Starting a business and scaling it is exhilarating and rewarding. It also scares the living daylights out of you when you find yourself up against tough odds that make you feel as though you’re strapped in a roller coaster ride and plummeting towards certain demise.
Business is anything but a linear journey. Many businesses are built on momentum, which can be an incredible force for growth. But how do you deal with the down cycle: the part of the journey that few articles or books discuss? The less glamorous, “down-and almost out” part of the entrepreneur’s quest is a guarantee if you stay in the game long enough.
Business down cycles are perhaps even more important than expansion and up cycles, because they define the character and long game of an entrepreneur. Having been through a few of these times myself, here are my top four recommendations on how to use your down cycle to grow.
Start a new project
Really? Yes. Start something new. It could be something small and insignificant (like replanting all of your flower beds at home) or it could be big and audacious (like launching an entirely new business).
This isn’t an exercise in distraction. Rather, the respite from your normal routine will jumpstart both your passion and desire to learn. Putting your mind to work in another capacity will give you new, creative insights into your down cycle that you can use to dig yourself out of your trench.
The down cycle can be a dark place for entrepreneurs; you may choose to abandon your dream or do something regrettable (like fire everyone in a fit of despair). Staying stimulated and positive during this time can be critical to keeping your original dream alive.
Learn something new
Pick up every interesting book you can find— business-related or otherwise — and dedicate time to daily reading. You never know where inspiration might strike. One thoughtful phrase could be exactly what you need to reach a turning point and get a breakthrough in your business cycle. Plus, you’ll learn a few things that you can use once you’re back on top.
Plan a get away
Take a vacation, spend more time working from home, and get physically distant from your workplace. Perspective can only be achieved if you put yourself in a position to see the problem from a different point of origin.
Although your gut will tell you to stick around the office, work longer hours and fret over your keyboard, I typically do the opposite. I try to put everything down and give myself physical and emotional space. That distance always helps me gain the right insights.
Do some soul-searching
Your business down cycle is the perfect time to assess your own happiness and spiritual well-being. Ask yourself, “Even when I feel down-and-out, like my business is hitting rock bottom, am I still happy and passionate about what I do?” If the answer is yes, you know you’re on the right path. If the answer is no, it’s time to reassess what makes you happy.
Yes, we all start businesses to make money, but we must also love the journey. Every entrepreneur I’ve met who has sold a business has told me that the length of the journey is far better than the moment at which you receive a piece of paper with a number on it in return for years of passionate work.
I’ve been through my fair share of ups and downs, and I’ve used all of these tactics to keep myself motivated. Giving yourself the feeling of forward momentum at all times is key to staying engaged in the entrepreneurial dream.
In business and in life, it’s true that what goes up must come down. But if you pursue your goals with passion and persevere through your down cycle, you’ll also see that what goes down will always come back up!
Peter Kozodoy is an author, speaker, serial entrepreneur and the Partner/Chief Strategy Officer at GEM Advertising.
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