People sometimes ask me what it takes to be successful in business. Of course, there is no simple answer to that question, no magic bullet. But I do believe that one of the most vital qualities you need in order to build a thriving business is patience.
I know this goes against the grain. The stereotypical entrepreneur makes lightning-fast decisions based solely on gut feel, and lurches from deal to deal, pivoting his or her business to meet new customer demands. And there is an element of that. Especially in the very early days of start-up life. But the truth is: to achieve lasting success, you need a more measured and considered approach.
The old saying goes: “Good things come to those who wait”. If you don’t give great ideas and new strategies time to blossom, you may never realise their true potential. If you act impetuously, you are also likely to lose the respect of colleagues, partners, funders and customers. It takes a long time to build a great reputation, and just seconds to destroy it.
Patient leaders foster a more tolerant and productive company culture. This makes the business more attractive to new hires and reduces employee attrition. According to a 2020 by the Harvard Business Review, leaders who demonstrate patience can increase the creativity and collaboration of their team by 16% and their productivity by 13%
As I get older, I have learned the value of patience. It doesn’t always come naturally to me. I must consciously slow myself down and force myself to take a breath.
For any founders out there who are like me, and want to know how I have strengthened my ability to be patient over the years, here are my five go-to tactics:
Make sure you have all the facts
Before making an important decision, I assemble all the available information. In my head, or on paper, I’ll review all the data that I have, and try to spot any gaps. That process slows me down because it takes time to thoroughly assess everything and find any missing information, and that naturally creates space for my subconscious mind to process everything and reach a better, more thoughtful decision.
Have a game plan
I always try to have a plan in place when executing new strategies or pursuing goals. This helps me avoid distraction but also promotes patience because, by having a plan, you are less likely to rush. When I was growing BigChange, I knew I wanted to reach a valuation of £100m within 10 years. In the end, I achieved that far earlier but, perhaps, only because I had set my course so firmly in my mind that I never deviated.
Let others shine
This is absolutely crucial in business: you have to let the talented people around you work their magic and fulfil their potential. That can take time. When you bring in brilliant people, they can’t always revolutionise a team or introduce a new revenue stream on day one. They must learn the values and culture of the business and figure out how they fit into the team. I have learned that by giving individuals time to get to know BigChange, they make a far bigger – and better – impact.
Get comfortable with change
Sometimes, one of the reasons we become impatient is because of change, which is making us uncomfortable. This is a natural reaction: human beings seek out routine and can feel unbalanced when major changes are underway. But it’s important to fight the negative impulse to force ourselves back into our comfort zones. We have to give ourselves time to acclimatise to the new environment, accept that transformation is positive and necessary, and try to be patient as new changes take hold.
When you are impatient, you can spend a lot of time criticising yourself and others for not getting things done fast enough. Sometimes, a bit of this can encourage progress but often it does the opposite, reducing morale – yours and the team’s. Patience and kindness go hand in hand because you listen more, talk less, and focus on problem-solving rather than knee jerk reactions and accusations.
Remember that patience is a skill that must be honed. It doesn’t come naturally to all of us so some will have to work harder at it than others. But the benefits are manifold: better business decisions; a strong reputation in your marketplace; increased tolerance; a happy team and great company culture. Slow down and make patience your priority today.