45 years ago this past Sunday, humanity took a huge leap forward. It’s the day the United States first put men on the moon and safely returned them home.
Not only did this feat captivate the world, it inspired millions of people to dream big.
The challenges were many and success required persistence and passion. Sounds a little like starting and running a small business, huh?
5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Let’s lift off and see what your business can learn from those early, pioneering days of our space program.
Embrace the challenge
After World War II ended, the United States and USSR became the world’s only super powers. It wouldn’t take long before each country began spending money and resources to stay ahead of their “competitor.”
At the time, much of the innovation focused on rocket technology and in 1957, the USSR famously launched Sputnik–the first artificial earth satellite. The space-race was on.
The USSR then followed that feat up by successfully launching cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into outer space and back. The flight was just under 2 hours long, and made just one orbit of the Earth, but it was clear that the Russians were winning.
As a business owner, you likely were not the first person to come to market with your idea or product. Like the US, you may not have all the same technology or infrastructure of your competitors.
Despite your current predicament, you can always find something to give you an edge in the race for customer dollars. But there are no shortcuts.
To be successful, you need to offer one or more of these: better service, better product, better price, or a better experience than the rest. Which of these can you improve?
Set specific goals
In May of 1961, President John F. Kennedy shared his ambition of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth” with a goal of doing so before 1970.
Although NASA had been established a few years prior, many thought this goal and time line impossible.
As a small business owner, it’s important to set up both short-term and long-term goals, plans and time lines. Be specific about what you hope to accomplish and make a plan.
- Double your revenue within 2 years?
- Hire 5 employees?
- Qualify for a $100,000 line of credit?
Revisit these every quarter to track your progress. Adjust if necessary, but always hold yourself to a deadline.
Take advantage of resources
NASA was funded fully in the 1960’s; the best and brightest were recruited to the new organization with the goal of achieving Kennedy’s promise of a man on the moon.
Space centers were built, training rooms were constructed, and the most extreme manufacturing techniques were utilized to build the vehicles needed for the program.
The Apollo program, in total, cost an estimated $7 billion dollars (adjusted for inflation that would be nearly $45.5 billion today).
Of course, as a small business owner, you don’t have unlimited resources at your disposal, but plenty of funding options are available.
For the lowest rates, look into a loan that’s backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
If you don’t qualify, don’t give up. Whether it’s alternative lenders or big banks, many different financing options exist.
Just be sure to do your homework to find out which one is right for you. The interest rates and repayment terms can vary greatly.
One sure-fire way to make sure you qualify for the best financing rates and terms is by understanding, building and improving your business credit score. All lenders will check on your credit scores before loaning your business money.
Learn from setbacks
Before we ever set foot on the moon, tragedy struck the program. On January 27, 1967, the Apollo 1 spacecraft caught fire during a preflight test and killed all three men on board.
This was a tragic loss of life, but these brave astronauts helped teach us what we needed to do to make the program safe and keep the dream alive.
Fortunately for your business, the cost of making mistakes isn’t nearly as high.
Failures can – and will – happen. As long as you learn from them, this is a good thing.
Even still, having a plan in place is critical to your long-term success.
- Get appropriate insurance coverage
- Secure short-term financing to help pad cash flow dips
- Know the strength of your supply and distribution chains
- Manage your account receivables
Savor the achievement
America – and the world – watched in awe as the US first touched down on the moon on July 20th, 1969. It was a milestone in human history to which there has been no match.
Success is addictive. Success is thrilling. Nothing tastes sweeter.
Whether it’s closing your first deal, breaking your first $10,000 in profit, or opening your first retail location, success demands that you remain diligent!
Landing a man on the moon did not happen overnight. It took years of hard work, failures, learning, innovation, and creativity. Running a successful business isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would do it.
Yet, as we were all shown 45 years ago, if you’re brave enough to push the boundaries, you too can leave your imprint on history.
This article was originally written on July 23, 2014 and updated on November 3, 2016.