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’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?” is by Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge.
When I worked at Salesforce back in 2005, I had no idea that in just two short years I’d be heading up my very own company. I often thought about what it would be like to run my own business; I enjoyed entrepreneurship from a young age, and being part of the innovation and leadership team at Salesforce only reinforced this dream. So I found an incredible co-founder, Lem, and took a major leap of faith. I’ll be honest: I’ve learned a lot about the different facets involved in running a company. But it was the circumstances at which I arrived at BrightEdge — and how we got to where we are today — that have taught me the biggest lessons about my career. Because there’s no way I can pick only one, here are the three most important:
There’s never a “right” time
Before I committed to starting BrightEdge, my oldest daughter was born. That’s right: before. Call me crazy, but it was her presence in the world that made me want to exercise my creativity and commit to doing something bigger. But, there were also some practical matters to consider — like having just had her. Many folks (including myself) will tell you that launching a company with a newborn at home isn’t exactly ideal timing. Throw in inviting your co-founder to move in with you while you run your business from your condo’s kitchen table, and you could say the timing was downright terrible. But that’s the thing with timing — it’s never the right time to take a big risk. It’s so easy to make excuses with what life throws your way, but if you always do that you’ll never get anything done. You have a lot more willpower, focus and determination in you than you probably realize, and that trumps timing any day.
See also: How to Avoid Losing Your Best Employees
To get ahead, you’ll have to work —hard
It’s a natural tendency — some days, you just want a break. But when it comes to starting a company (or even just working at one), you have to be ruthlessly committed. I learned firsthand how much energy, commitment and just plain hard work it takes when we first launched back in 2007. Lem and I were determining how to create the best product for our goals, and we spent several months indexing the entire web. All of it. It was time-consuming and tedious, but we knew it was essential for the future of our company. Now, Lem and I work Saturdays — just the two of us, to make sure we’re always tracking back to the same goals. Are there other things I’d rather be doing? Sure, sometimes. But if the ultimate success of my company means making some sacrifices and putting in extra time, then I’m willing to do that.
Be open to change
Ten years ago, I worked to develop and manage products at Salesforce. Today, I’m the head of a company where our chief goal is to change the content marketing industry. This wasn’t a gradual change, either; rather, it happened all at once, as many of life’s big changes do. I would never be where I am today if I didn’t take the risk of leaving Salesforce to chase an interest that has become a passion. So my last piece of advice would be to welcome those sharp turns and big departures as they come. Pay close attention to where your interests lie, and pursue them when it feels right. You never know where they might lead.
Read all responses to the Leadership Insider question: “What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?”
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