Any entrepreneur learns that few of the steps towards lofty goals and dreams occur as planned and when desired. The real world forces changes every day in assumptions about what will work, with whom and when. Entrepreneurs committed to a dream know that they must learn to be agile, flexible and diligently focused on the dream. Determined entrepreneurs do not allow changes to become roadblocks that deter them from finding the circuitous path to success.
There is one characteristic that tests an entrepreneur more than any other, that is the art of patience. The need for patience reveals itself in several important ways, including: Patience means learning to accept that events will occur on a different and frequently slower time schedule. Patience means learning to accept that a customer’s buying decision often take arduous journeys through politically laden bureaucracies. Patience means accepting that end user customers may take longer to fully comprehend and appreciate the value of the product, which slows market acceptance. Patience means living on rice and beans for longer than expected until the cash flow of the new business catches up.
Entrepreneurs sometimes make a fatal mistake in assuming that patience means waiting. Waiting for the deal to be signed, waiting for the customer to ‘get it’, and waiting for the distribution channel to launch and so on. Waiting implies doing nothing about any of the issues that take longer than expected until they occur. Waiting distracts the entrepreneur from the important function of relentlessly finding the best way forward. This lack of activity can be destructive for the business. Moreover, waiting can lead to boredom that further sprouts the seeds of despondency, negative thoughts and self-destruction of the entrepreneur and his or her dream.
Generally good advice to an entrepreneur is, “Never give up!” This is not a statement about the desire or the will to accomplish the dream. The dream may still be alive ten years later, having experienced little positive action to move it off the original drawing board while the entrepreneur waits patiently for the magic to happen. The best that can be said is that he or she never gave up. The difference between not giving up and exercising patience by waiting is the relentless focus on finding and pursuing any possible step that will successfully move the business closer to the dream.
The actual path to success will most likely look very different to the original drawing board plans. The challenge is that the steps to this unchartered and unplanned route are unknown. The entrepreneur must learn to accept and embrace the unknowns as an opportunity to learn and adapt while remaining focused on the long-term goals. This learning allows the entrepreneur to learn the truth of how the business will actually develop in its own unique way. With each learning step, the entrepreneur becomes wiser and more adept at handling the changes that will come. Over time, he or she will overcome obstacles with ease as the momentum builds toward the accomplishment of the dream.
Some dreams launch and become successful overnight, riding on the waves of the internet and social media. Most dreams take many months and even years to come to fruition. In both cases, the path to success can be measured in the actions, reactions and attitudes of the entrepreneur towards the inevitable changes faced along the way. Each obstacle presents an opportunity to find another way, another customer, a different product, a different channel or even a different support team. Expecting any of those to change without direct action is not patience, it is waiting.