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What most people won’t tell you about market uncertainty is that markets are always uncertain. It’s a hidden truth in entrepreneurship. There is never a time when a market is 100% stable or sure. Rapid, unexpected change and disruption are always possible. It can occur in your company, market or industry at any time. It doesn’t matter if things are healthy and robust or if you’ve made the best calculations and plans possible. You will never know when things can turn — and it can turn very suddenly at any point.
As entrepreneurs, the sooner we understand this, the better. We absolutely need to be prepared for full uncertainty all the time. In fact, we should expect it. The market has this challenge whether your business is a year, week or twenty years old. For business owners, it is part of the job. Mastering it is no different than any other attribute.
1. Set an approach before uncertainty arises
What I have found to be most effective in navigating uncertainty at my company is curiosity, flexibility and persistence. I’ve learned that curious entrepreneurs with an open mind can pivot and be creative.
When I say creative, I also mean being gritty. When challenges arise, you are going to need to be able to figure out ways around them. It might be finding a way to do things inexpensively or differently than you did last year, last week or last month. Or, in ways other entrepreneurs are not.
Capital won’t always flow freely (as we see in today’s capital markets), so you need to know how you can succeed without it. Time and resources aren’t always going to be available. You must constantly ask yourself how to achieve your business goals using different resources.
Many entrepreneurs wait to manage unpredictableness until it arises. Instead, have an approach in your game plan regardless. You and your company will be better equipped when uncertainty arrives.
2. Learn how not to listen and when to ignore
If entrepreneurs ran our businesses based on what we see and hear in the media or our pundits in our industries and markets, we probably wouldn’t have started companies. We are typically talented at looking beyond current solutions to envision what else can be possible. We embrace determination, conviction and resiliencies and refuse to give up.
We believe in our ideas and are steadfast in bringing them into reality. It’s how and why we start companies in the first place. Yet, when uncertainty hits, a lot of entrepreneurs forget this. They panic and let the market, media or other perspectives get involved. The very attributes that made them successful entrepreneurs can get lost.
There is a value and importance in outside insight. We should take what we read, see and hear into consideration. But, there can be times when tuning out the noise can be essential in dealing with uncertainty. You didn’t let outside influences stop you when you created your company. Be careful not to let it dominate your thinking when things are nebulous.
3. Cultivate patience and endurance
Patience is hugely important in business because everything takes longer than you might want or expect. But, in periods of extreme uncertainty, patience becomes even more paramount. You have to be able and willing to ride things out. There will also be instances where you may find that you didn’t need to react. When you do have to take action, your response can take a while to produce results. You have to be able to handle and endure the risk that coincides. You’ll never de-risk your business, even less so when things are most unpredictable. Develop your ability to endure with an attitude of patience.
When I raised capital for my company, BriteCo, I had no idea what to expect. The average capital raise can take months or longer. The process was harrowing and difficult, especially without a formed product, and many times didn’t seem possible. Having patience and endurance helped see us through to our seed funding.
Last but not least, network and talk to people. A good network can be a huge help when your company is facing uncertainty. It will benefit you from others’ experiences that often reveal more options and resources you can turn to for inspiration and guidance. Don’t wait until trouble strikes. Meet and connect with people in your market regularly. Build and maintain those relationships at all times.
Nobody said entrepreneurship is easy. It will be really hard most of the time, and even more so in today’s environment of accelerating change. But you need to know that success is always possible. Expect uncertainty, know it is coming, and be prepared to deal with it. Don’t be afraid, don’t fear failure — because there really is no failure in entrepreneurship. You’ll learn a lot at the very worst as you make your way to the other side.