I hear one particular story being repeated over and over again in the startup world. See if you’ve heard it before. A friend tells me how excited he is about a new business idea. He’s talked to several potential customers who seem really interested, and he’s even contracted folks in the industry to help him build a prototype.
Two months later, I meet with him again. He’s still very excited, working hard at all hours of the day, and he says that they’re actually about to release the prototype. Another 2 or 3 months go by and I check in to ask him how everything is going.
Glumly, he tells me, “Well, we released the prototype to a couple of early adopters, but we didn’t find they were using it on a daily basis.” Or, “We spent like $50 on Facebook ads to spread the word, but nobody signed up.” And on and on it goes.
Just like that, another wantrepreneur’s dreams are crushed. “Maybe this entrepreneurship thing just isn’t for me,” he says. Sound familiar? It happens to all of us. We have that initial burst of excitement and we get super motivated to pursue our business idea, but then when reality hits and things don’t go as planned, we lose that spark and our motivation hits rock bottom.
People don’t realize that building a startup is like a roller coaster – one day you’re on top of the world and the next you’re having the worst day ever. Motivation is like the fuel in your car, when you run out, your company stalls and comes to a complete stop.
People always ask me how I maintain my motivation throughout the ups and downs of startup life. Like any other positive habit, you have to train yourself and you need a few techniques in your back pocket to help you get out of that rut when you (inevitably) fall into it.
Here are a few things that have helped me stay motivated while building my business:
1. Listen to or Read Something Motivational Each Day
This is actually one of my main sources of motivation. Every day, I listen to an entrepreneurship podcast and learn something new.
When you hear an interview with a successful founder, and he says he wakes up every day at 4AM to spend 2 hours writing a chapter of his book before heading into work, it makes you think “Wow! I thought I was working hard!”
I’ll listen to an owner talk about how he lost everything and managed to bring himself back from ruins. That kind of story can motivate anybody to push through the rough times in their own life and business endeavors.
When I hear these types of inspirational interviews during my morning walk, I go home eager to start work for the day!
“Your reputation is more important than your paycheck, and your integrity is worth more than your career.” – Ryan Freitas
2. Have a Learning Mindset
No matter how excited you are about your startup idea, remember that it’s a learning experience. A year from now, you may end up developing something totally different based on feedback you get from customers. If your first prototype doesn’t get the traction or results you were hoping for, then learn why that is.
Did it not solve the customer’s pain point? Were you solving the wrong problem? Call up the users and ask them why are they’re not using or buying your product! Brice McBeth in his book ‘Salon Chairs Don’t Sell Themselves’, shares his experience with the launch of an e-commerce website that he was trying to promote.
He found that potential customers were just not signing up, even though his team built a visually stunning website. It wasn’t until after he called several customers that he learned they felt the website looked too fancy for them.
They weren’t signing up because they thought the product was too expensive even though they hadn’t even looked at the pricing page. They based their assumption purely on the landing page. He changed the website and the product took off. So don’t get discouraged if your first launch fails. Go out and ask for feedback and correct your mistakes!
3. Sign Up Real Customers
The biggest motivating factor for me so far has been signing up our startup’s first real customers. Not a friend and not someone I met at a networking event who was doing me a favor. A complete stranger who found us on the web and wanted to sign up because she was interested in the product.
When I talked to this customer on the phone, she had no idea we were a startup in the beta stage. She was an office manager of a landscape and lawn service company who was looking for a time tracking software. Having a “real” customer using our application and depending on us to process payroll was a huge responsibility, but it was also motivation for us because we didn’t want to let a customer down.
I’ve found the wantrepreneurs of the world are a little intimidated by the important step of accumulating real customers. When beta customers sign up, they expect to have some issues with the product or software, but when a real, expectant, interested customer signs up and hands over their hard-earned money, it’s a whole different ball game.
But don’t be intimidated! The key is providing excellent customer service. Then your customers will stay with you even if your product is basic and buggy, because they know you will fix it and take care of them down the road. Trust me, waking up every morning knowing people are depending on you is the biggest motivation of all!
“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” – Thomas Edison
Maintaining motivation while you’re working on your startup, especially at the beginning, is like anything else important in your life – you have to work at it! Listen to or read something inspirational every day, maintain the mindset that everything is a learning experience, and take that plunge to find real customers.
Then, use your system to be accountable for your work and provide great service, and you’ll discover the motivation to move forward even in the toughest of times.