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It Takes a Year

Nothing can ever beat the incredible power of putting things into place and taking your time to watch as they unfold.

Patience. It’s the one virtue that stands above all others for the owner of a small business or non-profit. And yet, for as beneficial and game-changing as it can be, it also seems to be incredibly elusive. The word has been bantered around enough to become a mere cliché, and it’s that ubiquitous aspect which has, unfortunately, led to the full impact of its meaning being marginalized, trivialized, and otherwise reduced in stature.

The simple fact is that it’s the one aspect of business practice for which nothing else can be substituted, not even money. The old illustration about planting a seed and digging it up every day to see whether or not it’s growing perfectly describes the entrepreneur unwilling to invest the proper time and oversight to gain a real perspective into the health of the business. Chasing the latest and greatest strategy for success, vying for a position of influence in the realm of social media, or lamenting the relinquishing of clients and revenue to the better efforts of a competitor can completely blind entrepreneurs to what should be the real focal point of their attention.

Some of this may be a byproduct of the current climate in which millions of self-professed experts offer their perspectives as being the magic keys to business prosperity, often times with no pragmatic foundation for replicating their own experiences. A fortuitous business venture might yield tremendous success for an individual or a group, but being on the receiving end of such benefits doesn’t necessarily equate to having the acumen to analyze, dissect, and present a formula for a comparable outcome. In spite of this, many turn to the next nugget of digital content convinced that it will somehow provide the desired result outside of their own input and initiative.

Particularly in the realm of startups, entrepreneurs have already wagered finances, time, and reputation on the untried entity of their new venture. The associated emotional baggage can cloud their perspective and create an artificial sense of urgency to prove their worth. When this starts to occur, an almost imperceptible shift begins to take place. The mission and vision of the enterprise gradually becomes eclipsed by the craving for validation, and decisions can wind up being made that ultimately aren’t serving the best needs of the organization.

Interestingly, small businesses and nonprofits can often times fall on either equally-distorted side of the fence. Some will obsess about every decision they make, endlessly second-guessing their strategy and constantly needing to be reassured by others that their course is correct. Like digging up the seed each day, these individuals can rarely hope to have a realistic appraisal of how anything within their organization is actually developing. The hard truth is that sound outcomes from even the best business decisions take time. Hoping to see a result too early on will cause a paranoid, knee-jerk reaction in which carefully implemented plans are suddenly and frantically changed, quite often with no more impetus than because there aren’t yet visible results.

The flip side of the coin is the scenario in which self-delusion is the motivating force. This finds the entrepreneur completely oblivious to the trajectory of the business, headstrong in the pursuit of success with no proper tools to even begin to measure whether or not it’s occurring. Lofty ideals can seem noble and intensely motivational, but flailing around in some esoteric pursuit isn’t likely to yield any tangible manifestations of success. Undertaking some sweeping agenda with nothing more than the feeling that it’s bound to work will ultimately cause everything to come crashing down when the harsh realities of the ebb and flow of the business world become readily apparent.

The lesson to be derived from examining these differing approaches is that nothing can ever beat the incredible power of putting things into place and taking your time to watch as they unfold, all the while documenting, analyzing, and studying what’s working and what isn’t. Only by adopting this overview and intentionally maintaining it over an extended period of time can you ever hope to understand trends and what they mean for your business.

Trend analysis can be one of the most potent clarifying forces for any organization. Hidden within the seemingly mundane facts and figures can often times be a tremendous insight into what clients or customer gravitated toward or shied away from, what enjoyed consistent progress and what was merely a “flash in the pan”. Even for the smallest of businesses, brand recognition is a critical factor, and every enterprise goes through the unpleasant and seemingly endless journey of feeling invisible during the startup phase. Over-eagerness certainly does no favors for the impatient entrepreneur, and assessing the successes and failures of any given business year can only truly occur once the entire year is over.

The years 1930 and 1939 both fell within the same decade, but the world as it existed in each was radically different. Describing anything as being “as it was in the 1930’s” doesn’t really carry with it enough context to be meaningful, as countless aspects of society changed dramatically from the dawn of that decade to its twilight. So in the business realm, drawing sweeping conclusions far too soon can end up short-changing processes, programs, or projects that may seem to be on a low simmer now but will later blossom into fruition.

Patience doesn’t merely require self-discipline – it’s perhaps the ultimate form of self-discipline in and of itself. A watchful eye and a persistent mindset will do wonders for the entrepreneur who commits to learning from practical experience. Be willing to document and study what you do, but avoid the temptation to make major changes in what you’re doing until you’re in next year looking back. If slow and steady wins the race, don’t fall into the trap of digging that seed up every day. If you’re willing to wait until harvest season, you’ll know for sure whether it merely withered and fell by the wayside, or finally blossomed into a spectacular outgrowth you never could’ve seen had you just kept looking back into that hole.


Do you want to get a deeper perspective on the overall health of your small business or nonprofit? If so, visit and enter your email address to download your free copy of the PDF, “Taking Your Organization’s Temperature.” Also, be sure to visit us on our YouTube Channel for tips, insights, and guidance on how you can truly do smart work in your organization.

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