Just an illusion: Please stop asking how to be an overnight success

Kristin Luck

Lessons for Fastest Growing Companies

It's easy to see another company's success today and consider them an overnight success, but is overnight success actually a thing?

Not really, and it's one lesson I've learned from fast-growing companies: Success never comes overnight. Sorry.

Although some fast-growing companies with outsized valuations and mind-boggling exits feel like “start-ups,” in truth, they’re far from it. Take Qualtrics, for instance. They made headlines in 2019 when they were acquired by SAP for nearly US $8 billion, but the company was founded in 2002- that’s 17 years of scaling! Hardly an overnight success.


Read next: The 'Other' Type of Exit: Succession Planning

Why do we ever assume a company's success happened overnight?

Just like the Qualtrics example shows, it has to do with awareness. We are hearing about a company's success today, and it can seem they just appeared out of nowhere overnight. In reality, it took years for them to get to that stage. This isn't uncommon at all. Let's look at how YouTube star MrBeast rose to fame as an example.

How MrBeast rose to fame

YouTube star MrBeast, has captured the attention of the world. His YouTube videos have been viewed 26 billion times. He earns more than $50 million each year, and he’s just 24. But he didn’t achieve his massive following (135M subscribers) and page views overnight- it took him nearly 12 years (see example below).


Screenshot 2023-08-02 at 8.31.04 AM


The Nudge podcast walked through the subtle yet significant psychological tactics MrBeast uses to draw in viewers and turn them into fans. And you can use these same three tactics to scale your business:

  • The first psychological bias that MrBeast uses is INPUT BIAS. It means the more time, effort and money you sink into something, the more you’ll value it. If you spend $50 on a bottle of wine, you’ll enjoy it more. If you spend 50 hours painting a portrait, you’ll value it more. This works not only for individuals who experience the input (i.e., the wine drinker or painter) but also for others who witness the input (case in point, the headline for this blog post).
  • The second is COSTLY SIGNALING. Patagonia gave away their company to climate charities. This is classic costly signaling. By showcasing what they’ve given up, a $3 billion company, people value them more.
  • Third is the CONTRAST EFFECT. A video course on how to code could record a group of grandparents completing it. That would trigger the contrast effect and make it more memorable.

Listen to this episode of Nudge to learn more about how you can use these tactics to turn prospects into customers and customers into evangelists.

How to rise to overnight success

To be recognized as a successful company at some point, it comes down to the basics, including:

  • Building a strong business plan
  • Understanding the market/market need
  • Building a strong brand
  • Effective marketing and sales strategies
  • Building long-term customer relationships
  • Continuously adapting to market trends.
  • Perseverance

That's way too many steps to master overnight, but with the right business strategy, product offering, and market understanding, your firm could be the next success story.

Interested in putting these tactics into action? Reach out to us.