A Counterintuitive Tip for Entrepreneurs: Bide Your Time
The American essayist Agness Repplier once said: "A kitten is chiefly remarkable for rushing about like mad at nothing whatever, and generally stopping before it gets there."
Sound familiar? We as entrepreneurs follow bright shiny objects and get into tailspins as we constantly move from one situation to the next, trying to build the next big thing.
Hold back and you won't regret it.
Compare a kitten's aimless activity to the habits of a tiger. Tigers spend their days watching their environment. With a keen sense of sight and smell, tigers plan out their every move. When they finally get up to hunt, it's precise, thoughtful, and well-timed. It's not the size of the tiger that makes it ferocious--in fact, a tiger can kill a crocodile that's twice its size--it's the plan of attack that makes it truly unstoppable.
An entrepreneur's instinct is typically to seize every moment, to jump at every opportunity--like a bunch of hyper, distracted kittens. Want to have a chuckle at the next conference you attend? Watch what happens when a particularly dynamic speaker wraps up his or her speech. Entrepreneurs and other opportunistic types immediately swarm the speaker, thrusting cards in his or her face, requesting meetings, and explaining why they absolutely must connect. After all, entrepreneurs pride themselves on not missing opportunities, being first, being the most memorable one in the room.
Therefore, it's counterintuitive for entrepreneurs to be the tiger--to bide their time and wait their turn--but sometimes, that's exactly what works best.
Offer to help and you're likely to get a favor in return.
When I saw Sam Horn of The Intrigue Agency speak at an event for entrepreneurs in Seattle, she totally rocked my world. She talked about how to fundraise more effectively and how to own a room with a presentation. After her speech, she was inundated with entrepreneurs looking for help from her--each of whom hoped to seize the moment and connect with Sam so that she might help them raise more money, more effectively. Although I was enchanted by Sam, and knew that she could really help me in my business, I felt that bombarding her would simply make it all about me. Instead, I chose to bide my time.
A few weeks later, I sent her an email, quoting the most memorable parts of her presentation and offering to help her with some social media efforts. I got a call back immediately. Had I rushed the stage, I would have been sitting in a sea of entrepreneurs, all trying to get her attention.
Take your time when enticing a client.
I ran into a senior brand manager of a client that would be an absolute dream to work with. I knew we could help that brand in social media better than anyone else could, but I also knew it had just recently engaged with my competitor and was quite happy with the agency. I consider myself a great salesperson; I could have easily touted our successes to the brand manager and talked about how we are different (and, arguably, significantly better) than the competitor.
Instead, I chose to bide my time. I sent articles periodically to my dream client. I sent personal notes of congratulations when the brand hit social milestones that I thought were impressive--even though I knew that it was my competitor that got them there. When the time was right, I called the client and said that I noticed a few opportunities to improve, and we set up a meeting. Two months later, the business was mine--and has been mine for the past three years.
It's counterintuitive for entrepreneurs to wait. And it's certainly important for us to seize opportunities when they present themselves. But in business, sometimes timing is everything. Sometimes you have to be the tiger, not the kitten, and bide your time.
Carrie Kerpen is the co-founder and CEO of Likeable Media, which she grew from a husband-and-wife consulting firm into a global social media and word-of-mouth marketing agency. She led her team to more than $15 million in revenue and landed the agency on the Inc. 500 List in 2011 and 2012.