We all know the story about the “Little Engine That Could.” It’s just one of those stories that our parents read to us to support the ‘you can do anything you set your mind to’ lectures. They also tell you the Tooth Fairy is real…
Sure, it works for talking trains and fairy tales, but how far can ‘I think I can…I think I can…’ get us in the real world?
Motivation can be surprisingly powerful, according to Evan Carmichael, an entrepreneurial expert. Entrepreneurs of all sizes take risks. Sometimes those risks end up taking a toll on your company and your drive.
For smaller companies and solo entrepreneurs, it’s a matter of keeping the dream going — remembering why you’re doing it and getting the passion back — that will bring the bigger rewards.
In larger companies it’s more staff motivation than anything. To get to that level, the founders have already proven how driven they are.
To motivate the staff, Carmichael suggests companies focus on four areas:
Incentives — These could include stock options, profit sharing, raises, etc. By having contests, rewards or some other type of recognition, it encourages employees to work harder. It shows them that you value all their hard work and effort.
Moreover, it helps when setting benchmarks for your employees, giving them an idea of what they should accomplish.
Goals — Employees need to know what is expected of them and when. Companies should have job descriptions with goals ready in advance. Those goals should be tied into the company’s goals.
When setting goals, be sure to pick something that can actually be measured. It will give you a clear picture how things are really going, and it’s easier to track something you can quantify.
Environment — Once you’ve made the goals and rewards clear, you need to create an environment where people will want to work. If your employees enjoy coming to work, they can help refer other potential employees.
“Companies need to have fun and have a strong culture,” Carmichael said. “Try a group lunch break or something along those lines.”
Remember, a happy employee is a productive employee.
Communication — It’s important that both the employers and the employees have clear expectations. Feedback is a key aspect for both sides.
Employers should be giving feedback throughout the year on what people are doing and get their reactions — both positive and negative. It provides employers with ideas on what the staff wants to get from their jobs and their growth potential, and it helps employees see the ‘greater good’ and where the business is headed.
But what if you don’t have a staff to rely on? What if it’s just you and you’re struggling to keep your head above water?
If you’re a company of one, a ‘solopreneur,’ motivation can sometimes be hard to find. Carmichael suggests those individuals connect with other single entrepreneurs or look for advisory boards — a strength in numbers sort of approach.
Whatever may be going on in your business or industry, you are not alone. You are not the only person who has ever gone through it. There are others out there that can help you and give advice.
“You can partner with someone who will help push you and keep your goals on track,” said Carmichael. “You have a group or person who will hold you accountable.”
Solopreneurs can easily get bogged down by all the negatives. They should find something positive, some bit of good news that they can hold onto.
For startups, the key is taking small steps.
“The small steps will lead to big steps,” notes Carmichael. “Just keep moving forward consistently every day.”
But what if you follow everything listed above and your market just takes a turn for the worst (i.e. the recent housing slump)?
“Try to diversify your product line or look into moving to different markets,” suggests Carmichael. “Everyone faces something like that sooner or later. You just need to push yourself until you find a way through it.”
Bottom line — we all take it on the chin every now and then, but you shouldn’t lose sight of why you started out in the first place. Keep at it and you’ll get through it. If you have the motivation and the will to succeed, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals.
Evan Carmichael is an entrepreneur and international speaker. His Web site provides small business motivation and strategies.