When You’re in a Relationship with Your Start-Up: Take It Slow

“It can take ten years to become an overnight success.”
Various sources

How long does it take to turn your business into a profit-generating machine?  What steps can you take to reach that stage faster?  And what are the most important lessons to take away from entrepreneurs who have come before you? If you need valuable tips for starting a business or growing your enterprise, you’ll want to stay tuned to The Art of Charm.

In a recent Art of Charm podcast Jordan sat down with John Lee Dumas, host of Entrepreneur on Fire (EoF) to discuss how John grew a multi-million dollar podcast from nothing in just three years.  Below are some of the key takeaways from that podcast that address the questions mentioned above.  And in the spirit of EoF each point made is brought home through stories and advice from other wildly successful entrepreneurs.

Take it slow

“Success doesn’t happen quickly. It happens from doing the same thing over and over, becoming great at it, and delivering great value to consumers.”

Kevin Plank, Founder and CEO of Under Armor

Bringing a business from zero to profitable can take a lot longer than most people think or are willing to endure.   John went a full nine months before EoF made a dime.  And the only reason he was able to move that fast is because John worked 7 days a week and had $125,000 of savings to invest into accelerating his learning curve – he hired mentors, went to conferences, and joined masterminds (And don’t forget, during the 9 months he was doing this there was absolutely no assurance that this venture would ever turn a profit).

Jordan’s journey took even longer: The Art of Charm earned next-to-nothing for the first four years of operation.

For anyone looking to start a business and hit quick success overnight, the stories of Jordan and John show that things don’t quite work that way. This may be one of the most important tips for starting a business: Remember that building a successful business takes time – time where you’re putting in a lot of effort yet getting little-to-no return.  Exactly how long that stage lasts is different for everyone.  But it’s a very necessary stage seemingly all successful entrepreneurs go through when you look into their backstory.

While there are ways to get through this stage quickly (which we’ll touch on soon) skipping it could be a huge mistake.  To see why that is, let’s take a look at the story and advice of another well-known entrepreneur (who has previously been featured on both EoF and AoC podcasts):

In his book Crush It! Gary Vaynerchuk talks about how he took a liquor store from $4 million in yearly sales to $10 million.  How much did Gary earn for himself in that time?  Nothing more than his $27,000/year salary.

Gary tells this story to illustrate a key lesson that is touched on throughout the book: When you are growing a business “you come last”.  Even if you do make profits early all that money should be funneled right back into the business.  Into research, improving the content or service you provide, and paying staff members to keep your operation running smoothly.

According to Gary the longer you hold off on cashing in the more you “cement your success”.  By not taking profits for himself early on Gary has been able to build several multi-million dollar businesses.  And that has allowed him to earn a certain reputation that has opened more doors, created more business opportunities, and brought in more money than he would have got if he focused on rewarding himself early for his success.

Think of it like the stock market: You could throw money in there, hit a payday, and then cash out.  OR you could reinvest that money and compound your earnings.

This is the same strategy Kevin Plank used when he started Under Armor.  All the money that was made in those early stages went right back into the business.

Instead of going for that fast payday Plank took the patient route, focusing on the company and his employees first, and himself last.  The result is a company that started out as him driving around the country selling shirts out of the trunk of his car has become an absolute behemoth.  According to Forbes Under Armor is now worth $1.7 billion, while Plank himself is worth $3 billion.

Surround Yourself with Masterminds

“If I’m the smartest person in a room, I’m in the wrong room”

-Dan Kennedy, Top Business Coach/Marketer

The most successful people in any field didn’t get their on their own.  Top athletes have coaches and trainers.  Presidents have councilors and campaign advisors.  And successful entrepreneurs surround themselves with other successful businessmen.  How can you do the same?  By doing what John Lee Dumas recommends all entrepreneurs do: join a mastermind.

What exactly is a mastermind group?  According to Napoleon Hill, the man who popularized the idea of masterminds with his book Think and Grow Rich, a mastermind group is a “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.”

Hill goes on to explain how the greatest businessmen of his time all utilized mastermind groups.  Henry Ford for instance had a small mastermind made up of Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone.

Andrew Carnegie had a much larger group which, according to Hill, “consisted of a staff of approximately fifty men, with whom he surrounded himself, for the DEFINITE PURPOSE of manufacturing and marketing steel. He attributed his entire fortune to the POWER he accumulated through this Master Mind.”

What do mastermind groups do exactly?  According to Joe Polish, the man who runs a $25,000/year mastermind that gives elite businessmen the chance to learn from the likes of Sir Richard Branson, these groups do four things:

First, masterminds give you clarity.  Surrounding yourself with motivated, results-driven people helps you define exactly what your goals are.

Second they provide direction.  You get advice and guidance that will help you map out what steps to take to ensure you achieve your goals.

Third they help you gain confidence and support.  Being a part of this supportive group means you don’t have to “go it alone”.  When things go sideways you’ll have a network to fall back on to help keep your feet underneath you.

And finally you get capability.  When you’re clear on your goals, know the steps to take, have confidence in yourself and a support system to keep you going, you’ll become more capable of doing the work needed to hit your goals.

Surround yourself with intelligent people who push and challenge you, and you’re going to accomplish more than you would on your own.  Whether you join a formal mastermind group or simply get together with 2-3 success-driven friends for an hour a week, enlisting the help of others will make the road to profitability much quicker and easier.

Get a Mentor

“Without any guidance you can waste valuable years trying to gain knowledge and practice from various sources.”

-Robert Greene, Mastery

When you need tips for starting a business, running a business, or navigating the inevitable complexities and problems that come along, you need a mentor at your side. Without a mentor the multi-million dollar podcast that is Entrepreneur on Fire may not even exist.  As John said he had been putting off launching his podcast until his mentor stepped in and threatened to quit working with him unless he pulled the trigger on it immediately.

The swift kick in the butt John received is one major benefit of having a mentor in your corner.  But it’s not the only benefit…

Another important reason for having a mentor, touched on by Robert Green in his book Mastery, is that taking on a mentor will streamline your learning.  You can cut months, even years off your learning curve with a seasoned pro in your corner offering expert advice and feedback on what you’re doing.

But just because mentors are important doesn’t mean you should run out and hire the first successful person you see to guide you.  Both Robert and John emphasize the importance of finding the right mentor.

To John the right mentor is someone who is already in the position you want to be in and actively does coaching/mentoring on a regular basis.  Robert Greene adds that when possible you want to find a mentor you can see personally – not just virtually.  That way you can learn by watching him directly.  You can see how he thinks and works through problems.  And that can be even more valuable than the advice that comes out of his thinking process.

Now if you don’t yet have a mentor there are some ways you can create one for the time being.  In Mastery Robert explains how you can use books to serve as a mentor until you find someone to take that role.  You can also act as if you already have your ideal mentor by imagining how a conversation with him might go.  For example if you want to be mentored by Sir Richard Branson, you might ask yourself “What would Richard Branson say to me about this?”  By simply by taking his perspective you’ll be able to gain new insight into your situation.

How to stay focused when nothing is working

“When all hell is breaking loose and nothing’s working, you’re only one millimeter off”

-Tony Robbins

Having the right mindset when things get hard is key to ensuring you continually move forward.  Jordan briefly touched on this point early in the podcast when he mentioned how “failing” law school doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  If you fail law school those bad grades could merely be an indication that this path isn’t for you.  Viewing “failure” in this light means that rather than enduring a crushing blow to your confidence you’ll instead be able to see this event as a stepping-stone to something greater.

Taking the right perspective on failure is important for entrepreneurs since they’re liable to experience tons of failure.  And when you’re in those early stages busting your butt each day yet seeing little-to-no progress, having the right mindset will keep you going forward so you can achieve the success you want.

Tony Robbins has a great mindset to adapt in times when you’re working your butt off and nothing appears to be working.  The idea is to take the perspective that you’re just one small tweak away from everything falling into place.

Here’s how Tony describes this mindset shift in his seminar (you can check out the audio here):  If you’ve ever played golf you know that the tiniest changes can produce a massive shift in results.  If you hit the ball a millimeter too high or too low… if your club head is open or closed just the tiniest bit… then the ball will fly off in the wrong direction and your results will be a disaster.

But just because you’re hitting the ball all over the place doesn’t mean you’ve got to scrap everything and give up.  It doesn’t mean you’re doing everything wrong and it’s all hopeless.  Because one tiny change – hitting the ball just a millimeter higher… opening the club head just a millimeter more… and you’ll launch a rocket that drops right on the green.

So when things aren’t clicking don’t focus on the thoughts telling you “this is hopeless”.  Instead ask yourself “What little adjustment can I make that will get me the results I want?”  This will keep you focused on success, not failure.  And if that’s where your focus is, than that’s where you’re more likely to end up.

Is there a certain mindset that has helped you take your business or career to the next level?  Has a mentor ever shaved years off your learning curve, or provided the motivation needed to take action?  Have you been a part of any mastermind groups?  If you have experience with any of these things we’d love to hear all about it in the comments below.

To find additional tips for starting a business, be sure to explore our blog and subscribe to our podcast.