Recently, I passed my 10-year anniversary for my consultancy and it's kind of mind-blowing to think. But this wasn't always destined to be. 1.5 years into my business, I was in a horrible position. Being a young entrepreneur (and full of arrogance)... I had lost all my cash after a year, slept on a friend's couch, and kept my stuff in another friend's storage unit. I was just scraping by, saving every penny to build the business. It was extremely difficult and those memories still linger with me to this day, but those experiences taught me a lot about the principles of longevity.
And while this 10 year milestone is not a big deal to me, most people react the same way: "That's a really long time." or "Most startups don't last that long." I acknowledge my business is not a tech startup, and perhaps, consultancies are easier - but I think the principles of longevity are still the same. So I've been thinking about what it takes to keep a business going for the long term.
Most fundamentally, I believe there are two key parts to longevity. The first is practicality, which includes the kind of boring stuff like cash flow and business model. Cash flow involves recognizing what your expenditures are, how much you're losing or spending every month, and minimizing that as much as possible. This also requires a look at the sales pipeline and figuring out how many leads you have, how to get new leads, how much those leads are worth, and how likely they are to turn into real business. Making sure this math makes sense is essential because if you can't make that work, you don't have a business.
The second part of practicality is the business model. I never wanted to be too one-dimensional, so I wanted to have multiple revenue streams. I wanted to go beyond the training work that I started with and thought about how I could add consulting and products to my business model. I also considered my brand, sales pipeline, and bringing on new partners. This experience got me to be a lot more holistic about my approach to developing a business, which was really helpful for me to keep going for the long term.
Yet practicality is not only about cold-hard analysis; it's also about the emotional stuff, specifically self-worth. You have to be able to ask for what you think you deserve, which means you have to know how much you're worth and reconcile that internally when working on your pricing and proposals. When introducing yourself, people can always sense when you're not confident in what you're trying to sell. So, self-worth, cash flow, and business model are the things I think about in terms of practicality.
The second principle of longevity is persistence, which means consistent effort against a mission. Because to maintain this level of persistence, it's important to be clear on what your mission is and why you're doing what you're doing. Building a business, for example, requires a significant amount of effort and perseverance. It's important to understand why it's worth it for you, beyond just financial gain because those rewards will likely be years away, if they ever come at all. So keeping your passion in mind and reminding yourself of it during difficult times can help you stay motivated and focused on your goals in the long term.
The second part of persistence is consistent effort, or being able to repeat certain tasks again and again so that you can actually operate a business. This means paying attention to the actions and behaviors that give you energy, as well as the tasks that take away energy from you. If you do too many tasks that drain your energy, you will eventually burn out. While burn out seems to be almost true every entrepreneur and founder, it is still avoidable... It's not inevitable if you pay attention to your energy management. Identify the tasks that drain your energy and find ways to delegate or outsource them. Likewise, protect the things that give you energy, since those might be the same reasons you went into business in the first place.
These are the two aspects of longevity that I think about: practicality and persistence. However, there is also a third, almost meta-level aspect to consider, which are expectations. Everything takes longer than you think it will, everything is more difficult than you think it is, and everything happens in a different way than you expect. The key to managing expectations is being aware of this and not letting it mess with your head too much. Ultimately, it's always going to be a surprise.
So, practicality, persistence, and expectations are the things that I think about if you want to keep your business going for the long term. But, this is not the goal. The actual goal is impact. This means you have to know who you're helping, what their issues are, and are able to create value against those issues and problems. If you can do that, then you can build a business for the long term.
These are some things that I've been thinking about, even as I am going through my own business rebuild. It's an amazing experience, but knowing that I've done it before allows me to have confidence that I can do it again in the future, despite the challenges. I hope you found this useful and that you are thinking about the longevity of your company and the impact that you can make. Good luck, everyone!