When starting a business, it’s you vs. the world

Photograph by James Winegar

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?” is by Ryan Smith, CEO and founder of Qualtrics.

You have to be a little nuts to start your own business. Seriously–ask any entrepreneur. But that’s what makes it fun. When I meet with people who want to start their own business, I always share the following advice:

It’s you vs. the world
Get comfortable with this idea. If the word “no” doesn’t fire you up, you might want to think twice about starting your own business. A lot of people are going to tell you that things cant be done–and not just people outside of your company. Most entrepreneurs I talk to say that it often feels like it’s them against the world even within the walls of their company. So always remember your vision for the business. This is the only thing that will keep your company alive and thriving as you constantly adapt—especially in the beginning. These early changes and decisions are often the most pivotal for a company, mainly because they require the founder to test his or her willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed.

Where you start is not where you’ll end up
Starting a business is not a one time event. As your business scales, you will encounter new problems and opportunities constantly. And if you can’t continually adapt and grow, your business will never be successful–regardless of how hard you work. When you feel you have reached the end of the road—keep going. This is crucial, especially during the early days when you’re working hard to figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s very rare (and difficult) to get something right the first time. And it’s scary if you do, because that means someone else might be able to do it better. So remember that where you start is not where you’ll end up. This could mean altering your product or targeting a new market. But these aren’t signs of failure—unless you’re unwilling to change. The start-ups that survive are the ones that can continue to change until they find their sweet spot.

You don’t have to come up with the idea
You don’t always have to start your own business from scratch in order to become an entrepreneur. In fact, many new companies are developed by taking an existing idea and making it better. Or another, less recognized option, is running a startup within a startup. Qualtrics has grown drastically in the last few years, including opening international offices. When I look at the head of our Asia Pacific office in Australia I look at someone who is absolutely “starting their own business” so to speak. Yes, it’s Qualtrics and it has all the backing and experience we’ve developed over the years, but expanding a company within a company is just as much of a startup experience. And for a lot of people, this kind of entrepreneurship is better than starting from scratch. If this is a better fit for you, jump at the opportunity.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?

6 things every new entrepreneur should know by Erin (Mack) McKelvey, CEO of SalientMG.

Why this CEO believes an MBA is worthless by Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora.

How much would you sacrifice to start your own business?by Clara Shih, founder and CEO of Hearsay Social.

4 secrets behind a successful startup by Veenu Aishwarya, CEO of AUM LifeTech.

How this startup failed (twice) and still found success by Kevin Chou, co-founder and CEO of Kabam.

Are you resilient enough to start your own business? by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.

The most important lesson I learned as a tech CEO by Kyle Wong, CEO of Pixlee.

How to avoid a startup failure by Jim Yu, CEO and co-founder of BrightEdge.

3 things to consider before starting your own business by Sunil Rajaraman, co-founder of Scripted.com.

4 ways to persuade people to join your startup by Nir Polak, CEO and co-founder of Exabeam.

GoDaddy CEO’s 5 tips for aspiring entrepreneurs by Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy.

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