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The ability persevere in the face of incredible odds isn’t a cliché at all – it’s a mind blowing accomplishment, which is why every successful startup shares ‘pers (Sergey Nivens/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The ability persevere in the face of incredible odds isn’t a cliché at all – it’s a mind blowing accomplishment, which is why every successful startup shares ‘pers (Sergey Nivens/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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The secret to startup success? Don’t quit Add to ...

You won’t be surprised to learn that one of the things all successful startups have in common is that they didn’t quit.

Yet the ability persevere in the face of incredible odds isn’t a cliché at all – it’s a mind blowing accomplishment. I don’t care how big your business is or is going to be – the fact that you got it off the ground at all is a remarkable achievement.

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I started my first business at the age of 19 when I was unemployed. It took me over 18 months to write the business plan and raise the (measly) $13,000 I needed to get it going.

The people around me must have thought I was crazy and taking too long. I felt like every move forward was followed by some other delay or setback. There were plenty of times I thought of giving up, but keeping the momentum going, however slow it was at times, was the key to get me where I wanted to go.

I relived this experience a few years later when I started working on another startup. This one was technology-based and took me six years to commercialize and raise the multi-millions of dollars I needed to get started. Had I quit anywhere along that journey, no one would have blamed me. It was a long and often discouraging endeavour.

So how did I manage to keep going, despite the setbacks? I have my naiveté to thank, to be honest. One of the things that helped me over that six year startup ordeal was the absence of evidence that what I was trying to accomplish was impossible or wouldn’t be profitable.

In addition, I lived under the delusion that, in spite of the fact that I had been working on my startup for a long time, the goal line was always in sight. Looking back, that goal line was, in reality, nowhere to be found in the first few years. But the idea was a good one and I couldn’t shake it. The tiny little successes along the way fueled me to keep going until, eventually, all the pieces fell into place and I was in business.

It’s true that entrepreneurs invest their blood, sweat and tears in their startups with no guarantee that they will ever achieve their goal. If you had told me in advance that my tech startup was going to take six years to launch, I may have never started. But I did start, and I just didn’t quit. Oblivious to the monumental goal I strove for, I completed one small task at a time.

Now I have clients who are following the same path. In the absence of a home run, you’re just as likely to find successes running one base at a time. That means consistent forward movement, or at least forward movement on average, as there are bound to be setbacks.

Unless there’s concrete evidence why your business can’t or shouldn’t exist, there’s not much left to do but keep going. If you do, and are pragmatic and thoughtful along the way, you’ll get there – this is also true for every business you see around you.

They’ve all been started by people just like you: Entrepreneurs who just don’t quit.

Chris Griffiths is the Toronto-based director of fine tune consulting, a boutique management consulting practice. Over the past 20 years, he has started or acquired and exited seven businesses.

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