a lot of persistence.
You need perseverance when things get severe. There will always be times when you just want to give up. Truth be told, there are times when the right thing to do is give up. You finally realise your great idea is just not going to make it. But, when you know your new venture solves a real problem for a lot of people, you just have to persevere.
Tenacity is related to what you do when you get new information. You are constantly faced with new data that may challenge what you are doing and how you are doing it. Tenacity gives you the ability to adjust to changing information and conditions. The economy goes into a recession. A new competitor crops up. You make a terrible decision. You lose an important customer. Tenacity helps you adjust to new information.
Three’s a charm
Start-ups have made me recognise the importance of all three of these qualities. My mother used to say I was “obnoxious”, because when I got interested in something, I was like a dog with a bone. I would not stop asking questions while I was learning everything I could about my new obsession. It drove her crazy, but I was developing persistence, perseverance and tenacity. They have served me well my entire life.
Every start up is different, like kids! Each has their own unique problems that you have to solve. Keep at it and remain focused but agile enough to shift your thinking when needed.
“Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”
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