Challenge for Entrepreneurs: Resilience vs. Stubbornness

A few hours ago, I met another awesome entrepreneur: driven, smart, self-aware, and someone who projected a positive vibe. He is on his second start-up.  He co-founded a company in college and stayed with it for 8 years. In retrospect, he said, he probably stayed too long.

His comment reminded me of something Jerry Colonna said in a video, about which I blogged last week. In it, Jerry talked about the difference between “resilience” and “stubbornness.”

He said that often times entrepreneurs equate”resilience” with “not giving up.” He mentioned that resilience instead is about not getting the highs or lows of entrepreneurship affect you too much.  He thinks “not giving up” often becomes “stubbornness.”

When I look back at the many companies with which I’ve worked, I definitely see what Jerry means. Every successful company at some point seems to have a near-death experience.  It took a lot of personal resilience for those founders to keep their act together. Once success happens, revisionist history can seep in.  But, IMO, it’s never “easy as pie” to build a product, hire a team, and out-maneuver competitors. It’s always hard work.

Moreover, nearly every successful company I’ve seen has had to do a pivot.  I cannot find it now, but I recall a Harvard Business School study that showed that the start-ups that did not pivot, nearly always failed. So, those founders had to be open-minded rather than stubbornly stay on the current path.

I think it is a very difficult challenge for any entrepreneur: when do you hold them and when do you fold them? And, how do you maintain personal resilience when you’re completely pivoting the company and chucking out many initiatives and hires that fit the “old” business plan?


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