Refocus On The Big(ger) Picture

It’s so easy to focus on the entrepreneurs and companies in your industry that have “made it” — you know, the ones who are 10/100/1,000 times bigger than you in terms of revenue, team size or amount of capital raised.

If you’re just a few months or even a few years in to your journey as an entrepreneur, it can feel like an impossible task to grow your business to where you want it to be.

Maybe you have a revenue target, a profit target or are focusing on growing your customer base to a certain size.

Whatever your goal is, though, it’s important to regularly “zoom out” of the day-to-day in your business and re-focus on the bigger picture, knowing it takes YEARS to build a successful business, in any industry.

What’s the biggest predictor of success in business? It’s not whether you have the best product, have raised the most money or even whether you have the best team.

It’s your ability to be patient.

Now when I say patient, I’m not talking about working 2–3 hours a day, taking long vacations and slacking off.

I’m talking about working on the right things at the right time, but knowing that you can’t magically grow your business from $5,000 revenue per month to $500,000 revenue per month overnight.

When I started my entrepreneurial career in 1999 at the age of 17, I had absolutely no patience. I would work 18 hour days, 6 days a week and force what I wanted in to reality.

But this came at a cost. I didn’t exercise as much as I should have. I didn’t see my friends as much as I could have. And I missed out on a lot because I was obsessed with becoming a “successful” entrepreneur.

When I met my wife in my mid 20s, this changed significantly. I was forced to build systems, hire great people and delegate — to build the size of business I wanted (hundreds of employees, tens of millions in revenue).

I suddenly had more time on my hands, so I spent the next few years getting in to shape, spending more time with friends, reading and of course going on lots of holidays with my wife.

These few years were formational for me as an entrepreneur, because they taught me that it’s possible to be patient and still build a success business.

So how can you be patient? Well, here are 5 things I’ve learned after building 8 companies (which have generated over $200,000,000 in total sales) and mentoring dozens of founders over the last 7 years:

  • The trend is your friend”— When I feel impatient, I like to take a chart of an important number, like revenue, and draw a trend line over it. That helps me see that yes, the business is growing and if it keeps growing at the current rate, our revenue will be $X within 12/24/36 months.
  • Keep a list of growth interviews — So you’re 2 years in to building your business and you feel impatient? Go read (and bookmark) blog posts or videos that include interviews with entrepreneurs who have built the kind of company you want to build. And note how long it took them to do it.
  • Remind yourself how far you’ve come — Remember the day when your current business was just an idea in your head? Well, look at how far you’ve come. Constantly remind yourself that if you’ve come this far, surely you can be patient enough to keep going. Then keep going.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others— Elon Musk is one in one billion. So is Mark Zuckerberg. So was Steve Jobs. You should only be in competition with yourself — with how your business performed last year compared to this coming year. Ignore your competitors and even your idols when it comes to benchmarking your progress and growth.
  • Have a 7–10 year mindset — 3 years in? You’ve got at least 4 years to go if you want to build a sizable business. 5 years in? Give it another 2. What I like to do in regards to timeframe is think about how old my kids will be in a few years and imagine that inline with the growth of my business. I imagine bringing my kids into the office and being proud to show them how far the business has come over the last few years.

There are really two ways you can fail as an entrepreneur — you run out of money or you give up. Don’t give up and of course, you reduce your chance of failure significantly.

Patience is the name of the game. Every time.

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About Mitchell Harper

Mitch is a 7x company founder, advisor and investor. He is best known as the co-founder of BigCommerce. His companies have generated over $200,000,000 in total revenue and he is currently building an online education company and a SaaS company.

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