This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.
As an entrepreneur, do you maintain a conscious awareness of where you are in the sowing-versus-reaping cycle of success?
Reaping the rewards of your hard work is certainly cause for celebration, but first you must focus on sowing the seeds that will provide those future rewards. If you want to realize the gains of your hard work (reap), you need to first work to create that success (sow). It’s a cycle that’s as true for business as it is for agriculture.
Taking Time To Evaluate
Last year, my business boomed. My family and I traveled to seven countries, we bought an SUV and two motorcycles, invested in real estate, and enjoyed a fairly relaxed lifestyle. This year, I am back to sowing, but there’s a part of me that misses the fun of reaping last year’s successes.
Farmers get this concept early on as they learn to identify prime seasons for planting and harvesting. Entrepreneurs generally have to learn it the hard way. As it applies to business, sowing might look like:
- Investing in a new website or marketing strategy
- Making sales calls
- Improving your product or service
- Hiring new team members
- Bidding on contracts
- Making investments in staff
- Asking for mentorship or help
- Researching better ways of doing things
Because reaping feels like a reward, you’ll likely know when you’re in that season. It might look something like:
- Increased web traffic, visibility and sales
- Referrals from clients or acquaintances
- Internal promotion
- Being chosen to speak at an industry event
- Publishing a book and being seen as an authority
- Winning contracts
Take time to consider what sowing and reaping look like for you and your company. The most important thing you can do is be aware of what part of the process you’re in and let that guide your actions. Just knowing if it’s time to sow or reap can save a lot of headaches and frustration. This year, we are investing heavily in the strategy side of our business. To do this, we raised salaries for people who are talented and knowledgeable enough to lead our clients in the quality and manner they have come to expect. This investment means our profitability is down and we are reinvesting profits back into the business. However, we believe that these investments in people will pay dividends down the road for our company and everyone in it.
Planting The Seeds
Many entrepreneurs think they can launch a business, and in just a short time reap huge profits. They completely overlook the sowing part of running a business and want to jump straight to the celebration (who can blame them?). I have found that learning to recognize when it is time to sow and reap helps me prioritize my tasks and not get as frustrated with where I am in the business cycle.
When I first started out in business, I invested every penny and minute I had into my company. I worked day and night answering emails, making calls and going to meetings. I went to work at a job that paid a little money for me to keep the lights on and food on the table. It was an intense time in my life and one I don’t really want to relive. However, there are elements of that experience that created the amazing life I have today. I was sowing the seeds of success; I just didn’t realize it at the time.
If you find yourself in a phase of sowing, take the time to do it right. Reaping the benefits of your work can certainly be more fun, but you’ll never get there if you haven’t made the sacrifice of sowing first. The resulting “crop” you yield will be directly related to how well you planted. Don’t get frustrated or lose sight of the goal just because it’s time to work hard. Trust that there will be a reward, and get to work.
Diligently Working And Waiting
It took five years before I was able to reap a penny from my business. Now, there are cycles where I spend a couple years sowing and toiling away to enjoy a year or less of reaping success. I reap in the form of dividends from the profits of my company, vacation time, and by attending additional professional development opportunities that I can now afford. This cyclical rhythm has taught me to reap a little bit along the way while I work for the chance at greater rewards in the future. Getting this formula right has been a huge lesson in patience and appreciation.
When I look back on my entrepreneurial journey, I realize that many times when I was frustrated with not being able to reap immediate success, it was simply because I was in a “sowing” season of business. Often, I had already reaped the rewards I sought a few years earlier, but I was hungry for more. If you are hungry for more business or success, you can’t just walk out your door and down to the nearest restaurant. You have to get out, work the ground, plant the seeds, pay attention to your crop and then wait. Trust that your efforts will be rewarded, and most importantly, trust the process.