The greatest attribute a small business leader can have is the patience to allow progress to happen in its own time.
I am often asked what it takes to start a company and see it prosper and succeed. Of course, there's a long list of factors: money, people, technology, good advice, and judgement, to name a few. One thing I tell every person considering an entrepreneurial venture is the importance of having a lot of patience.
In a world of instant information, feedback, and connection we are spoiled into believing that everything is "instant." That combined with overnight small business success stories makes patience all that much more difficult.
I admit this advice comes from someone who is not patient. I want things to happen quickly and according to plan. But I have found that if I exercise patience, the end result is always better: the partnership more on-target, the contract richer, the hire a better fit.
I am not suggesting that you stop setting goals and timelines. Both are very important to not only motivate you and your colleagues, but also to measure progress and provide guideposts. But as you move through your entrepreneurial journey, pay close attention to the pressure you are applying. Is it consistent, purposeful pressure like that needed to create a diamond? Or are you using the brute force of a sledgehammer?
The business graveyard is filled with companies that didn't properly exercise patience. Expectations were out of line and leaders did too much, too soon. WebVan, a grocery delivery service in the 90s, moved too quickly to expand, and took on infrastructure and overhead at lightning speed. The company ultimately collapsed under that weight. Last year, Netflix hastily announced the creation of a separate Qwikster DVD-by-mail service and lost 800,000 subscribers before it was even created.
I am no expert at exercising patience, but I understand that as the leader of my organization my attitude impacts everyone I interact with--our customers, my employees, my spouse--and they will in turn feed off of that energy in a positive, or negative way.
If you are sure of your mission and of your ultimate destination, lean forward with an understanding that it will take longer than you expected.
ERIC V. HOLTZCLAW is a serial entrepreneur who has founded multiple startup companies, including one of the first profitable Internet enterprises. His last company appeared on the Inc. 5000 list three years in a row. Eric advises clients on the “whys” of business – why customers buy, why teams work and the all-important “entrepreneurial why”. He is the author of Laddering and his weekly radio show, The 'Better You' Project, shines a spotlight on entrepreneurs' individual business journeys and successes. Learn more about Eric at www.ladderingworks.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. @eholtzclaw