Whenever I am asked what or who inspires me, I always refer to one of the many sports movies I watched with my dad growing up. Now in many families, these particular movies wouldn't be considered family entertainment, but, in ours, any come from behind, dig-deep, training movie (think Rocky I-V, Rudy, Breaking Away, Brian's Song) was fair game. Far and away, my primary movie inspiration from my dad was delivered in the classic 1976 movie, Rollerball. In the movie (for those who haven't seen the original - please skip the remake), grown men on skates, with sharp gloves and weapons play the brutal sport of rollerball, a deadly version of roller derby - literally until the death of the other team. Before each match, the referee reiterated the rules to the participants: "No time outs, no substitutions." Loosely translated, there literally is no quitting in rollerball.
And the same applies to entrepreneurship. There is no one on the bench to take your place. Your best effort is required. Every day, you need to get in the game, play hard, play fair and focus on the most important initiatives your business needs--for as long as you can. The success of your business depends on your tireless efforts.
Now, full disclosure, I have never played rollerball or even been in the roller derby, but I have built, sold and worked with hundreds of businesses and brands. And let me just say, neither rollerball nor building a business is for the faint of heart. So many times, I hear people in the media, in meetings, or even in Starbucks (headquarters for many budding entrepreneurs) talk about only the successes of building a company. I, for one, find it useful to have a sense of the good, the bad, and the ugly--not to be pessimistic, but to be prepared and be realistic.
So how do you survive a game of rollerball or the experience of building a business? How do you come out of the other end, not only alive, but not too bloody - and prepared for the next battle? How do you work hour after hour, week after week, month after month, year after year--with the same energy, focus and enthusiasm as you have at the opening bell?
1. Prepare for the Unexpected
Despite the best-laid plans, the most rigorous training schedule, and best preparation, "stuff" happens. The only guarantee in running a business (and, I would argue, winning a game of rollerball) is that, no matter how well prepared you are, events will transpire that you didn't anticipate: ideal hires turn out to be disasters, customers don't reorder, funds that were on the verge of being wired never come through, payables show up that are not budgeted, and the list goes on. You must take a deep breath, regroup and find another path forward or another solution--or you might not finish the game.
2. Have a Long-range Plan with Short-term Goals
Sure, you need a game-day strategy, a business plan, P&L's, clearly planned sources and uses of funds. But just like in a competitive game of rollerball, conditions can change on a dime. You can literally or proverbially trip and fall on your own teammate or a competitor. Others can trample you on the course (or scratch you with their spiked gloves). Competition shifts quickly and can surge ahead of you at any moment. In fact, others might start sprinting past you with a newer version or better solution. You cannot and should not always stay the course. You have to continually make the best decision you can - often with imperfect information. Do not lose sight of the goal, but be fleet enough of foot to shift direction.
3. Get in the Best Shape You Possibly Can and Have Reserves
Sure, some businesses go gangbusters out of the gate. And while you want to do everything to make sure yours is one of them, you cannot guarantee that outcome. More likely, you will need every personal, financial, emotional and physical resource you can muster. You might race right past, through and beyond your capacity--of all kinds. The business build might take longer-way longer-and require more resources than you anticipated and at some point more resources than you have. You might even get to that moment when you think you can't meet payroll or keep the "lights on." So you will need to rely on your reserves to figure out how to keep moving--or skate one more step in one more game.
The answer is different for every entrepreneur. Find a consistent solution to build you up when you need it - maybe it is a friend, spouse, mentor, demanding exercise routine, meditation, long nap, a hike, stamp-collecting, basket-weaving, or maybe watching Rollerball or some other inspiring story for the umpteenth time - you pick. But you must find someone or something that reliably gives you the push you need to get back up.
So grab your rollerskates, your spiked gloves, your well-trained and focused team, your business plan, and your endurance- do everything you can to stay in and win the game. Go to work every day, do 2-3 things that will move your business forward, work as hard as you can for as long as you can, and then, when you feel like you can't work for one more minute-when you are on the verge of asking for a substitution-come back the next day and do it again.
Rachel Braun Scherl is a dynamic, seasoned business executive and entrepreneur, with a proven flair for building consumer products, with a particular emphasis on women-driven businesses. She has been leading the development and growth of large consumer-facing organizations and their product lines for over 20 years. She has created breakthrough solutions and strategies that led to top-line growth for major corporations including: J&J, Merck, Bayer, Deloitte and Allergan.
Rachel is a go-to resource on the topic of Entrepreneurship. She has built teams, raised capital, created marketing strategies, and launched and sold profitable companies. She is currently Co-Founder and Principal at SPARK Solutions for Growth, a NY-based specialty consulting firm with a focus on growth strategy, and a sought-after public speaker.