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The Expectations & Reality Of A “Traditional” Businesses

This blog post was first published on our Medium publication.

Operating a business as we do, where we consult and advise entrepreneurs (legal, tax, business), it enables us to see many different companies in different industries, including their wins and losses, growth and decline. While some industries are sexy, particularly the technology industry, due to the possibility of hockey stick growth and a chance to become a multimillionaire in less than 12 months, this is not what happens to the most of the businesses. Majority of the businesses aren’t operating in an industry where such scalability in a short period is possible. These are the so-called “traditional businesses”, though, in reality, it’s too vague of a label.

When I see my clients struggling, or when we feel some discomfort ourselves due to occasional lack of progress, it’s because of the differences in expectations and reality. Almost always there are high hopes and expectations when you start a business. If you did not have high hopes, likely, you wouldn’t have the enthusiasm to get started at all. Sometimes I see starting entrepreneurs complaining and accusing almost anything to justify why it’s not working out for them. This is the entrepreneurial reality — growth doesn’t come easily. First sales are always the hardest. And even if you grow a bit, you’ll probably hit the plateau pretty soon, and need to figure out the next steps to continue the growth. Take the consulting business as an example. You need to be good in the inside to have an impact on the outside — meaning, we have to grow and learn to become true experts ourselves, before we can grow and take on more complicated problems and attract high-ticket projects. Dependent on the industry, it can take years to build the experience and portfolio of references. Every business is a business of trust, and trust is built in time.

This quote by Maya Angelou sums it up perfectly:

“There is, I hope, a thesis in my work: we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. That sounds goody-two-shoes, I know, but I believe that a diamond is the result of extreme pressure and time. Less time is crystal. Less than that is coal. Less than that is fossilized leaves. Less than that it’s just plain dirt. In all my work, in the movies I write, the lyrics, the poetry, the prose, the essays, I am saying that we may encounter many defeats — maybe it’s imperative that we encounter the defeats — but we are much stronger than we appear to be and maybe much better than we allow ourselves to be.”

Similarly to having reasonable expectations, it’s imperative to understand your ambitions and where you want to go in life. Building a big business requires a different approach and business model than a lifestyle business. The industry matters way more than most people realise. Building a business in a dying industry is difficult. You can be as smart or smarter than the other guy, work hard or harder than the other guy, but this other guy may be operating in a growing industry where the money flows easily, and because of that, ends up being far more successful financially. Money doesn’t have to be your only goal, and you can follow your passion, but if you are struggling with money, then you won’t be satisfied nor happy.

Spend time and practice patience to learn and getter better, but be ruthless in your pursuit of doing the things that have the potential to get you where you’re aiming at. You will end up being disappointed if the success in your industry isn’t even remotely close to the success you actually want to achieve.

It takes time and patience to build a business, and unless you’re developing an app to a multiple-billion dollar market, it’s likely the business won’t be growing at an exhilarating pace. Hence, you shouldn’t be disappointed nor give up if you won’t be making leaps and bounds of more sales each and every month. It just takes time. And if it’s clear that you want to be in Forbes 30 under 30, then even if you were doubling or tripling your sales every x period to any reasonable limit you could handle, then better be sure that you’re doing it in the right industry with a scalable business model.

As a final note, don’t ever feel ashamed of your ambitions. It’s fine to want more and act on it ethically.

Comistar provides business, legal and tax support for e-residency companies. Our core focus is on Fintech licensing, e-commerce companies, blockchain industry and affiliate marketers. We’ve been operating for over 5 years and have helped more than 300 companies to get started in Estonia.