It took 14 years for Abby Wambach, the leading scorer of all time, female or male, to finally win her first World Cup in soccer. She didn’t have a starring role, at age 35, but her presence and her character inspired the USA team that grabbed the gold.
Now the team is on a triumphant 10-match victory tour that is drawing record crowds.
Are You a Winner?
It isn’t easy to throw in the towel, when you think you’ve given it all and still haven’t reached your goals. So much time and money invested, and for what?
What hope is there for the more “mature” business owner? But the New York Times, in a recent article, The Next Mark Zuckerberg is Not Who You Think it Might Be, revealed that the road to riches isn’t a fast ride but more of a slow slog.
“Most tech start-up founders who have successfully raised venture capital have much less unusual résumés, according to data analysis by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business. The average founder is 38, with a master’s degree and 16 years of work experience,” the Times reported.
Are You Prepped for the Slog?
That’s why so many “mature” (read older) entrepreneurs go into business with a sort of chip on their shoulders. They don’t set themselves up for success. They know all the stats about how many startups go belly up in their first year. They’re already prepared for failure.
Some may be yearning to go back to the corporate world – but it’s a world that may not want them back. Or, they’ve decided “no more corporate world for me.”
They hang out their shingles as consultants expecting people to flock to them. But, of course, it doesn’t work that way. Consultants have to work their butts off to get business.
So what are the critical successful factors in becoming a successful entrepreneur – not only at 20 but maybe at 40, 50, 60 or even older? I decided to do some research. Heaven knows I could use a reboot.
Here’s What I Learned
There’s a lot of advice out there. It seems everyone with a Ph.D. or accreditation as a coach has a point of view.
I don’t want to throw stones but even Entrepreneur magazine dished out the usual bromides: do what you love and get it down on paper, discover your USP (unique selling proposition), recruit only the best people and be a good communicator.
Did I need someone to tell me that? I also read that innovation and creativity are key factors. Do something unique. But how many new ideas are there? Most new products and services are derivatives of something that existed before. If it is new, someone else will copy it immediately.
The Best Advice I Got
But he also made these two points:
Trust your gut instinct. There are too many variables in the real world that you simply can’t put into a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets spit out results from your inexact assumptions and give you a false sense of security. In most cases, your heart and gut is still your best guide. We’ve all had experiences in business where our heart told us something was wrong while our brain was still trying to use logic to figure it all out. Sometimes a faint voice based on instinct is far more reliable than overpowering logic.
Focus on execution. Unless you are the smartest person on earth, it’s likely that many others have thought about doing the same thing you’re trying to do. Success doesn’t necessarily come from breakthrough innovation, but from flawless execution. A great strategy alone won’t win a game or a battle; the win comes from basic blocking and tackling. No matter how much time you spend perfecting your business plan, you still have to adapt according to the ground realities. You’re going to learn a lot more useful information from taking action rather than hypothesizing.
“Taking action” is the advice I heard a few years ago from a career coach I admire. I published one of my very first blog posts based on her presentation.
Here’s what I wrote:
You can become paralyzed into inaction by looking for the solution that is guaranteed to work. But I think we all know that’s an illusion.
Instead, set a goal, and feel good about it. Remember the good feeling you had when you achieved something or the happiness you felt at someone else’s good fortune.
- Plan a little
- Test a little
- Adjust the plan
- Test again
Simply by taking action you will learn from it. Taking action helps to build momentum and gain confidence. Sometimes taking the path of least resistance will give you the energy to keep going. Maybe you’ll need to refine your expectations.
As I learned, this is not a perfect process. I grew to understand that as the landscape under my feet shifted, I needed to embrace change and recommit to my dreams on a regular basis. I’ve learned to enjoy the victories along the way.
You’re never too old to start or to start over and try to go for the gold.