Launching a startup is hard, but turning it into a real, profitable business is even harder. You may be anxious to find out whether your startup is on the right track or not. It is common for founders to wonder how long it takes for a startup to be successful.
Here, we’re going to define success as “profitable” since that is the most obvious goal for entrepreneurs. But keep in mind that every startup is different in terms of goals, resources, and challenges, so success should be measured in relation to your business.
How Long Does it Take for a Startup to be Profitable?
Kennected has been profitable since month 5, which is great progress for a startup. However, not all companies would go through the exact same experience. Even if your startup doesn’t enjoy that sudden boom in sales and clients right away, remember that entrepreneurship is all about patience and resilience.
Even though businesses have different trajectories, and startups may go through different ups and downs, there is a common pattern that forms during the first few years of business development.
The short answer is that your first few years will be a rocky ride. Many startups fail in their first year while others don’t make it to their fifth. Even fewer companies get to their tenth year.
It usually takes at least 4 years just to become a real, profitable business. If your startup is struggling in its first year, just know that thousands of other companies are dealing with these hardships as well.
Easy Victories and Obvious Wins
The moment you start your company, you will get dozens of easy and obvious victories. Launching your startup is hard enough—and that is worth celebrating. Getting your permits, securing your funding, launching your website, even hiring your first employee will all feel like major progress.
But don’t let these tiny victories fool you. It typically does not include lots of revenue to keep your startup afloat. It shows you that you are off to a great start, but keep moving onward and upward or else you will fail to maintain that momentum.
Difficulties, Challenges, and Debt
Becoming profitable should be your main goal on top of building your brand, maintaining cash flow, keeping up with the competition, and perfecting your product. Your startup will inevitably go through various challenges, and you might even blow through your savings just to keep it alive.
At this stage, you may realize that launching a business is different from validating one. You need to get early customers and turn them into long term buyers. During this point, you will begin worrying about whether or not you made the right career move.
To get through this stage, you need to turn your anxiety into motivation and achieve even more small milestones. You want to work day in and day out to help that business grow. This is the time to grind.
It is at this point that your excitement towards your business has transformed into stress. This is the stage where you have a clear idea of whether or not your company is viable. You know from experience that your startup has different strengths and weaknesses. You can pinpoint exactly what your company needs in order to grow. At this point, you know exactly what you are signing up for. Whether you commit to it or not is up to you.
If by the third year you are still struggling to break even, then your company might be years away from becoming profitable. It is the right time to ask yourself if it is still something you want to pursue. Understand that success may come later—or maybe never. Nothing is set in stone.
You have taken the time to validate your idea and you can tell if it is worth pursuing or not. Ask yourself if you can go at that pace for another 2 to 3 years. No one knows if your business will become successful in the future, so don’t pay too much attention to what other people are telling you. You have to make the call.
Finding Your Footing
Many major companies ran in obscurity for many, many years before they found their footing. Even some of the smartest entrepreneurs struggled to get their business off the ground. It’s normal.
Overnight success stories are rare and should not be your basis for what success looks like. Do not use that as a guide.
Before you can find your footing, you need to refine every aspect of your business: from customer acquisition to team management. All of these things take lots of iterations to get right. You may spend more time in a certain stage than others.
Once you get every aspect of your business right, you can start running a real company. Building a startup from the ground up is difficult, and there’s no need to sugar coat that. Remember that there is no shortcut, and that’s okay.