The startup world is filled with eager beavers, and I’m very proud of being one of them. This whole community prides itself in doing more and going further than expected, and it delivers. It’s not always easy being the eager beaver, especially after all the punches startup life throws at you, it’s only human to get overwhelmed and want to give up trying.
But in those hard times, that’s where the good stuff happens, where people show their true colors, what they’re made of and move forward. Today I want to talk about motivation and how to hold on it throughout your startup journey.
Start off on the right foot
From the moment you get your idea, whether it was in the shower, doing the dishes, or driving around town, you need to let yourself get excited. Not just because of its potential in making you money—which is definitely something to be excited about—but because it’s a good idea.
Take pride in that, get excited about a world where your solution exists, where people will be better prepared to deal with the problem you want to solve; or better yet, a world where that problem doesn’t exist anymore thanks to your solution.
Yes, to thrive in the startup world, you need to be very critical of your work, you need to identify the shortcomings before they affect the end result. In here, you are always wrong until the customer says otherwise. But besides your biggest critic, you also have to be your idea’s biggest fan.
Emphasize the “U” in startup
What’s going to set you apart from others in the startup environment is not just your idea or your solution, but also the fact that YOU were the one that came up with it.
You need to know who you are, what your values are—being respectful, making relationships a priority, what drives you in life and what’s important to you. We, as an audience, will need to see the founder’s expertise and personality in the final product, and your solution will thrive only if you put everything of you in it. The authentic you—don’t try to be someone else or some other startup.
Have realistic expectations
You cannot build a scalable business that follows your vision exactly overnight. The word “solution” is flexible, the point is to provide a service that gives value, regardless of how you do it. You’re going to go through temporary business models while you build up to the final one, and not only do you need to respect these stages—and not try to skip the growth process—but I encourage you to revel in them.
Yes, your business will not start big, and it might be a while before it gets to the size you ultimately want; but instead of being impatient and bitter with your situation, appreciate where you’re at and make the most of it.
While you are small and still providing services old-school style, enjoy the fact that you can be more directly involved with your customers or with your app’s development. Take people’s feedback to heart and apply what you learn. The process will not be so organic once you get to a certain size, and again, this is the opportunity to put more of yourself into your business.
Filter for your vision’s advantage, not your ego
Motivation gets you started in all of this—that initial idea comes with a lot of excitement. But following through means you need to keep it alive. Listen to what experts have to say, what your family and friends have to say, what your colleagues think and what that cool podcast said the other day—but don’t apply everything.
Figure out what works for you and your idea. My job mentoring startups has taught me that even after I give all of my knowledge and advice, only the founders know what “feels right.” It’s my job to give you the knowledge, but it’s yours as a founder to make that educated decision. Ultimately, you are the one who knows where you want to go and where you want your startup to end up. Your vision should be fixed enough to reject bad influences, but flexible enough to accept the good ones.
That also includes not letting your ego get in the way. Remember, you still have to be your biggest critic, so having mentors, advisors or providers that just say yes to whatever you want and don’t question anything you do, is also a bad idea. Your motivation needs to be fueled by the genuine notion that your idea will succeed—there’s no need to fool yourself if you can put in the work to make it happen.
The truth is that a founder’s motivation will be challenged every time, in ways and at a level you can’t even imagine right now. You need to be prepared. You are going to learn so much attending to your clients, managing your developers, learning on the job. Don’t forget why you started this, your motivation will get you through it all.