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Couldn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t – did

Couldn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t – did

Posted 02nd January, 2020 by Sarah

5 minute read

Starting and running a business takes you on a rollercoaster ride. And not just any rollercoaster. It’s a journey akin to that you’ll experience on Takabisha in Japan. As the steepest roller coaster in the world, it features seven climbs that end up in vertical inversions. Its highs are high, and its lows are low.

LinkedIn co-founder and serial start-up investor Reid Hoffman calls the low times in new business ownership “Going through the Valley of the Shadow”.

In his podcast, Masters of Scale, he recently explained that he gives the following pep talk whenever the start-ups he’s involved in find themselves going through tough times.

“If start-ups were easy, everyone would do it. They're hard. But that hardness is the thing that gives you the chance to change the world. PayPal, LinkedIn, things that I've done personally, things that I've invested in, Facebook, Airbnb, have Valleys of the Shadow, where you're like, 'Why did we think this was a good idea? We didn't realize there was going to be this landmine, that it was going to be this hard.'

“But that's where you have the possibility of being heroic, of accomplishing something that no one else has done. Of making a change in the world that gets reflected in society and changes millions of people's lives. And that's the reason why you face down these dark days, you band together, and you work very hard to solve them. And that's your chance to be heroes."

In case you’re looking for further motivation to help you to continue to pursue your own chance to be a hero, we’ve rounded up four examples of entrepreneurs who’ve made it through the Valley of Shadow to the other side…

Amy Norman, Little Passports

Within the first year of setting up her business, Little Passports, with co-founder Stella Ma, Amy Norman not only had to cope with a recession and tepid interest from investors who couldn’t see the business scaling, but she also went through a divorce and had to deal with the death of her father from leukaemia.

Yet today, Little Passports turns over more than 15 million pounds and employs scores of people. Talking to Inc. magazine Norman explained: “My analogy for that year comes from the movie Silence of the Lambs. I was down at the bottom of the well clawing my way out and Little Passports was my lifeline. It was the dream of building something big. The dream that one day I could tell a story of survival.”

Dan Price, Gravity Payments

By his own admission, Dan Price has spent more than one occasion in the Valley of Shadow. His first experience of the place occurred two years after he set up his business Gravity Payments when the recession hit and the company’s bottom line, well, bottomed. The business came within a few months’ of failing completely.

Reflecting on his approach to this time, he said: “The number one thing that I personally did to get through it was to accept that failure was part of life, and I could only do the best that I could. I couldn't necessarily control the outcomes, and to have peace with the fact that even if we as a company failed, we could still make a positive difference in doing that with integrity. I made peace with failure, but I worked every day to try to make sure that didn't happen.”

His second major moment in the valley occurred nine years into his business journey when he announced to the world that he was introducing a minimum wage of $70,000 for every worker at his company. Fox Business gave him the nickname of ‘the lunatic of all lunatics’ while other commentators openly acknowledged that they wanted him to fail.

Today, Gravity Payments has 80 per cent more customers than it did on the day of the announcement.

Price has said: “I think the obvious answer is that the best life that you can live is in the happiest life, and in some ways, the life that gets you all the things that you need and want as a human more than any other life, is one where, yes, you make sure that your needs are taken care of, but you have a relatively modest approach to what those needs actually are, and then you focus on making a contribution and trying to do the right thing and trying to be a part of a change and a solution.”

Simon Crowther – Flood Protection Solutions LTD

When Simon Crowther decided to set up his own business while he was still at university his student finance support team told him to forget about it and take up a part-time job to earn money instead. His dad, meanwhile, told him that he wouldn’t be taken seriously if he decided to go it alone in business at such a tender age.

A few years later, he was featured in Forbes’ list of 30 of the world’s leading entrepreneurs under 30 years of age. Today, Flood Protection Solutions LTD is a multi-million-pound business.

Talking about resilience and motivation Crowther has said: “Being an entrepreneur is to take the untrodden path. You’re often faced with obstacles, whether that is people questioning why, or having to prove yourself as credible. Ignoring [my critics] and continuing anyway was probably one of my best decisions.”

Adam Frisby – In The Style

Adam Frisby set up his online fashion business from his bedroom at the age of 27. He had no qualifications and no savings at the time. His business experience came from working his way up to the role of area manager at Burger King.

His time in the valley, however, was nothing to do with his lack of funds or academic qualifications. Instead, the hard times came when it was time to scale up his business after a cast member from the Only Way is Essex agreed to collaborate with him on fashion range.

Talking to the Manchester Evening News, he said: “There were times when I thought I would pull my hair out.”

On keeping his focus and persevering Frisby says: “I never wanted just the money or to get rich - it’s about being successful and treating the people that I care about. One of the closest people to me is my Nan and I always wanted to make her proud.”

Ready to be a hero?

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Categories: Small Businesses

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