In early 1997, I left corporate America to become an entrepreneur. The career change was well thought out. I had studied the industry, evaluated the market opportunity, consulted experts from that industry, evaluated my skillset vs. what was needed, validated my thoughts with friends and family, and completely understood my “WHY” behind the move.
And yet, despite all that, nothing could prepare me for the change from what I had known to my new reality.
Of course, it was exciting to think about what we would build and the dreams we might fulfill...but all that wore off in about 48 hours. It was time to face the music: We had no customers, no revenue, no well-known corporate brand, and an immeasurable amount of work to become what we thought we could become.
A full cold dose of reality hit me. And it hit me hard.
I was more than unnerved - I was scared. My positive thoughts and motivation changed to anxiety and a constant focus on the worst that could happen. What if nobody is buying what we are selling? What if they’re just not buying it from us? What if we fail? What will I do next? You get the picture: a complete spiral downward into the Valley of Despair.
In this emotional downturn, I lost hold of the tools that had previously proven effective in advancing the cause:
These are, in the simplest form, the fundamentals of a successful business.
It took a solid two weeks to pull myself together and focus on the work that needed to be done. It wasn’t until I stopped feeling sorry for myself, came to terms with the decision I had made, and truly realized there was no going back that I steadied my nerves and got down to the work that needed to be done.
[See related post: Burn the Ships. Make the Leap]
If you’ve read other articles from me, you know that "the work that needed to be done" could only mean one thing. I needed to SELL something!
Selling is a complex combination of art and science. But when you’re starting a company, it’s as simple as making calls and meeting people until you uncover prospects. You can get to the art/science thing once you’ve met someone interested in what you’re selling.
So I did. I called everyone. I called friends and family, I asked friends and family for introductions to their friends and family. I called the reception numbers of companies I perceived to be future customers. I dialed and emailed and dialed again.
9 (working) days and 293 calls later, I met my first prospect.
31 (working) days and 788 calls later, I took my first order.
39 (working) days and 1041 calls later, I sold my first deal.
What a relief!
If you feel a little like I did - scared, anxious, uneasy - or you’re just having a hard time finding your footing (personally or professionally), reach for the fundamental practices that have proven to bring you success. Once you’ve established your goals and objectives and defined the action required to achieve them, the only thing left to do is energetically execute the tactical part of the operation.
Do this enthusiastically and consistently, and the results will come.