Oct 22 2011
Now that you have selected the right people to build your team and they are passionate about the idea it’s time to work. However, will they stick around when things get bumpy? Perseverance is what sets the dreamers apart from the doers.
It’s easy to get excited about a PowerPoint presentation and the “hugh” market potential of industry XYZ. In most instances whatever you put down for milestones in your business plan or PowerPoint will most likely not be met. You expected to reach 10,000 customers in your first year but what if it takes 5 years? You might have the passion for the idea but what you really need is the mental toughness to get through the tough times that you will invariably face.
The story of retail heavyweight Kishore Biyani is a classic text book example of perseverance. It may appear he captured the Indian retail market overnight with Pantaloons, Big Bazaar and his various other brands but that is just not the case. Kishore started his career several decades ago selling acid-washed jeans all the while tinkering with the idea of organized retail. For Kishore it took him several decades to be an overnight retail success.
Another example of perseverance is Audi, in the mid 80’s it was dealt a serious blow to it’s flagship Audi 5000 car. In 1986, US television news magazine 60 Minutes aired a segment on the Audi 5000’s “unintended acceleration” problem. In the end, the US government concluded that the problem was caused by drivers confusion in pushing the wrong pedal and not a design flaw. But, the damage was done and overall Audi sales went from over 75,000 a year to around 12,000 a year.
At the time, people were calling for Audi’s demise and hinted it might leave the lucrative US market because of the public relations disaster it faced. However, Audi redesigned the car and sold it as the Audi 90/100 series. Almost 25 years later, Audi is stealing the thunder from the other German brands Mercedes and BMW. Now people look to Audi for design cues and it’s much talked about headlight designs which have been copied by almost every high end car manufacturer.
When hiring, perseverance is one of the toughest attributes to look for in an individual because it’s such a personal trait. Some people can work on something for 15 years whereas others get disillusioned after 15 days. Many people like to say luck plays a major role in why a startup might have succeeded but the reality is if you try something 2-3 times you will most likely fail every time. However, if you try something 1000 times then you have a much better chance of succedding. It comes down to trying, trying and trying some more until your product/service is the right fit for the market.
UPDATE: After I published this blog post, Fred Wilson had a similar blog post that really summed it up – “The Second Year“.