Starting your own business can be a lot like a plane on a runway. You have chosen your course. You have done careful preparation taking on all the fuel and supplies you think you will need. You may have even fastened your seat belt in anticipation for a bumpy ride. And there you sit at the start of the runway. (Ready to commit to do what it takes to start your own business.)
With engines blaring you start to move down the runway. You notice you are moving quite slowly at first but the speed is increasing. It’s exciting. (This is the early stage in your business building where you are full of hope and expectation but you haven’t really accomplished anything yet.)
Halfway down the runway, engines still roaring, you notice things are speeding up, there is a lot of activity but you haven’t gained any altitude. (This is the stage of your business when you have been quite active running around telling people of your business and even though it has not translated into much business yet, you remain hopeful.)
Three quarters of the way down the runway, you have expended a ton of energy, the engines on the plane continue to roar, you are moving faster than ever, and yet, you have still not gained one inch of altitude. (This is the stage in your business building when you may start to wonder, “Am I ever going to make it? Am I cut out to be in business for myself? I have put a huge amount of time and energy into this so far. I am really running around doing everything I can think of but I still have no clients. Maybe this is a really bad idea.”)
While the particulars of this experience are as diverse as the individuals involved, this is an incredibly common and problematic moment in your journey into the entrepreneurial atmosphere. In truth, there are some planes (business ideas, professionals and would be business owners) who despite all their best efforts will never get off the ground, this time. If this is you, the kindest thing that can happen is for someone to point out that it doesn’t look like you are going to make it this time. (So you can cut your losses, learn your lessons, adjust your plans, build up new reserves and try again later.)
However, even for the really well-prepared, high potential, future business owners who have done everything right, this is a critical moment in their takeoff. Because if you falter, if you do not fully commit to going the extra mile, putting in the last bit of energy, finding the way past your mounting anxiety – you will not get off the ground.
Making this critical call, whether to cut the engines and lean on the brakes before you crash and burn or keep your engines blaring and go for broke – is never easy. It is not a decision you ever want to make rashly or simply on your emotions. (Because everyone is scared at this point and if you let your fear make the decision, you will never get off the ground. And if you let blind ambition make the call, you may be risking far too much.)
Pilots call this point on a runway V1, the agonizing point after which you are fully committed to take off because you don’t have enough runway to safely slow down. In launching your business, this point when you are three-quarters of the way down your launching runway is definitely the time to check your fuel (how much reserves do you have left), check your speed (what you have learned to date, what is working for you so far, does it look like you are going to make it, etc.). Most importantly, it is a critical time to check in with another experienced co-pilot (fellow business owner, entrepreneur, business coach, etc.) who has been down this runway many, many times before and can help you make a great call.
As someone who has worked with hundreds and hundreds of people trying to get ventures off the ground, it is exceedingly hard when a client has to put the brakes on a dream they have. However, if they do it right, they will survive to try again another day and they will be much wiser. (Most successful entrepreneurs have many failure-to-launch stories. Wisdom comes from experience and experience in business is just another word for many past mistakes.)
However, the biggest sadness I encounter is when I see someone who definitely has what it takes, who has done enough of the right things and who you just know can succeed – give up on their dream, just because they ran out of faith. (Usually right before they are about to take flight.)
It is only in the last little bit of the runway that you get enough wind under your wings to begin to gain appreciable altitude. And once you are off the ground, the sky is the limit.
Bottom line is, getting a business off the ground is rarely easy. It will usually test everything you have. You don’t want to give up prematurely and you also don’t want to ride a losing venture right into the ground.
Don’t try to be a proud, lonely hero. Reach out and learn from a few others who have come down this runway before. (They are all around you and are usually happy to help.)
Steve Mitten CPCC, MCC, of ACOACH4U.COM was the 2005 President of the International Coach Federation, and 2007 Coach of The Year. He is a Master Certified Coach and an expert on human potential and change. Steve has helped thousands of leaders; entrepreneurs and independent professionals find the fastest and most enjoyable route to more meaningful success.