And staying in business
The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What’s something you wish you knew before starting your business?” is written by Francesca Federico, cofounder and principal of Twelve Points.
I once read that patience is waiting, not passively waiting—that is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow—that is patience.
I am a fast-paced person by nature. I’m decisive, make quick decisions, and expect others to do the same. When you become an entrepreneur, most—if not all—of your energy is focused on bringing in new business. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. So during the first year of running my business, I’d meet with as many potential clients as I could each month, educating them about my firm and sharing how we could fix issues with their current retirement plans.
Because the process seemed so simple (we explain issues that could cost them substantial fines and they agree to allowing us fix the issues), at least to me, I had a hard time understanding why potential clients took so long to come on board. It was extremely frustrating. After all, time is of the essence when you’re an early-stage company.
I started second-guessing myself, my approach, and my company as a whole. My “head trash” was getting the better of me, and I was losing confidence. But I soon realized what I wish I’d known from the beginning: In order to be successful, you have to be patient, whether it’s with negotiating new business deals, communicating with colleagues, or increasing your customer base. It’s easier said than done, but it comes down to trusting your process and remaining calm through the twists and turns—both big and small. You have to accept that not every decision will go your way.
Learning patience will serve you well—not just with gaining new business, but with building your brand and relationships. Most first-time entrepreneurs get easily frustrated and overwhelmed, which is understandable given the financial burden of their new ventures. But everything usually takes longer than what you’d expect. Being overly patient will get you through those first couple of months—and even years.
I often quote my mentor, who happened to be my Italian immigrant grandfather. He used to always to ask, “How do you get the chicken? You need to hatch the egg, not smash it.” While starting a business is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, it’s taught me how I’ve needed to change. Unfortunately, some things will be out of your control. I wish I had a crystal ball to know what the stock market was going to do this week, if that retirement plan was going to be audited, or how long it might take for that prospect to become a client. I can’t control everything, and it’s made me step back and look at what I can control. When you’re patient, you get better at taking the time to stop and focus on the present moment. And when you’re in the present moment, you’re mindful of the current circumstances, which will help you make wise, well thought-out decisions.
Warren Buffett once said, “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” I work in the least-trusted industry in America, but every day I wake up and set out to change that one handshake and client at a time. Almost two years in, our company has tripled in size. Though we still have a long road ahead, I am confident that with continued hard work, dedication, and patience, we’ll get there.