Perseverance for the technology entrepreneur is tricky ~ you must sustain your energy and your vision, but adapt to a fast changing market without losing ground on what you have created. And this condition persists throughout the life of your company and career. So perseverance for the technology CEO is not just in the early stages of success, but ongoing.
Encarta tells us that perseverance is the “determined continuation with something: steady and continued action or belief, usually over a long period and especially despite difficulties or setbacks.”
This of course is the stuff of great stories.
Col. Harland Sanders began franchising his 20-years-famous chicken recipe by cooking the chicken (in a fast pressure cooker with his secret herbs) door-to-door to restaurants, beginning when he was 65. (Note he was 40 before he was known for the secret recipe.) If the restaurant owner liked the chicken, they shook hands and agreed that the Colonel would receive 5 cents per piece of chicken sold. To protect his secret recipe, he sent packets of the herbs to each owner.
A thousand times No
Legend has it the Colonel persevered through more than 1,000 rejections before he got his first “yes” for a franchise. By age 74, he had 600 franchisees and sold his company for $2M (those are two million 1964 dollars) and stayed on as the company’s spokesman. By age 86, the Colonel was the 2nd most recognized celebrity in the world.
Apple to Apple
Steve Jobs built Apple Computer Company (version 1.0) when he was 20. At 30, Steven had made Apple a $2 Billion empire, and he was publicly fired. Next he built Next Computer Company, which was ultimately sold to Apple, and he returned to make Apple the company it is today (version 2.0), while at the same time continuing to build Pixar, which he sold to Disney.
Fred Astaire started out in Vaudeville in New York dancing with his sister Adele. RKO General called him to Hollywood for a screen test. The “D girl” assessing his screen test wrote on the little summary paper attached to his file, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Dances some.”
History is written by… There is similarity in all such entrepreneurs’ stories: History is written by the victors, because they are in a position to write the texts and tell the story. And the suffering and long nights and doubts and disappointments, the strain on finances and family, the lost other opportunities and roads not chosen – these are all lost in the condensed version of the re-telling of the American dream. They are added for human interest, for drama, but the telling isn’t the living of it.
So, how do you know the best path, and when to persevere?
- Get help – get good advice on strategy, legal and financial issues, but only from consultants or advisors deep in your market space with a long history in helping early stage companies.
- Slow down – take some time to think, to test your gut. Just because your advisors say so, you do not need to follow their suggestions. It is your risk, not theirs.
- Balance what is realistic for survival vs. how long it takes to get to your next goals, and assess that the rewards when you arrive are substantial enough to sustain the risk. See #6 ~Realism in this series. http://bit.ly/94Ntht
- If you must shift direction, shift to a near-adjacent market or business model, to retain what is useful in what you have already created.
- Slow down enough to assess the timeline and costs required for the shift to be effective, and to assess if the reward will be worth the risk in time, execution and capital.
- Keep looking four or five chess-moves ahead in the market. If you take the shift, what are the next 5 choices you can expect to confront? What are the alternate paths for each choice? Do any of the paths corrupt or kill your key vision?
- Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?” If you can live with the answer, carry on.
- Ignore any noise in your head about embarrassment. There is no embarrassment in striving for your vision. If you fail, no one will care. If you succeed, your attempts become part of the success story you write. You cannot move forward if you are self-conscious.
- Try to sleep. Really. Exhaustion does not make good decisions. Many insights are gained by letting your deep subconscious mind work the problem and offer a new solution.
And, remember Fred Astaire, who made dancing on the ceiling seem simple. He once said, “I suppose I made it look easy, but gee whiz, did I work and worry.”