Celebrate The Small Victories

Meet Lion-O aka SuperMentor Brenden Mulligan (@bmull). Brenden founded ArtistData, a music industry startup that enables artists to easily keep their content up-to-date across multiple marketing channels and consumer touch points, which was acquired in May 2010 by Sonicbids. More recently, he built PhotoPile and MorningPics, two ways to revisit previously published Instagram memories.

Startups aren’t easy. They are a never-ending series of extreme ups and downs.

Your product launches! No one uses it. You get unexpected press and the user base spikes! The servers go down and all those users are pissed. You get funded by top-tier investors! A major tech blog claims a competitor will make your startup irrelevant. You strike an amazing partnership with the biggest company in the industry! The partner re-prioritizes and cancels the deal. Your company goes viral and the mainstream starts using it! Another company sues you for some stupid reason. You spin the lawsuit to generate international press! The legal fees bleed your company dry. Google wants to acquire you for tons of money! Then they acquire that competitor the tech blogs said would make you irrelevant. Oh, and the dog pissed all over your bed. And it smells.

You get the point.

Although this scenario is extreme, it’s not that exaggerated. It’s different for every company but inevitably, you will go through some of the most intense joys and disappointments. It happens to everyone, even seasoned entrepreneurs. It’s part of the process and why living this life is so exciting (and why having a supportive team/family is so important.)

Unfortunately, the gaps between the cycles might (and usually do) contain more downs that ups. And often the downs are more extreme than the ups. So overall, especially at the beginning, the good times don’t come as often as the challenging ones. It’s rough, but there is one thing I learned to do to make this whole process easier (and more fun): celebrate the little victories.

Now, I’m not encouraging entrepreneurs to get ahead of themselves, but I want to remind everyone that creating a business from an idea and having people express any interest in what you’re doing is an insanely huge accomplishment. Be proud of it. Be excited when things go well.

Some ideas of little victories to celebrate:
*First employee hire
*First time you see or hear about someone who you didn’t talk to directly about your product, using it
*When the first major company emails you about partnering
*Someone expresses interests to acquire you
*You get an email from a customer whose life is better because of what you created

Remember, these are little victories, so the celebrations should be as well. Don’t overdo it. The point is to do something just a little out of the ordinary and special. Take your team to go see a movie some afternoon when you’d normally be working. Or go eat taco’s together away from your desks. Buy a new (reasonably priced) TV for the office. Bring in donuts one morning. Take everyone to go kart racing. Go to the supermarket and get them to make a $10 “congratulations” cake and bring it to the office. Hell, go buy a piñata and give your team a bat. Again, it’s just a small, fun activity to reward yourself and your team for doing something great.

As important as it is to celebrate with your team is, it’s equally important to share these little victories with your spouse. Most likely, whoever you share your life with hears you bitch more than they hear you celebrate. So make sure to share the good news with them too. Take them on a date. And again, make sure you’re reinforcing how rewarding your career is. When you share good news, it makes it a lot easier for them to support you through the not-so-good news.

With my first startup, I would make sure to tell my wife every exciting thing that happened. For example, the first time we got an email showing serious acquisition interest, my wife and I went out to dinner to celebrate. Although we knew the deal probably wouldn’t happen (it didn’t), it was a huge accomplishment just to have someone express interest. That was worth raising a glass to.

Celebrating these victories is healthy, and will make it easier to make it through the times when things seen dismal (incidentally, it’s not nearly as dismal as you think). Everyone celebrates the big victories (the product launches, the funding, the user and revenue milestones, the exits). But make sure to take the time to celebrate the little ones too.

Never miss a beat

  • http://twitter.com/bubs Darius A Monsef IV

    “Startups aren’t easy. They are a never-ending…” Most important point is right there at the beginning. Things never end and if you don’t make a point to celebrate the victories along the way… You’ll wear yourself down always looking off at the next hill you have to climb.It’s too easy to fall into a pattern of always worrying about the next milestone instead of appreciating the little ones. You get your first paying customer? No time to celebrate you need 100… Reach 100… and then you’ll need 1,000, etc. etc.  There are always more hills to climb, but make sure to celebrate the new awesome view at each hill you summit… even the little ones.

  • Mogens Nielsen

    I’ll celebrate with lunch once I get this dropdown to display correctly

  • Anonymous

    That looks like it might jsut work dude.


  • http://www.2daybizschool.com Stephanie Hackney

    Starting a business is a lot like running a marathon, or even a half marathon, 10k or 5k for that matter.

    You start out with tons of energy and excitement, and then comes the first big hill – ugh. Then, you reach the top and feel great about making it to where you have a clear vision of what’s next. In a race, it’s important to celebrate these small victories, especially if this is your first attempt at such a distance.

    You head on, sure of your ability to finish this race, only now it’s getting hot, those shoes you spent a fortune on are not fitting quite right and your running buddy has left you behind. It’s mile five of a 13.1 mile race. You’re already feeling a bit depleted. Just then you spot your best friend and spouse cheering you on, and you just know you’ll make it.

    Now, it’s mile 10 and you are feeling good, but a bit tired and unsure if you have another 3.1 miles in you, when you reach a nice downhill- no worries now.

    Last mile, you can hear the crowds cheering the finishers and you are feeling the energy…but wait, what’s that?

    A hill? Are they kidding? And no, not just any hill, but the steepest hill on the course so far. “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FLIPPIN’ KIDDING ME,” you shout inside your head (or aloud).

    You muscle up it, one slow step at a time and then you see it, the finish line. You are so psyched you didn’t die on that last hill that you adopt a full sprint, and BAM! You have reached the end…of this race, on this day.

    There you stand, drenched and totally exhausted from the effort you just expended, but ready to celebrate not only the victory of finishing this race, but all the little victories along the way. If you didn’t do that, and didn’t enjoy that feeling of crossing the finish line each and every time, you most certainly wouldn’t put your body and mind (and friends and family) through it over and over again.

    Hmmm…sounds a bit like an entrepreneur.

  • http://www.transcriptionvendors.com/ Anne shaw

    Celebrating small victories with team, gives motivation to work. Team work enthusiastically and have target in mind to achieve desired goal of the organization.