It took the Chesters seven years to establish momentum on their farm (see dot #2649) but my experience has been that three years is the sweet spot. When I switched jobs and went to a new campus I was always unsettled until year 3 when I finally knew the majority of people in the hallways and understood the rhythm of events. My time serving on boards is always richer after three years; suddenly I could synthesize the background and context of items and how they related to the future. And with my business, the completion of three full years has marked a turning point of additional business and opportunities.
I believe that the first year of any enterprise is overwhelming; you are flooded with information, still trying to adopt a new identity and you don’t know more than you do know. If you approach the beginning with anything but a learning mentality, you’re doomed. Year One provides knowledge and understanding, but not results.
During the second year, you have your feet underneath you and are able to make some progress but it is still a time of great experimentation. You correct some of the things you messed up in Year One. You try some new things. You begin to build some relationships and plant seeds for future opportunities, but very little blossoms. You begin to wonder if this adventure was a misstep.
In the third year, some of the relationships you cultivated start to become meaningful. Just as I wrote about with the flywheel yesterday (see dot #2650), continual efforts in the same direction produce benefits. You begin to hear some buzz and even referrals. You feel like you know what you’re doing (most of the time). You can focus on the output instead of spending the majority of your time on the infrastructure. After you persist through the three-year curve, synergy starts to happen and the unheralded work of the initial years begins to flourish.
People are used to instant gratification, but creating a sustainable enterprise doesn’t work that way. If the project has enough impact and meaning for you, it’s worth the work to persevere through Year Three.