My first year in business was absolutely exhausting. When we started our venture, I was working my 8-5 job in corporate america, coming home for a quick dinner with the wife and kids, and then off to my business parters home office to work from 7-10 (sometimes later). Every day of the week we did this, and it sucked. A lot.
About 5 months in, and already feeling the grind of doing back to back 14 hour days for several months, I made a really stupid decision. I left my day job to go full time in to the business. Sure, it freed me up to focus, and give 100% of my working hours to the business, but it really handicapped my ability to contribute financially to the businesses early cashflow needs.
We made it through, and had a really great first year, but in retrospect, no matter how worn out I was feeling pulling double duty in those early months – no matter how well the business wound up doing that year – the right decision was to stick it out a little longer – not matter how tired I felt.
Hustle is everything when you’re first getting started. Starting a business isn’t glamorous. A lot of days it isn’t even cool or fun. It’s just a lot of hard work where you feel the heat of the sun bearing down on your neck as you dig a hole in the middle of the desert trying to find the source of water as fast as you can before your brand dries up and the vultures come to pick the meat off your bones.
But that’s the deal. Your first few years, strategy isn’t that important. It’s about digging that hole in the sand as fast as you freaking can until your hands start bleeding in hopes you find water before you run out of energy. Having a growth strategy is great and all, but it’s mostly useless that first couple of years unless you’re entering a market you’ve successfully entered before. If it’s your first time to break in to a market like it was for us, what you’ll quickly find out is that your strategy is more like guidelines, and raw hustle is way more valuable than finding the right angle to dig your shovel in to the sand.
Learning this has been a painful lesson, but one that I’m confident will help me through the rest of my life.
Your competitors have a huge leg up on you when you’re just getting started. No matter how superior you ignorantly believe your product is. You’re always starting at some disadvantage no matter how well funded you are, or talented your c-team is, or great your product marketing is.
Hustle, however, is the one thing that can set you apart from the rest of the competition, and it’s the only thing that’s almost impossible to compete on. The company that’s hustling the hardest, is probably the one that’s going to come out on top when the dust settles. Assuming you do have a good product/business and at least some level of business skill/talent, of course.
So welcome to running your business. It’s exhausting. It sucks a lot of the time. People are so happy for you and think it’s so cool that you run your own business – oh if they only knew how bad you loathed your over ambitious self some days for taking the plunge in the first place. Congratulations – you’re an entrepreneur!
Now stop whining about how tired you are and hustle up – get the next deal done. It gets easier, but it gets a whole lot harder first.