Work harder when pushing uphill
I always liked Seth Godin's advice about creating a product or a company that you can push down a hill rather than up one.
If your product isn't selling, you're pushing uphill. If your service isn't being used, you're pushing uphill. If your clients are choosing a competitor, you're pushing uphill.
Of course, starting a business and being a business owner is hard. Life, like nature, ebbs and flows and has natural ups and down, so you're going to have to push uphill from time to time. The business cycle and client/user retention rates mean that good times are almost always followed by bad.
But if you find yourself slogging uphill for too long, you're likely hiking up a mountain that, deep down, you don't really want to climb. Business and bottom lines are simple like that - actions and outcomes speak far louder than intentions. So the high barrier of hard work will work out if you really want to see the view from the top.
As Seth says: “the hard work is digging in deeper than usual on the uphills – that’s the best chance you have to earn a downhill later.”
This means turning up every day to do the things that you don't want to do in the bad times, so that the good times begin to come around sooner and more regularly than before.
It's easy to run a good business when business is good. But you'll only build a great business that lasts for the long term if you're willing to do hard, lonely work when times are tough. That's the same for services businesses, product businesses, consumer businesses, and it’s definitely true in the highly competitive, entrepreneurial world of fintech today. If you don’t want to work hard when times are hard, you’ll blow up, be overtaken by hungrier competitors and run out of runway. You’ll be back on the tube buttoned up in a suit faster than you can say, “wantrepreneur”.
It’s advice we often give to young businesses owners. You need to put in the extra effort and do extra of the basics especially when no one is watching and nobody cares. That means marketing, that means comms and PR, that means lead generation and sales, that means administration and finance. That means all the nuts and bolts of business that are easy and fun to do in the good times but feel like a chore and a bore during the bad. Do them each and every day and, whilst being prudent, devote funds to them as well, regardless of your business' current outlook.
If you do, the hard work will pay off and you'll crest the summit. If you do, you’ll begin to gain some downhill momentum again. If you do, the climb will have been worth it.