“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

~ Bill Gates

In this post I want to talk to you about one of the biggest misconceptions (if not the biggest) I see in the world of online business. That is the time it takes to reach a level of success in business that is both sustainable and self-supporting.

Here’s the thing, building a successful business is not easy. Despite what you might have read online, building a successful and sustainable business takes consistent effort, working on the right things, over a number of years.

I can’t begin to tell you how often I see marketing messages online that imply a very different story. We are bombarded with tales of overnight success, coming at us from the very people who are trying to sell us something that will, so they tell us, bring us that same overnight success.

As a result, many new business owners I speak to, genuinely believe that they are only months away from having the business (and the income) of their dreams, even though they currently have no real audience, no clients to speak of and no clarity about the problem they solve for people.

Before I get on a coaching call with someone new I always request that they answer the following questions:

1. What stage are you at with regards to running your own business?
2. Where would you like to be with your business in the next 3, 6 and 12 months?

Nine times out of ten, people answer, something to the effect of, just starting out to the first question and something to the effect of a full roster of clients and consistent income in answer to the second.

I’d like to make the case that this kind of success is extremely rare. Going from making no money to making enough to cover all of your outgoings and then some, in the space of 12 months or less, can certainly be done, but it is definitely the exception rather than the norm.

Before you can reach the holy grail of consistent income, there are two key things you need to have in place:

  1. A growing and well-engaged, audience of people who know like and trust you and who have a specific need or problem.
  2. A well designed product or service that specifically fulfils this need or solves this problem.

Both of these take time to create and before you can even think about creating a well-engaged audience and a set of relevant products and services that serve their needs well, you have a whole lot to figure out. Which requires a whole lot of research, a whole lot of trial and error, a whole lot of putting yourself out there and a whole lot of showing up consistently (often to the sound of crickets!) before you even begin to get some traction.

The problem is that generally, people don’t have a lot of staying power. With so many different “no fail” strategies out there, competing for our attention, it’s easy to see why people flit from strategy to strategy without ever taking the time required to make any single strategy work for them.

Something I hear a lot from people, when I’m suggesting a viable business strategy is, “I tried that and it didn’t work” and my response is always the same: Define “try”. Because when we scratch beneath the surface, what they actually mean by try is that they did it a few times and nothing happened or they did it for a few weeks, didn’t see any results and gave up.

The reality is that most people give up far sooner than it would take to see the very results they are so desperate for. 

The world of business and success is littered with examples of insanely successful people who endured failure after failure before finally realising their goal. To name just two there’s JK Rowling who had her first Harry Potter manuscript rejected by 12 different publishers before finally getting a break, which led to her book series being translated into 73 languages, selling millions of copies and accruing over $20 billion through movie adaptations and sponsorships.

How many people would have given up after 2 or 3 rejections? Or not even finished the manuscript in the first place?

Or there’s Sir James Dyson who went through 5,126 failed prototypes over the course of 15 years before creating the best-selling bagless vacuum cleaner leading to a net worth of $4.5billion. This kind of tenacity is rare but it’s oh so crucial to business success.

There are countless other examples of people who persevered (and triumphed) in the face of failure. Check out this article for more.

Now before you get dismayed by what I’m sharing here, I want you to consider that building a successful business is a process, one that takes time, commitment, consistency and perseverance but that doesn’t have to be bad news. Consider this quote:

“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.” We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.” 

~ W. Timothy Gallwey

When we can accept where we are in the process of growing our business, we experience less frustration and self-doubt. When we understand that success takes years rather than months we can feel some relief instead of disappointment. We can tune out the hype online that tries to sell us on the idea of overnight success and get on with the job of following through on our strategies and getting what needs to be done, done.

Some of my favourite resources on this topic, which I highly encourage you to dig into, are listed below:

“I should have made it by now!” a video by Marketing for Hippies
10 Year Plan for Authentic Business a blog post by George Kao
The Four Stages of Business Development a free course/assessment by Heart of Business.

I’d love to know what you get from reading this post. Does it give you some perspective on where you are in your business journey. It’s my sincere hope that in some small way it allows you to let go of any feelings that you should be further along than you are. Let me know in the comments below.



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