3 game-changing lessons that helped me build my business in uncertain times
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of entrepreneurship?
Let me guess - it's things like "building your own business", "innovation", but I'm sure for some of you it means even "uncertainty".
Back at university I have learned about entrepreneurship, have read many books about it - and some of the keywords that I remember are “risk-taking”, “uncertainty” and “high likelihood of failure”.
“Entrepreneurship sounds cool and inspiring, but is only for these crazy ones - it’s much better to take a safe job” was a classic sentence I heard from people around me all the time.
But I couldn’t help but feel always really inspired by those almost heroic individuals who were able to face risks and unpredictable events, and could successfully navigate through it. Think Richard Branson as an example.
Isn’t life about embracing challenges and change after all?
I suppose I was never a person who enjoyed strict routines and too predictable schedules too much. Wouldn’t a life full of certainty be a bit too boring and take out the spice of life?
Entrepreneurship - a certain way to face uncertainties
Fast forward 8 years - and here I am, living the life of an entrepreneur - and actually living through all of the things they say about entrepreneurship.
Being an entrepreneur in the fashion business, my life is doomed to be full of uncertainties. There is a huge supply chain and people involved in making garments - making the outcome of the product dependent on a thousand of different factors. Many of them even outside of my control.
Raw materials for the clothes, especially the more natural ones, can be impacted by environmental factors and lead to shortage of materials; manufacturers can fall short on yarns; lead times to make the materials and clothes are much often way longer than promised; the clothes are sewn in a wrong way or with poor quality - and the list goes on.
But what about extraordinary events?
And then there came Corona. An event that hit all of us by surprise, and has a huge impact on nearly every human being in the world.
Well - is that something I have foreseen could happen? Honestly, though it’s not totally outlandish, this is something I have not thought about - even in my wildest dreams.
But here we are, faced with a new reality.
While there is no doubt that we as people find ourselves in a state of fear and uncertainty, the majority of businesses face extremely tough times, being on the verge of closing down if they have not already done so - not knowing what the future will bring.
No surprise that it also hit my own business, likely delaying the production of my products to an undefined date.
I bet you can imagine I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts - and yes, including fear, doubt and insecurity.
I played in my head all kinds of future scenarios for my business that I worked so hard on to build and that is my dream coming true - and that now, all of a sudden, felt to be at risk.
"I see entrepreneurship as surfing the waves - the key is to stay standing on your surfboard and to ride the waves as they come, big and small, adjusting your board and movements to the waves. "
3 keys that helped me navigate in uncertain times
Having spent a good amount of thinking and reflecting on how to handle times like these, I noticed that there are 3 things that help me navigate through the storms without falling.
1. Know and focus on your higher purpose
There were times when I found myself on a low curve, looking into an unknown future, and seeing all kinds of risks and negative events happening and impacting my business - asking myself "Why on earth do I do all this - my life could be so much easier?". But luckily, one thing helped me to answer this question right away - the WHY of my business.
Now more than ever, reminding yourself of your higher purpose and your WHY is key for not drowning in anxiety, fear and hopelessness. Your WHY or purpose tells you how you want to serve the world, and what gives you true meaning in your life.
People around you might tell you that it is too risky to keep on building your business or even to start with it, and to better pause or close it down altogether. And yes, there might be a million different reasons for why you should follow their advice.
But at least this is not an option for me.
Reminding myself of why I started Tripulse in the first place and what the purpose of my business’ existence is gives me the inner drive and energy to pull up my sleeves every single morning and to work towards my big dream.
For me, having the vision to create plastic-free sportswear that will support our health and planet is a huge calling and driving force - and something I see as still very useful to pursue even in very uncertain times like these.
2. Be flexible and willing to adapt
I've made plans, started executing them, everything runs smoothly - and then Corona brings things to a halt, putting a huge disruption into all my plans: Instead of producing my prototypes as planned, production facilities are now sewing breathing masks. When this will be over, no one knows for sure.
I see entrepreneurship as surfing the waves - the key is to stay standing on your surfboard and to ride the waves as they come, big and small, adjusting your board and movements to the waves.
And that’s exactly the mindset that helps me navigate through unpredictable times like these.
Instead of being frustrated and not wanting to accept this new situation, I now have to think of alternative solution on how to get these prototypes created - having to make changes to my original timeline and all the other milestones that follow the prototyping.
It’s easy and tempting to hold on to and to be fixated on your old plans and to not wanting to accept the new situation, but this in my mind is a sure way to fail.
It is important to adjust your plans and actions so that they fit the new reality - to adjust the surfboard and your moves so that you don’t get thrown off your board when the big waves come, but to stay on top of it.
For my business, this means first of all to accept that this new situation exists, and to figure out the things that are in my control, and those that are not. And to then zoom in to the things that I’m in control of and to adjust my plans accordingly.
3. Find the positive and silver lining
Though this might come across as cheesy and you might think “Yeah right, how can I be positive if my loved ones are sick and I just lost my business”, I still very strongly believe in this mindset as it always served me well: Find and see the positives in a seemingly bad and dark situation as this will do wonders.
Ask yourself “What is the best thing I can make out of this situation?”, or “Can this situation potentially open up new opportunities, and which ones?”.
You get my point - the key is to look at the situation from a more positive perspective and to try to find the silver lining of this all.
This will not only help you to get out of the negative mindset spiral, but can even help you discover unexplored avenues.
It helped me a lot to talk to other people who opened my eyes to see things from different angles, to become aware of new opportunities, and to find ways how to use the “additional time” I have in the best possible way.
Keep in mind that some of the most successful companies of our times like AirBnB and Uber were created in times of the crisis in 2007 and 2008, going against the stream and not getting caught up in negativity - but rather looking ahead and seeing the opportunities.
Don't stop - keep riding the waves
Applying these 3 lessons to my life and especially my entrepreneurial journey has helped me enormously to get back on track and to keep on building my dream in times of severe uncertainties.
But it doesn’t stop here. It’s important we are alert - surfing the waves and standing on top of our surfboards, making changes and adjustments on the go, so that we won’t fall off when the next big wave hits us.
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