Good things come to those who wait

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With the lightning fast rise of companies like Facebook and Instagram, it’s easy to feel disheartened about the growth of your own business.

Many entrepreneurs feel that compared to the sky rocketing internet companies featured on the covers of business magazines that they are failures.

But the statistics show otherwise.

The reality is that most successful companies are built over time. A long time.

Take Walmart for example. Today Walmart is of course the world’s biggest retailer, with 8500 stores. It is the third most valuable company in the world. It employs over 2.1 million people.

But things weren’t always so rosy.

When Sam Walton started Walmart in 1945 business was slow. In fact it was 7 years before he even built his second store. His period of hyper growth didn’t even begin until 1970, 25 years later!

It’s important to remember that in business slow growth at first is the norm, not the exception.

It takes time to work out what customers want. What your brand positioning should be. How to train staff to maximise sales. How to market effectively.

And it’s only when you get each of these elements fine tuned that you can ever hope to build a fast growth company. You hardly ever get them right first, second or even third time.

The problem is that the media loves to herald the comparatively rare super growth companies,thereby giving the impression that this is normal and even expected for businesses.

But the best way to describe the process by which a business usually grows is ‘Failing forward’. A ton of mistakes, then a little progress.

It’s not pretty, it’s often not even enjoyable, but you get there in the end.

Now when I emphasise the need for a re-set of expectations, I’m not suggesting you work in a slow, leisurely manner. Not at all.

Harvard professor John Kotter has shown the absolute importance of a business leader working with urgency and I wholeheartedly agree with him.

Here’s the paradox; you have to work intensely, trying to make things happen fast, yet simultaneously remember that true business success usually takes a long time.

You must be in a rush in the short term, but only expect to achieve greatness in the long term.

As the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar put it, “Hasten slowly.”

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