Staying Power Give Your Venture Time to Take Flight
“It's not that I'm so smart. It's just that I stay with problems longer."
You can do everything well. You can prepare yourself as a founder, aim for a robust market, design an economically sound business model, move forward with flexibility, and surround yourself with straightforward truth-tellers. Still, getting your venture safely off the ground will likely take more of your time, money, and effort than you expect. Most great ideas require time to work, and it may take a long series of sparks to finally create a roaring fire. Just as overnight successes are often decades in the making, “home run” businesses are most often due to the accumulation of many swings at the plate, where founding teams persevere over time to seize opportunities that couldn’t have been scheduled, or even anticipated, in advance.
Unfortunately, one of the common side effects of falling in love with a business idea is the founder’s assumption that success will come quickly and easily. Due to the nearly universal tendency to over
Project early sales and under-project costs, the startup runway can evaporate quickly and dangerously. This is the immediate reason why many ventures fail without ever turning a profit. But it also points to a significant opportunity: Entrepreneurs who do what is necessary to keep their business alive over time, treating time as a competitive advantage rather than a dwindling resource, can dramatically elevate their odds of venture survival and growth. “The first thing we know about being successful as an entrepreneur is: If you can make it through the early years, your odds of success will go way up,” writes Scott Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western Reserve University and author of The Illusions of Entrepreneurship. Shane cites more than twenty studies, showing that, when it comes to new ventures, “the odds of your new business failing are highest when you first start and decline in relation to the length of time you have been in business. And it isn’t just the chance of staying alive that increases over time. The data also show that the average start-up also becomes more profitable as it gets older.”1
This final chapter will focus on strategies for strengthening your venture’s staying power, your ability to keep moving forward. The forces impacting staying power operate at two levels. The first level is that of the venture itself, where factors external to you as a founder will either lengthen your runway or cut it dangerously short. The second set of forces acts at the personal level, where your ability to perform with stamina and persevere over time will ultimately determine your success in building a thriving business over the long haul.