What Does it Take to Survive an Entrepreneurial Dip

Harry C. Sweere – the founder of the company I work for, told me this story before he died (paraphrased from memory):

In 1988, five years after we started, I was broke; I had no viable products in the market, little cash flow, and no workable plans for a new product. My house was over mortgaged, I owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to my friends and family, and I still couldn’t make the payroll. I sat in my office feeling depressed and defeated. I was about to call a meeting in the warehouse to tell the employees we were out of money and I couldn’t pay them and that I was closing the company. After that, I planned to call all the people that invested in our company and tell them it was over, I was closing the doors, and their investment capital was gone.

But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let everyone go. I couldn’t tell the investors I had failed. I called a friend at the bank and he helped me secure a $500,000 dollar loan at 15% interest – enough to keep us running for another six months. I didn’t know how I’d pay back the loan. But I had faith we would come up with some way to save our business. Shortly after that, one of our engineers developed a unique ball-pivot assembly that we sold to manufacturers worldwide. We paid off the loan in less than six months and we never looked back.

Today his company builds the finest ergonomic products on earth and does business in 65 nations worldwide. The drive and compassion of our founder thrives in our culture, even after his passing.

So I thought… how can I apply his wisdom to my life?

My site started out with a frenzy of traffic and attention from social media sites. It started with How to Break a Negative Thought Pattern and really broke through with 10 Things I Learned from My 4-Year-Old. After 10 Reasons Target is Better than Wal-Mart got farked, I felt compelled to thank those who inspired me by posting How this Blog Attracted 100,000 Visitors in the first 30 days.

For the next 4-5 months, writing was easy – it was a daily joy. But around the 6-month mark, I descended into an emotional and productive valley; right around the time I was trapped in my house during a blizzard. I’ve read that the six-month mark is when most bloggers quit – they’ve used up their best material, the newness of it fades, they aren’t making much money, and it seems like work without pay so they quit.

Seth Godin describes these productive, creative, financial, and emotional valleys as dips which serve us if we can identify them and push through them. All people in entrepreneurial or creative ventures experience dips and the dips weed out the competition and create scarcity in the marketplace. Those that make it past the dips are the ones that create the real value. I am grateful Harry Sweere pushed through his dip and made an amazing and positive impact on the world.

What do you do to push through your dips?

9 thoughts on “What Does it Take to Survive an Entrepreneurial Dip”

  1. Excellent post Steve. The dips are the real test for the few that make it in the entrepreneurial world and achieve success.

  2. Thanks for this encouraging post Steve in particular the part about blogging. I have been through the “dip” and interesting things are happening on the other side!

  3. Forgive me for hogging the show here! I pressed send before I finished. In my case my aim is to work with other people to make a difference. So to push through a dip I had some coaching from an associate to help me see the “wood from the trees” and picked up again with the people I would really like to work with. In turn they are making introductions….

  4. Ahh, the blogging dip. Something else Godin says is that for many people, those who have no chance at being great, quitting and trying something new is the best idea.

    I think with blogging the biggest part is understanding that this is a marathon. It’s about building a readership slowly over the course of a few years. Everyone hits slumps. You just have to learn from them and do everything you can to create compelling content. If I didn’t enjoy blogging for its own sake I’d probably quit. It definitely isn’t fast money.

  5. It took me a long time to even realize that I could push through my own dips, blogging or otherwise. Some of the best advice that I ever got was was from a friend who took the time to stick by me even when I didn’t want to stick by myself.

    His advice? “Keep Moving”. That’s it. I didn’t have to run all of the time, and sometimes I might be crawling. But as long as I could keep some kind, any kind, of forward action, the dip would end, and I’d come out the other end a stronger person.

    Thanks for the outstanding post, Steve. How is your dip going?

  6. Lyman,

    Thanks for asking about my ‘dip.’ I go through them with everything. Blogging is no different. I am determined to push through this one. There is no quit in me this time.

    I liked what Alan Watts wrote about life – All human misery is caused by a basic misunderstanding about reality. Life/Reality/The Earth/The Universe/Our Relationships are inherently unstable – they are constantly changing – even the mountains are moving – just so slowly we can’t see them – the earth is hurtling around the sun at 66,000 miles per hour – EVERYTHING is constantly changing – even us – we are supposed to be changing and evolving and aging and growing – and change comes with peaks and valleys – ons and offs – light and dark – but we keep looking for safety and stability and predictability in a reality that is neither safe nor stable nor predictable – it would be boring and dull if it was safe and predictable – life comes at us in waves and it is our resistance to change and the expectation that these waves of change should be motionless and flat that results in our misery. Our misery is directly related to our lack of acceptance.

    So in a nutshell, I have to accept that I will experience reality in the context of ever changing waves that are sometimes unexpected and unstable. There is nothing to cling to, there is only doing the next right thing.

    So to get through this dip, I will picture myself in the valley between two waves ready to ride to the top of the next one knowing what I have learned will better prepare me for the next ‘dip.’

  7. I’ve been writing for years and leaving it on other sites like Opendiary.com. I’ve been a member of several political forums for quite a few years, too. Not to mention that I used to frequent usenet a lot. On top of that, I’ve owned my domain for about 5-6 years and never done anything with it.

    Frankly, I don’t know what took me so long to put 2 and 2 together. Blogging isn’t really an enterprise for me. Although I do hope it will become popular enough that I can ultimately sell some of my own products through it, but that’s not it’s primary purpose.

    I did make the mistake of monetizing it too soon, though (I think). Somehow, Google decided that there were fraudulent clicks on their ads and banned my site. Fortunately, since my purpose isn’t primarily to make money from my blog, I didn’t take that very hard. Besides, when my blog “makes it” there are plenty of other ways to monetize it, if I’m so inclined.

    As for other dips in life, business, etc., I think it’s important to continuously remind yourself of the reasons you want to succeed. For me, it’s my family. When the pictures in your wallet, on your cellphone, and on the desk in your office aren’t enough, maybe it’s time to take a break and spend time with those reasons. Playing with my son, or talking with my wife or daughter for awhile usually renew my perspective. Sometimes “awhile” is a lot longer than other times.

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