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Grit and Resiliency: What Keeps Entrepreneurs Going in Tough Times?

Grit

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

One of the biggest questions at Partners Worldwide coming off the peak of the global COVID-19 pandemic was, “What kept businesses going in this tough season?” And then we asked, “How do we prepare businesses to be more resilient, to better respond to and weather future economic storms? 

In a two-year research and pilot project, made possible by Templeton Foundation, PW sought insights and answers to these questions.   

What we learned, in a survey of 274 global entrepreneurs from 22 countries (90% in the Global South), was that the personal characteristic of grit—defined as the tendency to sustain interest in an effort toward very long-term goals (Duckworth et al., 2007)—played a significant factor in business performance at the peak of the pandemic market disruptions. 

A statistically significant difference emerged at the peak of the pandemic, with high-grit entrepreneurs averaging a gain in profit of 24.6%, medium grit 22.0%, and low-grit entrepreneurs averaging a loss of 6% from 2020 to 2021 (GEG Research Summary Report 7.2023).” 

The key elements of grit, as defined by a prominent researcher and writer on the topic of grit, Angela Duckworth, include purpose, perseverance, and hope, enhanced by intentional practices and habits in pursuit of clear goals (Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance).

In other words, the preliminary survey results indicated that businesses that had these gritty characteristics and practices better weathered the peak of the pandemic.   

The survey responses also reflected—for the entrepreneur segment PW serves around the globe—strong themes of family, community, and faith in the purpose of their businesses, as reflected in these quotes: 

~ The purposes that motivate me to stay in business through tough times are: knowing that I'm called to do it; God's purpose being made known; knowing that I'm making an impact on the lives of others.  

~ The main purpose [that] motivates me to stay in business through tough times is for the future of my family, especially my kids.  

~ When I was starting (my reason for my business was) because it matches my passion & competency. But as we grow, now I mold my business for the people under me, to help them achieve their dream/purpose, and sustainability for their family as well.  

~ The business survived during the pandemic. It also provided the "bread and butter" of the family and my employees during the pandemic. 

 

When looking at the question of how to nurture business grit and resiliency, the survey also provided insights. One was how entrepreneurs gained the business knowledge and skills needed to weather storms, with business training identified as the preferred learning resource, including the Partners Worldwide faith-based business curricula and other trainings offered through the Partners Worldwide partner network.   

But what stood out the most when we asked businesses how they weathered the challenges of the pandemic was the essential support that came from the people in their networks and communities of support, as reflected in these quotes: 

 

~ I will restart my business with the help and support from my family and business savings group members. The business skills and knowledge I [have] continuously received will give me the courage and strength to rebuild my business.  

~ Some close family members were supportive financially and emotionally. Also joined a small association for market share improvements.  

~ I live in a close-knitted community. My family and my neighbors help me whenever I have challenges in my business.  

~Having a mentor for sure, especially one that provides income opportunities...  

 

Based on these research insights, PW developed an online pilot training module to help entrepreneurs gain tools that had been identified in our research to help strengthen grit and resiliency. Alongside the training module, PW tested “communities of practice” models to provide the essential networks of support that keeps entrepreneurs going during tough times.  

In future posts, we’ll be sharing more of our insights from the Entrepreneurial Grit training and communities of practice pilots, as they wrap up this month. And if you’d like to go deeper and read the full summary of the method, results, analyses, and insights of the Growing Entrepreneurial Grit survey, reach out to Roxanne at roxanned@partnersworldwide.org.


The Growing Entreprenurial Grit project and research is made possible through the support of Grant 62345 from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

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