By: Bill Fournet, President/CEO and Founder of The Persimmon Group
Reflecting back over the years, since starting my company in 2004, there were key “rules” I followed to keep myself grounded through the good times and the tough times. Here are a few of them:
Establish your lines in the sand. Everyone has some values or principles in which they will not cross. What are yours? Write them down. As an entrepreneur, you will have successes and failures—and these lines become your compass. It’s easy to get fat on the good times and get lost in the bad times. These principles guide your decisions and actions. They retain your identity and should remind you why you chose this path.
Know what you need to survive versus what you want. Most people confuse needs and wants, with most everything becoming a want. As a start-up owner, you have to know what the bare minimum needs are for you, your family, your business. Once you know that, everything else becomes “gravy”—something to re-invest back into your business or your life—a new piece of equipment, more inventory or people, a vacation or a home. It becomes freeing because you know the line at which what you truly need to survive. The rest becomes choices and options.
Have 3 month’s of business firm and a 6 month horizon. My business is service-related, and I learned quickly that that balance between new business development and service delivery was crucial to its success. But what is that balance? I found this “measure” to be extremely helpful—I needed to know what was firm for my next three months—under contract, orders secured, etc.—this was my delivery pipeline. Then I sought where my business would come from beyond that—who were the next potential customers, what are their needs, and do I have the capability or capacity to fill them? This became my business development pipeline. The time I spent on the latter depended on the state of the former—if my current delivery was going to extend longer than expected or generate greater revenue, then I adjusted my new business development time up or down, accordingly.
Always find value for the customer. My job is to help a customer—this goes without saying. But its what I find most companies forget—they become complacent in their products, services and customer awareness. For start-ups, this is the opportunity to compete against the establishment. Finding the "new" or shifts in value is where we find success. Just remember: it changes and you must adapt with it, without losing yourself (use your lines from above to keep yourself grounded).
Be real with yourself. Rejection and failure can be tough. But,beyond the initial sting there are lessons in there. Successful entrepreneurs don’t dwell on the effects of failure—instead they seek the answers to “why did that happen” and apply those improvements. Thrive on taking those lemons and making lemonade. Five things you must not be just “okay” with, but live for: Adapt. Persevere. Reflect. Improve. Repeat.