Running your own business can be exhilarating and rewarding, but also exhausting. Too often, we see the shiny end result of a successful start up without seeing the years of hard work that went into it. If you’re an entrepreneur, one of the most important ingredients you’ll need to succeed isn’t lots of money or even luck, as many would have you believe – it’s stamina.
Many of us look at successful entrepreneurs and attribute their success to a single brilliant idea, or to their social connections. While these can be important ingredients to success, the actual backbone of “making it” as an entrepreneur is something different altogether: it’s having both physical and mental stamina.
Physical stamina means having enough energy to apply yourself and work hard through long workdays, late nights and even weekends. Mental stamina is possibly even more important though, as it’s essential for dealing with the stress of not earning a salary, the inevitable setbacks you’ll face as a business owner, and an ever-changing world where you need to be highly adaptable.
So as a small business owner, how do you make sure you build the mental and physical stamina to keep going?
1. Create work boundaries
Speak to any small business owner and they’ll tell you that it’s very difficult to switch off from thinking about their business, so they put in long hours of work every day and night. But if you do this, you’ll burn out very quickly and run out of the energy you need to keep going in the long run.
To prevent this, set firm boundaries for yourself for when you work and when you don’t (for example never past 6pm on a weekday). It’s also a good idea to take a holiday once or twice a year where you completely switch off for a longer period of time.
2. Cultivate balance
It seems counter-intuitive, but the more your life contains things other than work, the more energy you’ll have when it comes to work. Things like a regular exercise routine, having hobbies outside of work and carving out time to relax can all help you do this.
Marc Levi, co-founder of Tarloy Properties, prioritises personal engagements first before work meetings to make sure he fits them in to his week.
“By diarising personal commitments first, you make sure that they don’t take a back seat to work and never happen,” he says.
3. Do what you enjoy
If you get up everyday to do what you love to do, you’ll naturally have more motivation to keep going, which in turn will increase your chances of success. In other words, start a business in an industry you feel passionate about, rather than one you’re ambivalent about but that seems lucrative.
Simon Black, Managing Director of Black Pepper Properties agrees, saying that stamina as an entrepreneur is best gained by focusing on delivering to your customers, rather than simply concentrating on the money you’re trying to make.
4. Surround yourself with a good support network
A good support network can include friends or family you can relax with, business partners who share a common vision, and professional mentors who can guide you strategically. Gary Keizan, director of guided tour company SafariScapes & Aviation, says that finding other entrepreneurs in non-competing businesses is also an invaluable support.
“By meeting up with other people in the same boat as you, you can share your learnings, stresses and challenges to help you along the way,” he says.
5. See the bigger picture
Seeing the bigger picture means knowing that failures are inevitable but that they can actually help you get to your end goal. Maybe investor funding falls through, or you get a bad product review, or you don’t hit the sales targets you projected.
Whatever happens, failure is a great teacher and can propel you further along your path than if everything goes perfectly. A crucial part of this is focus: Keizan says that many entrepreneurs suffer from what he calls “shiny penny syndrome”, where they’re distracted by every shiny opportunity or “penny” they come across. Rather, successful business owners who go the distance are ones who harness the power of focus to move in one purposeful direction.
Having the stamina to keep going as an entrepreneur takes work, and it’s something we don’t often think we need when starting our own business.
Success rarely happens overnight – in fact, it’s usually the result of a long road of continued determination to reach your goal. Building in ways to ensure you nurture both mental and physical stamina means you’re more likely to get there.