StartUp Tip #150: My last tip of this series

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This is my 150 StartUp Tip and my last post blog of The StartUp Tips series.

Four months ago, I started one of the longest series I have ever written about.

For the past four months for each day, week days, weekends, public holidays, I shared my thoughts, my experiences, the experiences of my mentees and that of my fellow entrepreneur colleagues.

I did not plan to write 150 StartUp Tips, it was gradual process. One post at a time.

Here is the problem with gradual: It is chronic, insidious, and subtle.

Gradual is not loud. 

When bread gets stale, fungus grows gradually, quietly, in the dark.

The newspapers report that South Africans are “supersize”, with two-thirds of women and a third of men being overweight or obese.

I can tell you how we got that way: one McDonalds fry at a time. We didn’t get overweight in a week.

Your company did not hire 30 or 100 or 1,000 non-contributing employees all at once. That took years.

The problem with gradual is that we don’t notice the damage until the damage is extreme.

People have no trouble opening their hearts and their wallets to hurricane victims, but we often do not take the time to help a community that is slowly sinking into despair.

No company sets out to be average, but far too many let themselves end up that way.

No plant manager decides to turn her plant into a dirty, unsafe, inefficient facility, but it happens, gradually. Day by day, bit by bit, we get stuck.

And what happens when we finally realise that the problems we face are bad enough that they need fixing?

Panic sets in.

We rush around, ready to spend money. We put all of our efforts into finding the quick fix.

Consultants charge companies huge fees, describing how they can undo 30 or 40 years of bad planning with a single reorganisation.

Here is the point of gradual: You don’t win an Olympic gold medal with a few weeks of intensive training.

There is no such thing as an overnight opera sensation.

Great law firms or design companies do not spring up overnight, like rock supergroups that decide to get together one weekend.

Every great company, every great brand, and every great career has been built in exactly the same way: bit by bit, step by step, little by little.

Entrepreneurs who are both smart and patient can take the same inexorable downward force that drives some startups to mediocrity and turn it on its head.

If every element of an startup gets a little better every day, then that startup will become unstoppable.

A startup that builds that kind of momentum will soon evolve into a market leader.

Yet our impatience negates the simplicity of that statement.

“Slowly I turned . . . step by step . . . inch by inch . . .” said the Three Stooges, it worked for them, and it can work for us.

We are not going to fix our startup, our economy, or our miserable negative attitude, with just 150 startup tips.

You are not going to build a great business because of a neat idea that you got in the shower one day.

You are not going to find that perfect job just because your CV ends up on the right desk on the right day.

The way out of our paralysis is simpler than that: It is about thinking small and thinking gradual.

The way out is to select some the tips and apply them to your business drip by drip, one day at a time, step by step over time.

While some entrepreneurs will look for shortcuts, a few smart entrepreneurs are quietly working hard on their businesses.

The truth is, gradual change is challenging and hard. Challenging, because:

  • The people around you are demanding something great right now; and
  • Hard, because gradual requires the faith to know that your hard work is worth the investment.

The new startup is not fast. It is gradual, slow, measured, and organised.

It is taking small gradual steps. Which, it turns out, is the fastest way of all to get back to where you want to be.

It took me over four months to write these tips, but it took over ten years of gradual learning to get the experience of being an entrepreneur.

Thank you for letting me write the Startup Tips series for you, and thank you for being along for the ride.

Asante Sana.

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