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8 Lessons from NASA to Help You Meet the Challenges of Entrepreneurship

October 27, 2021 11 min. read
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On the Apollo 11 mission, it took several years, billions of dollars, and over 500,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and kerosene to launch the Saturn V rocket.

It takes effort to start something big. As a small business owner, you know that better than anyone. You also know how much more effort it takes to keep going, especially when it feels like it’s you against the world.

We’re here to explore some of the challenges of entrepreneurship, help you tackle them head-on, and give you the rocket fuel you need to find your motivation.

And we’re sharing a few lessons from NASA (and small business owners like you) to drive those points home.

1. Finding and keeping good employees

Sometimes it feels like all the quality employees have vanished off the face of the earth. You can’t find the right workers to grow the business. Or if you do, it’s hard to train and keep them.

You aren’t the only one who wants the best of the best. NASA chose three for the Apollo 11 mission: Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins. They also needed over 400,000 engineers, scientists, and technicians.

Everyone involved in the mission had to be dedicated to its success and at the top of their game. If they didn’t do their best work, they could be putting the astronauts’ lives at risk.

Every guy that’s setting up the tests, cranking the torque wrench, and so on, is saying, ‘If anything goes wrong here, it’s not going to be my fault.’

Neil Armstrong

The stakes might not be quite so high for your business. But an employee could still get hurt if someone isn’t doing their job properly. At the very least, you’ll be facing an unhappy client and a damaged company reputation.

On the flip side, with the right people, you can create something incredible together—a legacy for yourself and a business that supports your community.

2. Managing your money

Don’t have a good head for numbers or the time to deal with them? Or maybe you’re just getting started and don’t have any money to manage yet.

Whatever financial headaches you’re dealing with, NASA had a few of their own. It took about $25 billion to make the moon landing a reality—which would be over $186 billion today.

Not only that, but they had an entire country (and people around the world) looking over their shoulders to make sure that money was spent wisely.

But they had that budget for a reason. Yes, the United States wanted to win the space race, but they also believed humanity’s development lay beyond Earth. They were willing to take that financial risk.

Finances might not be fun, but facing them will get you far. You’ll be able to take care of your employees, explore new ways to offer more services, and keep your business in the black.

READ MORE: Get financial advice from these 12 industry experts

There is no limit to the amount of success I create for myself.

My goal is 600k in revenue next year. Here’s to accomplishing all our goals!

Brittney De la Rosa De La Rosa Landscaping

3. Having enough time for what matters

You’re doing so much field work that you don’t have time to stay on top of paperwork. That’s also taking away from the time you need to rest, recharge, and focus on what matters to you.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, it also feels like it’s taking too long to grow your business and see results.

But did you know that while the lunar landing took almost seven years of planning and effort, the actual touchdown lasted less than 22 hours?

The lead-up to success always takes much longer than the actual moment of success. But once you get there, all the time and effort you put in will feel worth it.

READ MORE: How the Climbing Arborist does more of what he loves with Jobber

It is hard to have enough time between work, family, and friends to do everything you want to do.

 I prioritize the most important things first and take care of the rest as free time comes up.

Stephen Richardson Pure Professional Window Cleaning

4. Keeping up with your competitors

There’s a good chance your industry is already full of competitors. To keep up, you have to set yourself apart while still offering the right services at a fair price point.

For a lesson about competition, look no further than the space race. The United States and the Soviet Union fought to be the first to achieve space flight, and the USSR led that race for a long time.

Then President Kennedy set a goal: land on the moon by the end of the decade. With this defined timeframe, the U.S. was able to reach that goal and win a decisive victory in the space race.

What could a similar goal look like for your business? Maybe you need to bring in 20 qualified leads every month, or sign up three new clients for recurring services every week.

Whatever that goal is, put it down in writing—and follow the tips below to reach it.

If you have low overhead, you can offer lower prices and undercut competitors.

If you have higher overhead, compete by differentiating yourself with the services you offer. Neither strategy is good or bad; just support which way you want to compete.

Ed Ramsden Enviromasters Lawn Care

5. Running day-to-day operations

There are far too many logistics to keep up with as a business owner—creating workflows, keeping the office organized, picking the right home service software

Like you might expect, landing on the moon took plenty of logistical work, too. The teams at NASA planned the mission using pen, paper, and some of the earliest forms of computers.

We’re luckier today. There are tools out there designed to help you run your small business. Current technology and best practices are changing every day, too, giving you even more to work with.

Having something like Jobber is crucial.

When somebody sees these automated texts and client reminders, it looks like you’re running a serious operation. The more professional you appear, people will be more inclined to use your service.

Kiya Valor Plumbing

Try using tools like Jobber to simplify your day-to-day logistics. Your employees will be happier, your business will run more smoothly, and you’ll have more time to plan your business’s future.

READ MORE: Plan your business with this year’s home service industry trends

6. Keeping your clients happy

Maybe your business is running like clockwork, but your biggest headache is the people you work for. Some clients negotiate pricing, leave negative feedback for no reason, or are just plain difficult to manage.

While many people supported the Apollo 11 mission, there were also protestors who were angry about factors like costs. There was no way to please everyone and still finish the mission safely.

But today, long after the mission is over, we don’t think about how much time or money it took to put people on the moon—we only remember the result.

Negative feedback is normal. Not every job will go perfectly, and you can’t please everyone. Just do your best and focus on the clients who appreciate you and your work.

READ MORE: Use social media to build customer relationships

I’m very patient and give the client the opportunity to be a better client.

Sometimes a client is just going through a rough patch.

Bobi Beverly Your Helping Hands Cleaners

7. Balancing work and personal life

Work-life balance is tricky to get right, especially when you’re facing new problems every day. You could feel overwhelmed by all the time you’re spending on your business, but guilty when you’re away from it.

It might even feel like the biggest roadblock to your own success is yourself—and that you’re doing all of this on your own.

Astronauts have always had Mission Control here on Earth to back them up and help guide them through every challenge. And just like them, you aren’t alone.

Take care of yourself before you take care of your business. You’re the only owner it has, and it needs you to be at your best. Don’t worry about maintaining a perfect balance—just the balance that’s right for you.

READ MORE: The 8 qualities of a successful entrepreneur

You get one shot at life and can’t create more time.

My business is a tool that enables me to pursue the things that make me happy. If the business interferes with my other endeavors then I’m doing something wrong.

Jonathan Randall Blue Oasis Landscaping LLC

8. Facing problems outside your control

The biggest challenges of entrepreneurship are the problems you can’t fix yourself. They can be small, like supply shortages and bad weather, or they can be disasters like a global pandemic.

With 650 million people watching, the moon landing could have been a similarly huge disaster. The U.S. president even had a speech prepared in case the astronauts didn’t make it.

NASA took steps to plan ahead as much as they could, but the crew still ran into trouble 500 feet above the moon’s surface—their landing site was in a rocky crater, so they had to pilot manually and reposition

The unknowns were rampant. There were just a thousand things to worry about.

Neil Armstrong

Even NASA knew that all you can do is plan as much as you can, as far in advance as you can. You won’t catch everything, but it’ll be easier to adapt when you’re faced with uncertainty.

You might still face an unknown entrepreneur challenge that’s outside of your control, like a changing industry, government regulations, or even world events.

But if you keep going, dig deep, and find the passion that got you started in the first place, nothing can stop you from reaching the stars.

Owning multiple home service businesses comes with its challenges over the years.

Those years got easier or harder depending on what I decided to apply myself to. Remember why you started and never, ever quit!

Ryaan Tuttle Best Handyman Boston

Originally published May 2019. Last updated October 2021.

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