As an entrepreneur, one of the earliest lessons I’ve learned is that big wins are the collection of many small steps. Many people have asked me how, as a solo founder, I managed to build a company with a customer base of 70+.
I wish I had a glamorous answer, but I don’t. The truth is that my company is the outcome of five years of 13-16 hour days and many, many dead-ends, and a whole lot of hustle. My secret is that I’ve positioned each and every day as a baby step forward—an attitude that is even more critical now, since I’m working with my technical co-founder (and husband) to continue our core consulting and content creation business and bootstrap a series of products.
We stay sane by focusing on the small wins. Here are the tips that have helped us:
1. We break down big ideas into components.
When my co-founder and I began our product development process, we had no idea where to start. In fact, it took us months to get something off the ground. After many frustrating moments of non-progress, we realized our biggest mistake: we were reaching too high, with too little footing.
Now, my co-founder and I break down our bigger ideas into smaller, immediate goals—and we rank-order them based on ease and feasibility of completion. This way of thinking comes from my co-founder’s engineering background, which taught him to solve large, complex tasks in this way.
With this approach, we’re getting more done, and tasks seem a lot less intimidating and frustrating. Not to mention, we’re able to course correct when we hit dead ends much faster.
2. We use failure as an opportunity to grow.
I hear, over and over, that the majority of early ventures fail, and I’ve studied this trend extensively—I love what I do, and I want to do it forever.
A pattern that I recognize (but haven’t validated through data, or anything) is that many people quit because they’ve perceived themselves as having failed. And there are many moments when I could have quit too.
Instead, I’ve used every wall as an opportunity to re-adjust and course-correct. Whenever possible, I build a buffer to allow myself to make mistakes and recover. Now that I’ve made many mistakes, I understand that there’s always another day and opportunity to bounce back. By putting myself out there, trying things, and forcing myself to learn, I become smarter, stronger, and more empowered.
3. We ask for help when we need it.
I’m not sure where I’d be, as a founder, without my network of fellow founders. If I ever have a question, they’re there—and I’m never afraid to admit when I need help.
As someone who is very independent, I used to have trouble asking for support, and in many ways, I still do. But I consistently push myself out of my comfort zone to discover new ways of thinking and open up to others.
When my co-founder and I attend meetups or networking events, we don’t talk much. Instead, we spend a lot of time listening to others to examine our own gaps in thinking and opportunities for growth. It’s the ultimate form of mental exercise, and we manage to learn something new each day.
Are you wondering how you can break down bigger goals into smaller, achievable milestones? Find me on twitter @ritika_puri. I’d love to hear your questions and stories.
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Ritika Puri is a storyteller, business education consultant, and entrepreneur. She founded Storyhackers (a now two-person team) to help companies like Lean Startup Company, Dun and Bradstreet, LinkedIn, HubSpot, and Taboola to create stronger relationships with customers through awesome content and copy. Ritika teaches storytelling and content marketing courses for General Assembly in San Francisco and Los Angeles.