How Entrepreneurs Can Make The Most Of Agonizing Waits
From the outside looking in, we think of running a business as a steady and exciting endeavor, but in reality, much of it comes down to waiting for others.
In fact, entrepreneurship, like war, is perhaps best described as “interminable boredom punctuated by moments of terror.”
It is during those moments of interminable boredom that morale sags, frustrations mount, and poor decisions are made.
Throughout my decade of being an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that the key to success the ability to avoid delays; it is the ability to make the time you spend waiting as productive as possible.
As I write this, I’m waiting on at least ten different major deals to move forward. The reasons for these delays vary, ranging from family health emergencies to weather-delayed travel, to reasons that I can only guess.
What I do know, however, is that the wait is excruciating, both for me as well as my team. My job as a leader, however, is to find a way to turn this pain into something productive.
Use this time to refine your customer experience
When you’re forced to wait for customers and partners, it’s easy to become paralyzed when making decisions.
After all, you don’t know precisely how they will react to a situation, so the temptation to simply postpone important decisions can be strong.
Unfortunately, this decision paralysis is often incredibly damaging for two reasons. First, it causes your team to second guess all of their decisions, making it almost impossible for them to stay productive.
Second, it leads to fragmented and weak execution. Early on at BodeTree, we waited until we had absolute clarity from partners and clients before crafting any go-to-market plan.
While this was well-intentioned, it meant that we had to rush to reinvent the wheel at the last minute, every time. By waiting for perfect clarity before moving forward, we ended up going wide instead of deep, and it simply didn’t work.
Ultimately, we realized that if we were going to be successful, we were going to have to make decisions without perfect clarity. This shift from reactive to proactive decision making enabled us to create higher-quality work that we believed in and were truly proud of.
By taking a strong stance, making bold decisions, and bringing a completed package to our clients, we were able to define the experience from start to finish.
This enabled us to remain focused, productive, and well ahead of the curve regardless of how slowly our partners moved.
Focus on the details
When it comes to execution, the devil is in the details. Seemingly innocuous things like product messaging and email design can have a disproportionate impact on the ultimate success of your product.
When you’re rushed to execute, it’s often easy to overlook these details. Fortunately, the time you gain while waiting for others to get back to you allows you to focus on the things that could otherwise get lost in the shuffle.
One of the early marketing mistakes that I made at BodeTree was to over-simplify our approach to customer engagement. I wrongly assumed I knew what people cared about and which messages resonated with a broad audience.
I wasted so much time waiting to hear back from clients that when things finally accelerated, I went with a “good enough” approach to customer marketing and engagement.
It was only after I learned to take advantage of the waiting time that I was able to focus on these details and improve.
Remember that downtime is a gift; it enables you to focus on all of the little details that make your product truly exceptional.
Find a way to balance realism and positivity
Long sales cycles and waiting periods can be emotionally hard on teams. The long gaps in between milestones often lead to insecurity and anxiety.
That’s why it is incredibly important to make sure that you use these gaps to your advantage by constantly moving the process forward.
One thing that I’ve found particularly difficult as a leader is striking a balance between realism and positivity.
On the one hand, I want to remain positive about prospects for the deals we’re waiting on. After all, positivity is contagious and can influence the direction a deal takes, whether directly or indirectly.
On the other hand, however, it’s important to stay realistic about the trials, tribulations, and necessities of the business at hand. Like so many things in this world, it’s a matter of finding balance.
Balance is key to maintaining psychological momentum, which has a huge impact on the success of any business. If your team feels productive, motivated, and positive, it will be reflected in your interactions with customers and partners alike.
At times, the temptation to give into boredom will be strong, but it’s imperative that leaders keep this from happening.
The ability to wait isn’t particularly valuable. However, the wisdom to transform thoughtful patience into productivity and momentum is what separates winners from losers.
Take advantage of the downtime to define the customer experience, focus on details and foster positivity in your team. If you do, you’ll find that you can transform long sales cycles and periods of interminable boredom into a major competitive advantage.