Taking an idea and turning it into a company is not for the faint of heart. Managing the highs and lows is part of the job. Some weeks it’s just one foot in front of the other to get that vital traction going. Here are ways I keep my flame burning.
Dig in with clients
Your product or solution is solving something. Dive in deep with the person behind the problem. Get to know them and find out WHY they have this challenge; WHAT other solution they’ve tried to solve it; HOW specifically your solution is impacting them. This is about listening more than talking. It is inspiring to see that what you are doing makes a notable difference in your customer’s life. When they continue to reach back over and over for your service/product, then it is validation. I make it a point to show up and see the food delivered a few times a week. You learn a lot by showing up.
Dig in with partners
I absolutely adore chefs. My respect for what they do on a daily basis is enormous. Chefs have both sides of their brain working every day. They are creative and artistic and pragmatic and logistical. Most of the time they don’t get detailed feedback from caterings. They don’t know why a customer dropped off or why they specifically loved a meal. They literally don’t have time for detailed conversations with clients. We provide that critical feedback. We’ve also helped design some meals with chef partners based on what we see as the need in the marketplace. As someone who loves to cook, it’s fun and inspiring to work with these talented chefs.
Go back to the facts
If you’ve done your homework, you know the nitty gritty details of your ecosystem. Is the opportunity growing? What are the investments and exits? Is the need for your product/service becoming clearer to buyers? It’s motivating to affirm that you are still in an investment worthy space even if you are not currently seeking outside capital.
Measure your impact
Most of us are not curing serious illnesses or changing the planet with our companies. But we are having an impact. For me, I love that we are creating an efficient process for our clients to send food that makes people happy – it tastes better and serves dietary needs and preferences. Serving great local food to employees and clients puts people in a better mood, fuels them for better performance, and makes our clients memorable to their clients. It shouldn’t still surprise me, but it does, when I see the absolute joy people feel at having simple good food to eat at their meetings.
Find your personal connection to your business
I don’t know whether you would call this an “aha” moment or a “duh” moment. But as I write this blog, I am visiting my mom in Chicago. She fixed me the breakfast in the picture below. This is how all her meals look. It is clearly in my DNA to care about the quality and presentation of food! GroupFood feeds that imprinted desire to feed my groups great meals. I find it strange that I never really made the connection until I looked at that plate.
Dig in with other entrepreneurs
Once you are in the thick of a startup company, your respect for others doing it grows exponentially. It’s hard work. It is inspiring to see the progress made by my fellow LP2x alumni. It is truly an amazing group with so much talent and and so many cool companies. We’ve all had different paths to becoming founders, so we also help each other with quick input on technology, marketing, finance, HR, etc. Finding a place where you plant some roots and don’t just check the “networking/ongoing education box” is beyond helpful. Instead of skimming lightly through 10 organizations, choose a few to be your go-to resource. There is a lot of solitary work before you scale. Having a community provides perspective and support and inspiration.
Finally, inspiration needs breathing room. Scheduling time OFF work to be with family and friends and nurture other passions is important. Otherwise we put ourselves at risk for being a dull parrot of our own Kool aid. How can you passionately reinvest in your company if your company is all you are?
I’d love to hear from other entrepreneurs about how they stay inspired. Please share your hard-won wisdom—you can reach us on Twitter, Instagram, or via email.
Carol Casey is CEO and Cofounder of GroupFood.com, a platform and concierge service in Atlanta making it deliciously easy to get great local food to meetings and events. She also serves on the advisory board of Launchpad2X. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.