There’s no question that big ideas are essential in business. Indeed, much of the joy of being an entrepreneur is getting the privilege of bringing a big idea to life. While big ideas may sometimes come into our minds in a single flash of inspiration, the process of actually implementing them is nothing like this. It is long, arduous, and composed of a great number of little steps.
As a result, the entrepreneurial path can be a highly discouraging one, especially when you are constantly surrounded by other founders’ and business owners’ success stories. The gap between where you are and where you could be makes the process of scaling a business especially difficult. Fortunately, there are some simple principles that any founder can adopt to better prepare themselves for the arduous–but rewarding–journey ahead.
Getting the Story Straight
We often fail to recognize how profoundly narratives and metaphors influence the way we think and act. Most people are familiar with narratives about success that are based around a kind of climax, a single experience or idea that suddenly changes the entire direction of a person’s and/ or an enterprise’s life. While this narrative might make for great television or an exciting movie, it–like much of what we see on screen–does not always play out that way in real life.
Writer, researcher, and consultant Jim Collins has challenged this understanding by proposing a metaphor that better captures most entrepreneurs’ realities. He compares the process of building a business to the process of pushing a flywheel in order to make it spin quickly: in the beginning, it requires hours of hard pushing just to get it to spin once, but, as you keep pushing, the wheel eventually starts building up speed through its own momentum until it’s spinning faster than you could have ever anticipated. He points out that, if someone were to ask you which specific push caused it to start spinning at that speed, you would be unable to answer–every push was part of one holistic process.
This is how truly great companies come to be. Purposeful effort consistently applied in a single direction creates momentum, building on the successes of the past to propel an enterprise toward newer and greater accomplishments: putting the daily grind on hold while waiting for the one big idea that is going to change everything only results in inertia. Taking this metaphor to heart and putting it into practice by prioritizing day-to-day operations rather than all-or-nothing moments helps establish a strong foundation for ongoing success.
Leading With Purpose
Nowadays, an increasing proportion of B2C and B2B customers are prioritizing core beliefs over convenience when deciding which companies to support. In the past, companies primarily had to focus on establishing strong relationships with their shareholders and emphasizing factors like convenience or cost-effectiveness when trying to appeal to consumers.
Whether B2B or B2C, today’s consumers are much more likely to reject this kind of approach, instead seeking out businesses that embody a clear, substantial purpose. Whether this takes the form of a commitment to sustainability or to empowering women in business, companies that take measurable steps toward creating positive social outcomes tend to perform better with consumers. Consumers are not just looking for convenience, but for genuine experiences and interactions that make them feel like part of something bigger.
Companies that deliver on their stated values are able to develop lasting and productive relationships with customers rather than merely transactional ones, which tend to last only as long as the product or service is the most convenient one available to the consumer. By tracking customer performance indicators that are based on real customer feedback, businesses can gain insight into how their brand fits into the lives of their clientele. In doing so, they can build narratives that strengthen and solidify these shared values.
Keeping It Positive
For everyone involved in business, but perhaps especially for executives, a positive mindset is one of the strongest assets out there. Far from a form of naïveté, positive thinking has been proven time and time again to yield tangible benefits. Among these benefits are increased energy, resilience, and openness to new ideas.
As the flywheel metaphor demonstrates, there is no replacement for energy and resilience when it comes to building a successful business. Moreover, when we think of success as a process rather than a moment, it becomes clear that openness is a virtue: remaining closed off to everything but the “big idea” can leave a business struggling to address immediate issues.
Of course, positive thinking alone is not enough to get the job done. It requires complementary actions in order to realize its full potential. Fortunately, there is a positive feedback loop between thinking and acting, meaning that a positive mindset–again, like the flywheel–gains more of its own momentum the more effort you put into it.
Simple Is Best
One of the great truths about success is that the ideas underlying it tend to be fairly straightforward–implementing them effectively and consistently is the hard part. Fortunately, the steps most conducive to success, like the three specified in this article, tend to build on and reinforce one another quite naturally. No matter where you are on your entrepreneurial journey, these options are always open to you, and it is never too early or too late to implement them.
About Patrick Parker
Patrick Parker is a five-time tech founder and the CEO of SaaS Partners. From business ideation to product development to building scalable marketing strategies, SaaS Partners is a support system and launch pad for entrepreneurs.