The company that I founded turned 13 years old recently. I guess in this environment, that's like lasting for 100 years. Did I think that first day, when I woke up both excited and scared, that this little idea of mine would take me on this long, wild, crazy journey for well over a decade?
The honest answer is yes and no. I had engineered the company from the beginning to be long lasting (ownership structure; vision; business model; etc.) but I also know that there were plenty times early on (and later) when I was close to the edge and didn't really know what was around the corner -- I just kept going.
I often get questions about how to keep up motivation and focus over the long term, especially with all the challenges and headwinds that entrepreneurs face. My advice is really not that different to someone who decides to jump from dating to marriage (though ideally there's no "exit plan" from a marriage).
Follow Your Passion. Unless you are really, really passionate about what you do you'll fail. It's that simple. Michael Jordan, Zinedine Zidane and Ayrton Senna didn't become winners by showing up for the money. Passion fuels and gets you through the tough times. The money follows.
Define a Mission that's Bigger than Money. Money is a motivator, but not the best one. In the early days of a company, there's no money, let's face it. To get people to join you and to really stick with you through thick and thin you need to define a vision that's bigger than mere financial gains in the future. People need to believe they are doing something for a greater purpose. At Sonicbids, the mission from day one was to help all emerging artists, regardless of genre or passport, to develop an audience by connecting them with the right promoters.
Serve a Real Need. Sonicbids helps bands get gigs. Bands needed ways to connect with promoters since ancient Greece. Unless your company is addressing a real and acute pain point, you'll end up a time keeper, not a clock builder to paraphrase Jim Collins.
Be Picky about Picking a Team. Your early team determines just about everything that follows it. Pick them wisely. The early years of a company are intense, fun, exhilarating and exhausting. You need a team that shares your passion and vision and above all, acts and thinks like a unit. In the early days of Sonicbids, we all had to vote in a new person to join the team. That feeling of togetherness kept our motivation and energy high.
Love Your Customers. To this day, nothing is more fun for me that going out there and meeting and talking with the people that use Sonicbids -- bands or promoters. Some of my dearest friends around the world are Sonicbids' customers. It's easy to lose sight, especially as company grows and operations swamps everything, of why you're doing what you're doing. Talk about a motivation killer.
Downs come with Ups. The long term game means that you'll inevitably deal with setbacks and losses and days that are miserable and times that are tough. Just accept that as a part of life and keep moving forward.
Be Focused but Don't Get Boxed In. Over the last 13 years that only constant at Sonicbids has been the the mission of company. But we did not hesitate to expand the definition of what's a promoter, when we saw blogging, podcasting, social networks or consumer brands become megaphones for new music.
Know When it's Time to Exit. I don't know about you but I think Roger Federer should consider calling it a career soon. Time catches up with all champions and market shifts catch up with all companies. I made the decision to sell Sonicbids when I felt that our own financial resources would not be adequate to keep us in a leadership position for long. 13 years later, Sonicbids is still standing and fighting in the arena.