How To Tell If Your Startup Isn't Right For You

It is not uncommon to meet entrepreneurs who are completely stumped as to why their product or service is not extremely successful as soon as it hits the market. They see success stories of accomplished entrepreneurs or competitors and wonder what they’re personally doing wrong to prevent their venture from becoming a success. Their product might be the smarter Apple Watch or the tastier La Croix. The idea and product is great, if not better than what’s currently on the market, so what gives? 

What many new entrepreneurs dismiss in these scenarios is that building a successful business is not a result of offering a great solution to a problem. There is no flock of customers that will immediately appear upon creating a great product or service, because the actual product or service is a tiny sliver of one’s consideration when shopping. When human beings shop for products or services, several inner and external drivers and triggers interact with each other to either prompt or stop a purchase. A large challenge of entrepreneurship and building a startup is figuring out how to craft and control these drivers and triggers. Therefore, startups are usually working on how to build up their customer base, or how to hold on to their current customer base. 

If you really dig into the background of successful startups and their leaders, you’ll find stories of struggle and a thousand pivots on this journey of getting more customers or keeping existing customers happy. At the end of all of their journeys, they attribute one characteristic to the success of their ventures — active persistence. 

Active Persistence

Active persistence is when one persistently works on his/her startup by actively engaging in stimulating its growth and problem solving its major challenges throughout all the startup’s ups and downs. Startup founders may explain this as simply ‘sticking it out longer than other startups’ or attribute it to being a ‘cockroach startup’. 

A business owner that consistently exercises active persistence should be dynamic in analyzing the business’ messaging and branding, KPIs, sales trends, customer purchasing behaviors, and leveraging everything that they’re learning to make revisions and improvements to their business. Once this active persistence helps the business reach its goals, continued active persistence helps the business stay competitive amongst changing market trends and competitors.

Is Your Startup Right For You? 

If this journey of active persistence does not initially sound appealing to you in regards to your startup, it is a great hint of whether this particular startup will succeed with you behind the wheel. Regardless of how great your business’ product or service is, if it is not steered by an enthusiastic leader who is willing to continuously adapt the product or service to real-world roadblocks and changes 6 months or 8 years from now, then the business has a small likelihood of succeeding in your hands. 

The journey of creating a startup is a marathon, not a sprint. This journey is a testament of what you can accomplish with the business’ products or services in 10 years, rather than what you can accomplish in 1 year. To build something truly great, you need time. If the idea of working on your startup for 10 years just made your stomach drop, come to terms with the fact that you are either a serial entrepreneur who will be transferring the reins to a successor, or that this startup is simply not for you. 

To learn more about specific entrepreneurs’ journey of active persistence throughout their careers, or to commiserate as you start your marathon, here are some great reads: Shoe Dog: A Memoir By The Creator of Nike, by Phil KnightThe Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz and Explosive Growth by Chris Lerner.

Sophia Sunwoo