For more than 40 years I have played and watched the beautiful game of soccer (learned it as futbol). Fans of the sport know the most successful teams are not those who run the ball south-to-north every time.
Instead, successful players advance the ball, but upon encountering an obstacle, retreat, seek a lateral position and continue the attack. Success is dependent upon movement and keeping possession of the ball. Teams that stall upon encountering an obstacle lose the ball and ultimately the match.
As an entrepreneur sometimes you need to take a step back or sideways to continue progressing.
I have had the opportunity to work with scores of entrepreneurs. A factor I have identified in successful ventures, whether recent startups or established businesses, is constant movement.
Indeed Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec wrote in a LinkedIn post, “Action is better than inaction.” No truer words can be spoken when it comes to success as an entrepreneur.
“It’s critical once you believe in an idea that you make the step to some form of action right away in order to start building momentum towards your goals,” Jon Gillespie-Brown wrote in So You Want to Be an Entrepreneur. Many new entrepreneurs “talk a good game but do not follow through.”
Some believe that the toughest part of launching a new business is arriving at a great idea. While that’s essential, more important is what’s done to execute and bring a product to market. I myself have been guilty of coming up with a great idea only to let it sit on a shelf and later discover that someone else developed a similar notion and acted on it.
The importance of action is not just pertinent to a business launch. Owners of established businesses may also be stopped in their tracks in the face of challenges posed by competition, regulations, advances in technology or the overall economy. A successful entrepreneur is someone who, regardless of the challenge, finds a way to keep moving – though not necessarily forward in all cases.
One entrepreneur who produces a high-quality product recently consulted with me. His success has been limited despite his having an innovative product with military and consumer applications and significant potential demand. After encountering buyers who demanded large quantities of his product, he stalled. His challenges included capital raising, recruitment of talent and development of a comprehensive and thoughtful business plan.
He had no experience with any of these activities, resulting in a type of entrepreneurial paralysis. Once he realized that his stall resulted from an inability to deal with the challenges, he made adjustments, accepted mentors (myself and a technical expert) and began moving past the obstacles.
Successful entrepreneurs know that success is not always a linear upward progression and understand that obstacles arise. Those who are ultimately successful do not become paralyzed by challenges but instead find a way around them. They don’t come to a standstill. They keep moving.
Herjavec suggested in his column that entrepreneurs who are unable or unwilling to continue to keep moving are destined to doom. Without movement of some sort the entrepreneur’s venture gets stuck and eventually dies.
Murray Rothband’s Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market summarized the importance of movement: “The concepts of success or failure in entrepreneurship are thus deducible from the existence of action.”
The following five tips can help entrepreneurs keep taking action and moving toward success:
1. Set goals.
Entrepreneurs who know what they want and have set a course are more likely to accomplish their objectives. Goals act as the homing device for an entrepreneurs’ actions. At times they may need to take a step back or sideways to continue to move forward. Like the North Star guiding navigators, goals help entrepreneurs create a new course after making adjustments.
2. Don’t fear failure.
A mantra I repeat on my radio show, speaking engagements and YouTube channel is “Fail often. Fail fast. Fail forward.” Often people are trained that failing is bad. Yet without failure few entrepreneurs would know the way to success. Entrepreneurs seldom get it right the first time. But having the ability to keep moving by making adjustments improves the odds of success.
3. Take risks.
Herjavec also wrote, “Accept that there is a chance you will fail to make the leap across a chasm, or the rock you are about to step on may crumble, but understand that the rewards outweigh the risks.”
Indeed there is truth to the saying “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
4. Don’t settle.
Some entrepreneurs may strike gold the first time out. Others require more time, energy and perhaps the alignment of some planets.
Don’t become discouraged. Keep moving. Evaluate your business plan and make necessary adjustments based on feedback and results. Sometimes moving past a large obstacle means going around it and not necessarily over it.
5. Seek a mentor.
The entrepreneurs who freeze and do nothing when they come to their “moment of truth” may do so because they don’t know what to do next. The best way to achieve success is to work with someone who has already been down the same road. Plenty can go wrong in business but the right mentor can help an entrepreneur navigate the pitfalls and keep moving forward, improving the odds for success.