“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
~ Thomas Edison
I can’t begin to tell you how many conversations I’ve had with business owners who are feeling deflated, discouraged and like they want to give up on their business out of sheer frustration. Why? Because they’re not yet seeing the results that they are both wanting and needing to see.
These are difficult conversations for me to have for a few reasons. Not least because I now find myself on the other side of this particular business dilemma and I worry that people think I don’t truly understand what they are facing and because in many cases there is no easy fix to this situation. Not what people want to hear when they are suffering.
My hope is that what I share in this blog helps to make this aspect of the business journey, at least somewhat easier to navigate.
The entire business journey in a nutshell goes from starting a business to succeeding in business with a whole load of stuff in between. I wrote a whole post about the various stages of business growth which you can read here but for the purposes of this blog, the stages themselves are less important than the problem that we as business owners face on our way to the goal of a successful and sustainable business.
The problem I’m referring to lies in the inbetween. It lies in the period of time during which the business is not yet working OR doesn’t seem to be working. Because here’s the thing, sometimes things are working even when they don’t look like they are.
Here’s another thing. There is always a period in any business journey when it looks like it’s not working. There is always a period of time when it feels as though success is eluding you.
The key is what you make of this information. Rather than think that the lack of tangible results is because you’re a failure, what if you just knew that this was an expected and necessary part of the journey?
The tricky part is that sometimes we’re not getting results because we are missing a crucial step or important part of the strategy and sometimes it IS working but we can’t yet see the evidence of it. Given that we rarely know which of these it is, being in this situation can feel both excruciating and frustrating.
Here’s what I recommend, regardless of the reason behind your lack of results.
Get curious and have faith.
Not sure if the lack of results is because you’re not executing your strategy correctly? Get curious. Ask your audience, do research, read up on how to get better results at the thing you’re trying, tweak things, test things but don’t give up. If you are consistently showing up for your audience with valuable content and offers, keep doing so. If you’re not, start doing so asap.
If you feel like you are doing everything you should be doing and yet you’re still not getting the results you desire. Have faith. These things take time. It takes time for social media algorithms to recognise your consistency. It takes time for people to realise that you are not just another flash in the pan, it takes a certain amount of regular new content on your website for Google to start showing it to people.
Now I’m not telling you to deny your feelings, pretend like everything is okay even when you feel miserable and pessimistic, but whatever you do, don’t stop. Don’t give up. Don’t allow your feelings of despair to result in you saying f*ck it, I’m not going to bother anymore! Because that’s the worst thing you can do. That’s when I begin to despair. When I see talented business owners allowing their feelings of doubt and insecurity to derail their business growing efforts.
It’s my belief that how you respond to your feelings about this phase of the business journey is what will determine how long or how quickly you will see results.
If you drop the ball on your consistent marketing efforts everytime you lose hope that anyone is listening, it will take longer to get the success you crave. If you retreat from your outreach efforts, everytime you begin to wonder if anyone even cares what you are up to then it will take longer to see results.
Maybe you are sat reading this and thinking, yes I get it and I still need things to move faster.
Are there shortcuts? Sure. A business owner I know started an Instagram account for a new business endeavour and started using a bot to follow and like other relevant accounts, while he’s eating dinner and sleeping, the bot is generating new followers for him. In the space of just a few short weeks, his business Instagram account went from 0 to 1500+ followers and he’s already getting enquiries about his product before it’s even ready to be delivered. Often when we see this kind of growth online and compare it to our own journey, we assume there must be something wrong with us.
On the other hand, I have had my Instagram business account for well over 4 years and I’ve just surpass the 1000 mark. Could I double, triple, heck even quadruple my numbers over the next month if I wanted to? Sure! Could I do it in a way that is in alignment with my values? Not likely. Could I do it in a way that generates the kind of trust and loyalty I enjoy from the people in my current, small but highly engaged audience? I don’t think so. That’s why I don’t subscribe to those kind of strategies.
Slow, organic and relationship-focused growth has been a conscious and intentional choice on my part.
I don’t underestimate the privilege that allows me to make this choice and in the first few years of my business I worked several side jobs to pay my bills while I waited for things to start working in my business. I did VA and online business management work right alongside my coaching business until my business started making the kind of money I needed it to make.
I’ve also been at this game long enough to know what works and how long it typically takes to see results from my efforts. It’s longer than you think! I also wrote a post about how long it really takes to succeed in business which you can read here.
To illustrate my point on this I’d like to share a couple of examples.
Those who work with me will have already heard my anecdotes about Medium, how it took nearly a year of publishing weekly content on there before I started to hear from several new clients, that they had first found me on Medium or how it was around the one year mark of publishing a weekly blog post before the people who were applying to work 1:1 with me started to say that they had found me on Google.
Many people will have also heard me share that despite consistently publishing on LinkedIn for the same amount of time, I’ve had nothing. No real engagement whatsoever. Despite the fact that I have well over 500 connections and I have it on good authority that the content I create serves people, there has been zero interaction. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. zilch.
Until there was.
Then one day, rather than get no likes and less than a handful of views, 2 of my published articles got 7 likes each and several comments apiece. To be honest I’m surprised, I had all but given up on LinkedIn and then as if by magic suddenly it seems like people are seeing my posts and they’re reacting positively.
Have I considered quitting publishing on LinkedIn over the past year or so? Yes, many times but I haven’t, because I know that success takes time. I know that success takes showing up consistently even when it seems like no one is paying attention. I know that there is a tipping point when all my effort adds up and I will start to see results.
Here’s the definition of tipping point:
“the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.”
That’s what happens in business. A series of small regular and consistent actions that seem insignificant at first but then become significant enough to create a larger, more important change.
Whilst every business journey is unique, one thing I do know is that we all start at zero. Zero clients. Zero followers. Zero subscribers. Even those who today have tens of thousands of followers, subscribers and dollars in monthly or annual income, started with zero.
I also know that somewhere along the way to success those business owners, wondered if what they were doing was working. Wondered when or if their efforts would pay off and then at some point, there was a tipping point.
Mine came around 3 years in. That’s 3 whole years when it wasn’t yet working as I needed it to be. Three whole years in which I stayed curious and had faith that one day it would.
So if that’s you — if you are in that period of not knowing — that post-starting, pre-results stage, know that you are not alone. I’ve been there and so has every successful business owner you’ve ever followed (and admired or envied) online.
You’ve got this.
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