Some moments of truth are difficult to forget. Mine occurred sitting on a hospital gurney where I realized I was at my lowest point both personally and professionally.
Over the previous 12 months, the job that had moved me and my family to Nashville had been eliminated due to a new corporate strategic partnership, I buried my special needs brother-in-law after a horrific pedestrian accident, severed a professional relationship with a small distributorship because our values were not in alignment, and started my own business, brandivate, that was, at best, floundering. Now, on the eve of 14 meetings over two days which was to serve as a springboard to truly launch brandivate, I suffered a full tear and rupture of my left Achilles tendon which meant I couldn’t walk and would face at least six months of rehab.
While I knew the surgery and subsequent physical therapy would be grueling, I didn’t look at this setback as much of a choice. I was, however, at a crossroads on my entrepreneurial journey. On one hand, I could give up – and a big part of me wanted to do exactly that. On the other hand, I could find the intestinal fortitude to push through. To make this crossroads more difficult, not one aspect of my venture into entrepreneurship suggested to me, let alone anyone else, that success was on the horizon.
Placing my reservations aside, I decided to double down to see where the journey would take me. Moreover, I resolved to forsake safety and place complete trust in my instincts – something that is both liberating and scary.
When I returned from the hospital, I wrote down four core tenets that I would use to govern the way I viewed my business going forward:
Follow Your Gut – This is first for a reason: it is my business and, as such, must reflect me. Trusting my instincts allowed me to be real – and in an economy where people want to truly know who they do business with, being real was pivotal. This led to the blog (more on that below), Wacky Ad Wednesday, and the Adult Beverage of the Week where I share my choice of drink every Friday afternoon to celebrate the end of a productive week. I don’t mind being known as “the beer guy,” because it’s part of who I am and has provided a path to building relationships.
Do Not Compromise Your Marketing – I knew that to succeed, I needed to play to my strengths, one of which is writing. While I had been writing a blog since I began the company, I was not consistent in my posting. After I wrote this tenet down, I committed to posting every Monday and Thursday without fail. I don’t care if it’s a holiday, I don’t care if I my internet is out, and I don’t care if I struggle to write something – a new blog post is shared every Monday and Thursday. I do not compromise on the activities I know will build my business.
Surround Yourself with Advocates – This one seems easier than it is. When I launched brandivate, many people supported me with congratulatory notes and phone calls. After about a week, however, the calls gave way to silence which was difficult for me to understand. When I returned from the hospital, I finally realized that it was incumbent on me to reach out to people and ask for support. By doing so, it opened me up to an engaged support system and candid thoughts on direction.
Listen Carefully to Doubters – Too many people dismiss the doubters, and that’s an enormous mistake. When I started brandivate, I didn’t really want to listen to anyone who even remotely suggested that I wouldn’t succeed. Over time, I came to understand that I not only needed, but craved people who didn’t like what I wrote, what I said, or how I went to market. By really listening to the criticisms, I was able to identify things I couldn’t see because I was simply too involved. Just because people question what you do doesn’t mean that they don’t “get it.” In many cases, the doubters provide different perspectives that will help grow your business.
Every person I know – whether they are on an entrepreneurial path or not – has at least one moment where a decision has to be made: either give up or push forward. In many respects, it would have been easier for me to simply give up brandivate and blend back into the safety of anonymity in our industry. Had I made that choice, however, I would have looked back with regret and a bit of sadness. With the help of others – and the perspective only a ruptured Achilles can provide – I was able to further my entrepreneurial journey and it’s a decision I will never regret.
Out of the ashes of failure, each one of us has a phoenix waiting to rise.