4 Entrepreneurial Breakthrough Lessons From July 4th
Independence was declared in 1776, but the Revolutionary War didn’t end until November of 1783. That makes it one of the longest wars in US history. For almost nine years, our founders claimed they were a nation before the rest of the world recognized it. They sewed flags and sang songs and laid down lives for a country that didn’t officially exist. They ignored what the rest of the world thought and declared their freedom long before it was secured.
There may be no greater truth for entrepreneurs. Starting up a company means believing in an idea before anyone else recognizes and fighting for years to make that a reality. Like America’s founders, great entrepreneurs show the grit to bend reality to their will to see an idea come through. Here are four lessons to consider when working toward your breakthrough.
Keep Working Even When The World Says It’s Not Working
You’ve got to be the first to believe in your ideas, your team, and the direction your company is headed long before anyone else, and take bold action. When Washington made the bold decision to cross the Delaware, he had just lost several key battles and much of the world thought the colonists’ little revolution was almost squashed. But he crossed it anyway, and it changed the war.
Thomas Edison is famously quoted as saying he successfully found 6,000 ways not to invent the light bulb. But he kept after it.
Never Stop Innovating
Smart entrepreneurs also continue to fight to take new hills and learn new ways of growing. In the winter of 1777, Washington had already seen the war beginning to turn the colonists’ way. But he didn’t settle for a normal, steady movement forward. He continued with bold moves, namely his controversial decision to require the entire army to be vaccinated against smallpox. He knew that at the time, disease – not injury -was the number one killer among troops. So he took innovation one more step and many say it may have been a decision that ultimately won the war.
Steve Jobs could have stopped with the very successful invention of the Mac. But he never settled and continued to introduce products to us and tell us what we needed before we ever knew it. Now, the iPhone has redefined communication, web design, and life. Many businesses continue to experience a lot of growth , which we could settle for. But there’s often three of four things at any one time that is more challenging for us at that moment. So this year, “declare war” on those challenges, and roll out new ideas or innovations to change that reality. Time will tell if our risk pays off, but declare victory and fight as if it has already happened.
Non-Financial Battles Are Harder, And More Important
The most important decisions you make might not have to deal with sales and revenue. The same was true during the Revolution. Many of the keys to American victory had nothing to do with troops or ammunition. For example, the morale of the troops was continually raised by the work of a 24-year-old widow named Betsy Ross. But her flags weren’t an accident. Washington made an intentional visit to Ross to commission work that would inspire a ragged army and a young nation.
Think about your businesses growth decisions. What non-financial goals should you be setting? Many times, those end up paying the highest dividends. When many companies are first starting off, we have no set values or goals. We just try to figure it out as we go along. Have you sat down with your team to figure out what some of the reasons are for your success? That can lead to the discovery of your cultural values. Try to land on your core values and stake your future on those. Over time, that can help you succeed in creating the culture you want. It is not an accident. First , declare the kind of company you want to be and then work to attain it. We all still learn as we work toward that goal, but we can make the battle to keep culture even more of a front-line issue. You can even have your values mounted on your conference room wall as a daily reminder .
The Best Risks Are Calculated Risks
Friends are always saying things to me like, “Oh, it must be so peaceful to be your own boss,” or “You can do whatever you want since you own your company.” However, none of those people who say these things have ever owned a business. I’m learning that entrepreneurial life is a balancing act between taking daring risks and calculating the odds of success. Many historians will say that by the numbers, we never should have won the American Revolution. We were outgunned and out-manned. Washington took a bold risk leading this war, but it wasn’t a dumb one. He built upon small successes, found new ways to fight, and through innovative thinking, he outsmarted the Brits.
The balance of aspiring to big things while maintaining a realistic grip on what is feasible is an important one to find. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch once said, “You’ve got to eat while you dream. You’ve got to deliver on short-range commitments while you develop a long-range strategy and vision and implement it.” Set your sights as high as you want, but be willing to work towards smaller goals on the way there.
The same is true for entrepreneurs. Once you’ve determined the bold risk you’re working toward, take stock of your surroundings and figure out a workable strategy. Make sure you have the right pieces in place to implement your strategy. If your goal seems too grandiose to reach right now, what are some smaller ones you can set to show progress while helping you work towards something bigger?
Are you facing a tough season in your business? No great innovation ever came without a long struggle. Take a cue from Washington and the early Americans. Declare your victory even before it happens. Never stop taking calculated risks. And keep on fighting even when the world hasn’t recognized your work. The lessons learned from the American Revolution may be the key to your ultimate breakthrough.
This article was originally written by William Vanderbloemen and appeared here.