Perseverance is almost a religious principle in the world of entrepreneurship. And for good reason. Many companies that seemed too ambitious have become industry giants through the perseverance of dogged company founders. And many entrepreneurs overcome their first failures to achieve immense success through persistence.
But for all those success stories there are many tales of company executives plowing ahead blindly with an idea that doesn’t work or a company whose customer base has evaporated. In entrepreneurship it is hard to know when steely determination is admirable and when stubborn single-mindedness should be exchanged for the flexibility to pivot to a new market, idea or customer base.
But how do entrepreneurs know when they should double down on their current path and persevere through some bumps in the road, and when they should pivot?
Here are three things to consider when making important decisions about the future of your business like whether to keep plowing ahead or whether to change course.
Perseverance, over time, pays off
The very definition of “perseverance” implies the presence of difficulties, opposition or failure. Perseverance only comes into play when things go wrong. And studies have made it pretty clear that perseverance, over time, does pay off. That doesn’t mean that perseverance will turn things around every time. It just means that when entrepreneurs persevere, even through multiple failures, they are rewarded in the end.
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s work shows that perseverance is a vital path to learning new skills and developing deeper knowledge. Entrepreneurs who view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow benefit in the long-term. They gain new insights and new ideas through these challenges that make them more likely to succeed in the future.
Perseverance should not be blind
The old saying that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results” — often credited to Albert Einstein — is a great way to argue against blind perseverance. Perseverance is not stubbornly following bad ideas to their inevitable conclusion. Perseverance should be paired with intelligence and flexibility.
One study examined by Harvard Business Journal showed the harmful downside of blind persistence. Studiers gave thousands of people a boring and unproductive task, and found that certain personality types continued to perform the task over and over again even when it was clear that there was nothing to gain from the activity. Make sure your persistence is paired with thoughtfulness and a clear strategy, and don’t be afraid to alter course as market conditions change.
Pivoting can be compatible with perseverance
Pivoting and persistence are not mutually exclusive. Many studies warn of the dangers of tenacious individuals who refuse to change course even when they are clearly confronted with the fact that they are on a losing trajectory. This is the time to pivot and focus that tenacious attitude on a new vision or business idea.
Don’t equate pivoting to quitting. Keep your options open and remain flexible enough to change course when the signs clearly show that you and your company need to adapt to new consumer demands, market changes or technological changes. Even the best companies in the world — industry giants like Microsoft and Apple — have had to adapt, innovate and change.
In fact, in a world consumed with technological and generational change, constant improvement is vital for long-term success. Pursue those relentless changes with persistence and perseverance, instilling a culture of life-long learning and adapting in your company.
John Solari is the managing partner of J.A. Solari & Partners. He has 25 years of accounting experience and is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Nevada Society of Certified Public Accountants.