Ask any would-be entrepreneur what qualities you need most and they’re likely to say drive and passion. They fuel you as an entrepreneur, energising you to deal with the problems that will inevitably appear to prevent you from realising your dream.
They’re also qualities that contribute to a less sexy sounding attribute – sheer persistence.
It’s the power of persistence that really take you from where you are to where you want to be – navigating past all the potholes along the road.
Dodge the potholes
There will always be potholes along an entrepreneur’s journey. You’ll manage to get past them much more easily if you recognise and come to terms with the strengths and weaknesses in your business and in yourself.
When I was opening the first, pilot Cash Converters store in the Cape in 1994, I approached the landlord of a shopping centre about leasing premises. The door instantly closed in my face.
Not just that door – but the second. And then the third. And the fourth . . . It was my sixth attempt before I finally succeeded.
Play open cards
I knew that if I couldn’t lease premises, then I wouldn’t be able to open the business franchise that myself and our finance director Peter Forshaw had signed up for with the Cash Converters founders in Australia.
I had come to realise that I was facing a prejudice against secondhand stores – people who saw them as dingy and dodgy. As I went around, literally banging on doors, I was begging landlords, “Please let me explain.”
I realised they didn’t share my vision of a modern, streamlined secondhand goods and pawnbroking business. Most of them couldn’t even imagine it. Until at last, I found someone who got it – and I got my lease.
Keep on keeping on
Cash Converters couldn’t have taken off without persistence. The experience also made me realise that there isn’t a single obstacle I’ve ever faced that I haven’t been able to resolve by using the correct, appropriate communications for the people and situation facing me.
In this case, my experience showed me that I had to find ways to open the conversation and strike a chord with people I saw as potential landlords – even though they saw me as a business that they’d like to escort straight off the premises. I needed to explain to them the creative and business possibilities that could work for both of us.
I had to keep on – I couldn’t give up. But I had to keep modifying my pitch, using what had worked, even if only up to a point. And adding new angles that might capture the attention and commitment of the person I was trying to negotiate with.
Yes, persistence is critically about keeping on, not giving up. But within that, it’s also about judging where you need to hone your argument, your operations or your design and be more flexible. Envisage the power of water that sweeps all before it rather than the unyielding persistence of stone that eventually cracks and crumbles.