Founder Perseverance

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The entrepreneurial landscape is peppered with self-styled trailblazers dodging the bullets of fate and risking it all as they chase a dream. These are the founders, the ones who originate and champion businesses, and will not for one moment rest on their laurels. Imbued with visionary spirit and indomitable resolve, founders strike a mindset in which there are no obstacles to success, merely a hiccup or two along the way. Theirs is a mission that continually tests their mettle and in which perseverance prevails.

Perseverance (n.) in English usage dates back to the mid-Fourteenth Century, and comes from the Old French meaning "persistence, endurance," to the Twelfth Century from the Modern French, and directly from Latin meaning "steadfastness, constancy." Each of these individual meanings contributes to an overall characterization of the modern-day entrepreneur--namely, one who persists and endures with steadfastness of purpose and unalterable continuance. (Source: Online Etymology Dictionary)

Somewhere along the line I became fascinated with the term "founder perseverance." As a fan of human performance, I have the highest admiration for those entrepreneurs who absorb risk and stretch themselves to the limits in pursuit of a business goal. In the race to market, setbacks and sleepless nights are par for the course. Yet theirs is a push for glory that transcends a whatever-it-takes mentality.

Many business owners with whom I collaborate are fond of the founder title. They are the creators, the chance takers, the hand shakers, the artists, and the scientists. Founders eventually morph into presidents, principals, managing partners, and CEOs. They write books, deliver talks, and become thought leaders. The common thread is their perseverance, the insistence on a plan, and meeting challenges without discouragement.

On the Nature of Perseverance in an Entrepreneurial Venture

Perseverance is one of the great and most enduring (literally!) human qualities. It is tied to accomplishment, innovation, and faith. The history of commerce is heavy with the contributions of dedicated and determined men and women who put their enterprises first, sloughed off every rejection, and never gave up. Through their persistence and adherence to their core values, these founders wrote epic success stories.

Not to say that founders persevere differently than those in other walks business, but great leaders, innovators, and visionaries do seem to march to different drums. Perhaps they have greater capacity to repeat certain behaviors or a higher threshold for disappointment. When everything is at stake, they rise to the occasion, somehow tap hidden reserves of influence within them, and press on.

Founder perseverance also manifests in community interactions. Nowadays, just to get on the radar of a potential investor requires dogged determination and well-honed strategic networking skills. Relationships are the lifeblood of business and, when effectively leveraged, a founder can increase the probability of reaching people who can add value, orchestrate introductions, or make financial decisions.

To persevere in the startup world is to understand the shelf-life of an opportunity and the sacrifices that must be put forth to capitalize on it. Bob Youakim, Founder and Co-CEO of Passport, knows what the sacrifice entails, especially on the balance sheet. "As a founder, you never really relax," explains Youakim, "You worry about securing capital, then getting customers, then staying viable in your markets. You are constantly tracking the issues. There is no letup. The bills don't pay themselves."

Youakim recalls his founder days with a bit of 20-20 hindsight. Like many driven entrepreneurs looking to land that first round of funding, he viewed himself as both a warrior and a problem solver. Knowing that there would be problems (both seen and unseen), he gave himself up to his vision, learned from mistakes, and focused on forward movement. Most importantly, he assembled a team geared toward innovation and optimal decision making, and built a culture of confidence.

Today's entrepreneur, with all the available technologies, may be in better position to manage change, solve problems quickly, and generate demand. But it still takes unflinching self-belief and intestinal fortitude to raise capital and deliver the vison. The transition from founder to high-achieving entrepreneur involves staying positive and creative in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. When the nest egg is at risk, every day is a relentless battle for survival.

Parting Thoughts

♦ Founders that are completely invested in their dreams are excellent studies in perseverance. To take what may have started as a simple idea on a cocktail napkin, and move it from whiteboard to launch, requires extreme determination and energy. The highs and lows of the startup world can challenge even the most tempered entrepreneur.

♦ A founder's passion drives the culture and a cohesive culture drives the dream. The predominant goal is to introduce people into that culture who can make a significant contribution. Always the good steward of the vision, the founder must step up, and assume or share leadership.

♦ For the founder, the world revolves around the perfect pitch to an interested investor. With the competition for funding now fiercer than ever, the path to positive cash flow becomes more and more unclear. Whereas statistics do not favor the founder, there is no substitute for being well prepared.