I’m a huge Dave Ramsey fan, and try to emulate the principles he puts forth in his books, seminars, and daily radio show. One of Dave’s all-too-common sayings is, “Read the book: the Tortoise wins every time!” In other words, slow and steady wins the race every time. We in the startup world hear lots of stories about instant success, and those happen, but they are the exception and not the rule. Here are five ways for you – the startup entrepreneur – to be the tortoise and win every time.
Everything in a startup takes longer than you thought, and that includes making money. As of this writing, deductmor is quite a while past the date on which I expected to launch. While I don’t like that, the time that has passed has been time for me to learn, interact with potential customers and channel partners, and even discover a huge new market for a slightly different version. That said, being patient does not mean sit around and wait for it to happen. Are you the entrepreneur? Then you are the only one who’s going to make it happen.
Do it every, single day
David Cummings sets a great example for all entrepreneurs by blogging every single day. If you do something for 30 days, it becomes a habit. This fact is not new. Aristotle told us this a long time ago: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” So do [fill in your startup role here] every day. Make it a habit.
I don’t know the inner details of the demise of Groupon, but from this outsider entrepreneur’s perspective, Andrew Mason stopped. He built a billion dollar sales machine, and then he stopped. What did he stop doing? I have no idea, because I wasn’t around him every day, but he most certainly stopped doing something that was the breath of life for Groupon. Don’t do that. Don’t stop doing whatever it is or was that you did to make your startup exist. Think. Sell. Innovate. Write code. Dream. Lead. Whatever it is that sets you apart, never stop doing it. (Note: Groupon isn’t dead, but it’s founder got fired, and its stock is down 70%, and it’s still not profitable despite growing sales 500% from $300M to $1.6B from 2010 to 2011 and sales of $2.3 billion last year.)
Never give up
T-shirts are soft. Startups are hard. Remember that. Remember that, as an entrepreneur, you are literally one in a million. If it were easy, anyone could do it. It’s not. It’s hard. It’s even harder when it’s your own money. Giving up is a permanent solution to a temporary situation. If you’re going through hell, keep going. Winners never quit. Quitters never win. Did I get enough cliches in there? Good. You get the point. You’re the leader, and when the leader gives up, everyone who is following the leader gives up, too. Don’t give up.
Play your game, not your competitor’s game
This one might be the most important. Well, of course it is. I saved it for last! The Tortoise could have tried to be a Hare. He could have tried to run as fast as a hare. I frequently get asked by new entrepreneurs, “What if someone else copies my idea?” My answer is very quick, “SO WHAT?!?” Microsoft copied everything Apple did for years. Look who won. If you have ZERO competition, guess what? There might not be a market out there for whatever it is you’re making/doing. Competition is good. Competition validates your marketplace. Competition lights a fire under your entrepreneurial bottom. Competition makes us different. The Tortoise and the Hare could not be any more different. You are different from your competition, and only you can continue to make you different. If you are exactly like your competition, then one of you is not necessary. I’m a PC guy. Others are Mac people. Hey, look! Competition, and both lavishly successful. Be who you are. Do what you do. Play your game, not your competitor’s game.