Pushing Through to Completion: Just Do It

Life as a start-up founder is tough. And to be honest, working as a team member in a start-up or any small business can be both challenging and rewarding. There aren’t layers of staff you can hide behind – but there also aren’t layers of bureaucracy that get in your way.

One of the biggest challenges in a start-up is the roller coaster ride that is the daily adventure. While there are ups, there are also downs. So in those downs, what do you do? There are many times when you just want to quit. Quit the task, drop the customer, stop the business.

When that happens (and if you say it hasn’t happened to you, then you are either lying or haven’t been in business long enough), don’t quit. Start-ups are about perseverance. They are about finding a way. They are about looking for solutions that are just around the corner. Remember: If it was easy, someone would have already done it.

The story of Nike’s celebrated “Just Do It” ad campaign of the late 1980s – which featured perhaps the most influential tagline of all time – summarizes well the need and value of pushing through to completion and how it can apply it to your “stuck” moments when they arise.

As co-founder of Wieden+Kennedy, Dan Wieden was brought in by Nike for what would be their biggest ad campaign to date. With struggling sales the year before requiring layoffs of 20% of its work force, Nike boss Phil Knight sought out Wieden+Kennedy because of their reputation for being cutting edge and results oriented.

Wieden and his team created five different 30-second spots. However, the night before his meeting with Nike, he admitted that he was extremely concerned because there wasn’t an overlying sensibility or theme to them. He knew he and his team were onto something special, they just hadn’t pulled all the pieces together yet.

That is, until Wieden, after brainstorming for hours, recalled the final words of condemned serial killer Gary Gilmore, whose last words before his 1977 execution were, “Let’s do this.”

Wieden made a slight alteration and the “Just Do It” tagline was born. The rest is history as the campaign allowed Nike to increase its share of the domestic sports shoe market from 18% to 43% (from $877 million to 9.2 billion in sales) from 1988 to 1998.

What was Wieden’s secret? He worked as hard and smart as he could until, when stalled and stymied, he forged ahead, drawing from his track record of excellent and effective work, utilizing past experiences and conversations, pushing through to completion – and the answer presented itself.

I don’t know what part of the roller coaster ride he and his team were on when this happened, but one thing is for sure: They didn’t give up. They “just did it.” And so can you.

Posted in: Business Practices