Why Business Owners Need Grit

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – Calvin Coolidge

Why Business Owners Need Grit (and how to get it!)

By Andrea Novakowski

My client, Jackie, loves her educational consulting business – or at least, she loves some of it. In order to be more profitable, she’d like to shift her mix of clients to include people who come to her directly, rather than through other vendors. So she created a plan to speak at events where her target market hangs out.

At a recent coaching session, Jackie admitted to me that while she was actively pursuing new clients, she wasn’t leveraging these contacts. For example, she’d give a talk at a conference, but then she wouldn’t schedule time to follow up with the attendees. Instead, she’d move on to other things.

I reminded Jackie that success requires perseverance on all the steps in your plan, not just the ones you enjoy. You grit your teeth and get through the tasks that don’t necessarily thrill you, so you can get back to doing the work that really floats your boat.

In Angela Duckworth PhD’s book called Grit, she argues that when it comes to success — perseverance and passion together count for more than talent.  A person who applies focused effort will go further, Duckworth says, than someone who has greater natural ability but doesn’t follow through.

When it comes to owning a business, I think Duckworth is on to something.

Just as we all spend more time and energy on things we care about, business owners fare better when they devote themselves to an enterprise they’re passionate about, one that inspires them to get out of bed every day.

That passion helps you stay engaged with your business, even when the going gets tough and the obstacles feel insurmountable. Face it: you’re going to encounter roadblocks, times of frustration, and just plain boredom. Being passionate enough to push through can spell the difference between success and failure.

Do you have grit when it comes to your business? What if you don’t? You can still improve your situation, even if you feel like you’ve lost your drive.

Here are five options for getting grittier:

1. Reconnect to your initial passion. Remember why you got interested in this business in the first place. What inspired you? What kept you going in the face of setbacks?

2. Answer the Why question. In Grit, Duckworth writes about connecting to a bigger purpose. What difference does your business make to your community, your state, the country, the world? Find a reason to be motivated about what you do.

3. Commit to perseverance. Set up systems and standards that will automatically keep your momentum going, so you don’t have to rely solely on your own initiative. A professional association, mentor, or coach can be an invaluable resource here.

4. Manage your expectations. Running a business isn’t easy. It goes without saying there will be ups and downs. Expect them and have a plan for managing them that links you back to your passion.

5. Improve your skills. When it comes right down to it, talent still counts for something. If you’ve been holding yourself back because you don’t think you have the necessary knowledge, take courses to build your competence, or hire someone who has the skills you need.

Owning a business isn’t easy. Alongside our successes, there will always be challenges and difficulties. Combining your passion with perseverance is a powerful way to take on those challenges and go the distance with your business.


Do you have the grit you need to reach your business goals? Make a list of the obstacles you’ve encountered, and are likely to encounter in the future, on your path to success. Now use the five options above to help you come up with ways to power through these temporary moments of discouragement – and increase your grit!

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