Patience and Craft

    “It took me three to five years of sustained effort to turn a profit and the board just doesn’t have that sort of patience.”

    This was the assessment of an entrepreneur I spoke with last week who sold a company that they’d built over twenty years and hired on with the company that purchased it. We were discussing a new project the purchasing company had assigned to them and the unrealistic expectations of their board.

    If there’s one virtue I lack, it’s patience. Like many entrepreneurs I’m aggressive. I’m energized by accomplishing objectives.

    Business results rarely conform to this style. You can’t make seedlings grow any faster than they’re designed to do, even if you drown them in water and bake them under a heat lamp.

    Which isn’t to say that there is something magical about time. If the entrepreneur I spoke with was to hop in a time machine and returned to advise their younger self, it wouldn’t take three to five years to turn a profit.

    But even with perfect knowledge, many initiatives still take time. Relationships take time to establish, brands take time to penetrate the market, trends take time to develop, and opportunities bubble into existence over the course of months and years. We need to be aware of this and be patient.

    And yet, there’s also a higher level ability to master as entrepreneurs: to anticipate and work around initiatives that take deep time investments. Unlike seedlings, we’re inside the business and can make direct interventions to how it develops. Just because many things need time in the environment, doesn’t mean that you should accept that waiting is inherent to the game.

    Be only as patient as you have to be.

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