Start now and value the journey

“Entrepreneurship often happens when people are on their way to something else”.

This excellent quote by Aldrich and Kenworthy (The Accidental Entrepreneur 1999, p. 18 *) is absolutely true – especially in these times of immense speed and connectivity.

Like the hitchhiker, the entrepreneur is often starting new things but what marks them out is their openness to fresh ideas and ability to remain flexible in their thinking. To demonstrate the point, watch this mindblowing presentation by entrepreneurial artist Janet Echelman: http://www.ted.com/talks/janet_echelman.html

Just start something

The very act of starting a new venture or hitching a lift exposes us to the possibility of experiencing new events, meeting new people and seeing life in a different perspective. But if you don’t start or are only prepared to repeat a previous life experience (I catch the bus, I always catch the bus) then you deny yourself countless opportunities.

Creating different experiences and thus perspectives in our lives naturally involves an element of risk. However, it is important to maintain this simple attitude to always doing new things if for no other reason than keeping mind and body healthy. But unfortunately humans are creatures of habit.

As we age so we create patterns in our lives which become norms. And before we know it, it is very difficult to break the chains of safety that we have bound around ourselves for fear of squaring up to uncertainty, difference and failure. Ultimately, it is not just our actions that become imprisoned; habits incarcerate thinking and ideas. And once this happens, our capacity to do anything meaningful with our lives is reduced to almost nothing.

The value of Failure

Economist and author Tim Harford recently wrote the ground-breaking book ‘Adapt: Why Success always starts with Failure’. This Blog can’t explain the tome in detail (for more, visit www.timhardford.com), but essentially this ‘must read’ book is about the importance of trial and error in solving problems (from local to global) and accepting that mistakes and failure are not only a necessary part of the process, but an essential one.

But there’s a problem. In chapter 8 of his book, Tim Harford illustrates clearly and brilliantly how humans are programmed to respond to mistakes and failure. If you hadn’t guessed it, we respond badly. We deny it; we choose to forget it; and/or we reshape our history in a different, more favourable light. Unfortunately, none of these self-preservation mechanisms help us to learn from mistakes, move forward, evolve and thus have the ability to create something better.

So, next time you are on your way to somewhere, whether it’s hitchhiking, a new course/job or even venture, look out for things you wouldn’t normally encounter. And if you try something new and it fails, don’t simply chastise yourself or take criticism from others. Carefully examine the value of what you have learnt along the journey and then make good use of the experience. Janet Echelman did and look where it got her.

Key Learning Points. Always be open to ideas and activities and use your initiative to start new things. Be aware of the crippling effect of habitual behaviour and instead be honest with yourself and embrace the learning value of failure.

* (1999) Howard E. Aldrich and Amy L. Kenworthy. The accidental entrepreneur: Campbellian antinomies and organizational foundings

 

Why thick skinned entrepreneurs go further

At the start of any day hitchhiking, there’s always a feeling of nervousness. It typically happens just before you stick out your thumb or hold up a sign.

This is the moment of truth. You’re declaring your presence and your reason for being to all passing motorists.

On average, I reckon I would wait about 25 minutes for a lift. On a busy road, this meant hundreds of vehicles would pass me before one stopped. But when you are the exposed solo hitchhiker seeking that single lift, the cars don’t just pass you, they reject you! And after a while, it can hurt.

Rejection Hurts

But whilst many people gave me and my thumb the ‘thumbs down’, hitchhiking meant I had to face rejection square on. As a result, I learnt that the continuous rejection process is ultimately a route to success – as long as you don’t give up. And it’s the same for the entrepreneur; you are rejected way more than you are accepted, especially in the early years.

 

Rejection implications

In the formative weeks and months of the first agency business I started aged 23, I went to countless meetings with ideas and proposals; but very few people wanted to buy and sometimes not even listen. Failure to win work frustrated and dejected me but friends and advisers said not to take it personally and to persevere. Thankfully the occasional success kept me going and gradually the ratios improved.

Of course, no one likes to be told ‘No’ and therefore we are attuned to avoid it. And this behaviour is right at the heart of why many start-up businesses fail.

All businesses must sell to survive. This necessarily means spending time meeting new people and putting yourself in situations just like the hitchhiker who seeks a lift. Unfortunately, fear of rejection cripples many people because they find it difficult and/or sometimes impossible to put themselves on the line with others. The result of course is no chance of a sale or insufficient sales. Either way the business ultimately dies.

Success strategies

No one has sold every time. Some of the most successful business people in the world have experienced the most rejection. Likewise, no hitchhiker has thumbed a lift with the very first car every time and the best travelled hikers are the ones who don’t give up. Important entrepreneurial qualities include a thick skin, perseverance and self-belief.

However, rejection is often accompanied by feedback and it’s crucial to take on board what people say in order to improve the chance of future success. Listening and acting on advice means your products/services have the opportunity to improve; and as sales increase so rejection ratios improve.

Finally, if you know you are bound for entrepreneurial life, my final suggestion is to find and attend an excellent sales training course. For reference, advice provided by the Sales Training Consultancy helped me a lot.

Unfortunately, sales has a bad name because most people who sell don’t receive quality training and/or think that sales is what a suited man does in a car showroom. A good course will help you to understand people and how to approach and handle sales as well as rejection. As a consequence you will be better able to start and grow your own business.

Key Learning Points: Rejection is part of entrepreneurial life. Whilst we don’t like being told ‘No’, you have to embrace it to succeed as an entrepreneur. Persevere & learn to improve business prospects & develop self-belief through the experience.