Typically I try to keep to more technical posts, doing what I can to contribute to SMBs and the SEO community, but recently I have been spending a lot of time thinking about how I got started. More specifically, the struggle and fight it took to get this bloody thing I call a business up and running. I am reminded of this as I slowly inch my way into the VC world.
While having only taken a look inside a handful of start ups, I am reminded how lean things were. How creative and outward thinking I needed to be to make enough money for rent and food. Hell, I remember having a team of Indians creating Gmail accounts, which I later turned around and sold on WickedFire.com. $25 for 100 accounts. Few people know about that :S Like others before me (reminded of Billy’s recent post), I did what I had to do. I struggled to make it happen.
Bon Jovi’s most famous song “Livin’ on a Prayer” climaxes with a howling line: “You live for the fight when it’s all that you’ve got”. While that ballad was about the desperation of young lovers in the heart of the cities, it has relevance to a group that came of age beyond the mid-80’s when that song was written.
Today, the face of the technology industry is defined by new businesses. These are young, lean outfits that can either skyrocket to the top or collapse into ruin in the space of mere weeks. These kinds of people are used to fighting. As the option of traditional labor is evaporating, these start-ups are becoming more and more common. The people who take the challenge to start their own are a product of an era that often doesn’t give them another choice.
They are living in an era defined by both technological wonder and economic collapse. It’s an era where most of the people who could finance them barely understand what they do. It’s an era when exposure can be worth more than income, and income could take years to develop. It’s an era where today’s next big thing could be replaced tomorrow.
Trying to start a business in this climate is not easy. Every new business has been defined by the struggle that it takes just to get from one day to the next. This struggle isn’t a bad thing though. Like any kind of exercise, the struggle makes businesses stronger: More creative, more adaptable, and more prepared to handle the new challenges that come with success.
The Struggle Keeps You Creative
An elemental part of the struggle is desperation. Low budgets and networks mixed with massive expectations can often create situations where there are no conventional strategies left to take advantage of because there isn’t enough time or money for them.
There is nothing like desperation to excite the mind. When you’re desperate, you start to look at problems in new ways. You start to examine the real possibilities of solutions that you’d previously discounted, and you search for ways to adapt old solutions so they fit more problems.
This is how the struggle drives innovation. It is the force behind the constant shifting of technology into new and exciting forms. The struggle is the reasons that new businesses are often the biggest force behind new advancements in technology. That isn’t the only benefit that the struggle offers though, there is also the advantage of adaptability.
The Struggle Keeps You in Motion
Adaptability is one of the signature advantages lean businesses have over stagnated ones. Larger and older businesses are often afflicted with bloat. This bloat has many symptoms. Unnecessary departments, pointless managers, and a general satisfaction with old comfortable ways of doing things instead of new and more efficient methods are just some examples.
Prolonged conditions of bloat often breed a class of managers who never want change, and will resist any effort at all to try and bring the business into the modern age. As soon as this group has entrenched itself into management, the end of the business is near.
Young and lean businesses don’t have these problems because they can’t afford them. Finding the most effective and efficient methods or re-shaping the business is a priority for everyone involved. The struggle encourages finding different ways to penetrate the market, and makes it necessary to give up anything that isn’t successful.
The Struggle Pays Dividends for Life
Every struggle is a lesson that will be impossible to forget. Getting through the struggle prepares someone to handle it again. It teaches them that there is always something that can be changed to get their business running better. It reminds them that have the power to see through the most desperate times and come out on top.
No business owner should ever give up because of the struggle. They should take the lessons that it gives, and use it to become stronger, more creative, and more adaptive. The person who has struggled, is someone who is ready to take on any challenges that come.