Playing the long game when you're building your businessSep 13, 2023
Have you ever tried making friends with a timid dog? That probably sounds like a strange question, but I have found myself in the position to do that multiple times recently.
Each year on the day after Thanksgiving, we visit my wife’s aunt and uncle. They host a nice meal for everyone and we spend time catching up with each other. Not long ago, they moved into a new home and soon after moving, they got a new dog.
A quick look at the dog makes it pretty obvious that something happened to her. One of her ears is damaged and doesn’t sit correctly. My understanding is that sometime before they adopted this pet, she was rescued out of an abusive situation. My wife’s aunt and uncle have done a great job helping the dog acclimate to life in their home, and the dog has adjusted well, but when they have company, the dog becomes very skittish.
I can imagine that would be a lot for a pet to take in. When you’re used to living with a quiet, older couple, then your house fills up with a dozen people of all ages, that’s going to take some time to adjust to, especially when some of those guests are young children who start to swarm you and desperately want your attention.
In those moments, I have noticed that their dog does the best she can to avoid people. She hides under the table or walks into empty rooms where company can be avoided. At the same time, I’ve also noticed that she feels really comfortable around me. That took some work on my part, but I took the long game to earning her trust.
When we visit, I don’t pounce on her or beg her for attention. I just relax and let everyone else get that out of their system. Once that subsides and the dog retreats to quiet places, I’ll briefly walk over to her without attempting to pet her, and I’ll leave her a small piece of whatever we’re eating to enjoy.
Somewhere along the way, I’ll also usually sit on the floor in the same room she’s in so my posture will communicate to her that she can relax around me. After that, she usually lets me pet her and then she joins us at the table where she sits underneath by my feet. It’s a pattern that seems to repeat every time we visit.
Building a business can often involve a similar process. This is true in both the brick and mortar and online worlds. You often have to be willing to play the long game if your business or platform is going to succeed. You learn to enjoy the incremental successes you see along the way, but you really need to keep your eyes focused on the long-term outcomes.
When building a rapport with our aunt and uncle’s dog what do I do?
- I patiently wait for the right time to approach the timid animal.
- I share a little treat so she knows I’m her friend.
- I spend time on her level so she learns to see me as someone who is safe and relatable.
- Once I earn her trust, I welcome her to join me at the table and a let her know that I’m glad that she’s there.
Isn’t that the same approach successful online entrepreneurs make use of? They don’t rush into people’s spaces unannounced and take an aggressive posture. They wait for the right time to build connections and relationships, share solutions to their client’s problems, spend time on the level of those they’re serving (even if they have many more years of experience), and they welcome others to join them at the table once they’re ready.
This is an approach that takes deliberate patience. Unfortunately for many wannabe entrepreneurs, they don’t have the patience to play the long game. If they don’t get quick wins, they get discouraged and quit. They compare the results they’re getting at a very early season of their business to the results of someone who has been playing the long game for many years, and they talk themselves out of sticking with their idea long enough for it to truly work.
Allow me share a few ideas with you from others who have spoken on the subject of long-term thinking…
“Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasures for long-term values.” -Joshua L. Liebman
“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.” -Steve Jobs
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” -Warren Buffett
“The obsession with instant gratification blinds us from our long-term potential.” -Mike Dooley
“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill
“Long-term success is the result of relationship built on a foundation of trust. People get more value from those they trust.” -Garrison Wynn
While I would love for the business or platform you’re building to explode with growth right from the start, I have to confess to you that my online platforms didn’t develop that way. They have experienced gradual, long-term growth that eventually turned into sustainable momentum. That pattern has been the case with just about everything else I’ve been involved in building or leading during the course of my life as well.
The conference center I used to run didn’t explode with growth immediately. It took years of effort and patience before it gained momentum. The churches I’ve led have experienced the same pattern. Their growth was gradual, not overnight. But given enough time, they gained momentum. I believe the same will be true for the new digital media major I’m leading at Cairn University. It was just launched, but give it a few years and we’ll be seeing momentum. I have no doubt.
If you’re building an online platform, keep these principles and examples in mind. Stay patient and persistent. Give your idea time to work. Plant the tree now so you can sit in its shade a few years from now.
© John Stange, 2023
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