Most entrepreneurs will tell you that it's perfectly reasonable to quit after five years of not seeing results. In fact, I don't think many business owners would last five years. I'll be the first to admit that I would just give up after no results around year three or four.
Now, here's an interesting story a coach of mine told me a while ago that has a great lesson for entrepreneurs. It's the story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree.
To grow the Chinese Bamboo Tree, you'd water it, make sure that it gets enough sunshine -- all the usual stuff. But even if you do everything right, you won't see any visible signs of growth in the first year. Nor the second, third, or fourth year.
But in the fifth year, something magical happens. Your plant, which has been dormant all this time, suddenly shoots up by 80 feet in just six weeks, and it becomes virtually unrecognizable over that short span of time.
The Chinese Bamboo Tree story is pretty amazing in its own right, and it gets even cooler when you realize that this mirrors the situation that entrepreneurs face in real life. Here are three takeaways from the story that you can apply to your business to help it grow:
If you're working on a new business, the first thing that you should do is work on your foundation. Create processes and systems to streamline your workflow. Hire the right people. Train them, and teach them to solve problems.
Once you've put together a strong foundation for your company, it'll start growing really fast -- just like the Chinese Bamboo Tree. Just remember to be patient while you build on that foundation, and don't fall into the trap of cutting corners.
As entrepreneurs, we all talk about scaling our companies and gaining traction, but keep in mind that this doesn't happen overnight. Even if you pump in $50,000 into Facebook ads or Google ads, and get a ton of orders, it'll be hard for you to fulfill those orders effectively and keep your customers happy if you don't have a solid foundation to start off with.
Once you start making money, reinvest the money into your business so that you can keep growing and building upon that foundation.
More specifically, spend on customer service so that you can provide a better experience, spend on new technology so you can automate certain processes and boost productivity, and spend on coaching so you can identify your weaknesses and improve upon them.
Personally, I hired a coach to help me take my business to the next level, and after implementing his suggestions (creating operational manuals, organizational charts, etc), I've definitely noticed an increase in my team's effectiveness.
Finally, stop getting distracted by every new tactic, strategy, or marketing channel that you hear about. At the end of the day, you don't want to spread yourself too thin -- this will hurt your focus, and make it hard for you to achieve your business goals.
Think about it: say you're taking care of your Chinese Bamboo Tree, and after seeing that it's not growing, you try giving it a different brand of fertilizer every week. I'm no expert on gardening, but even I can tell you that you'll kill the plant by the end of the month.