Just recently, our company passed its 2nd anniversary (in its current, full time version – we ran as a part time entity for 4 years prior to that). We’ve come a long, long way in 2 years. We’ve surpassed many of our expectations and are on a course now to exceed even more over the next little while. It’s exciting, exhilarating, and scary as crap. I’ve been doing a bit of reflecting lately on what I’ve learned over the past couple of years, and I’m in the mood today to share some of these things.
Too few new entrepreneurs share their lessons with each other. It IS scary striking out on your own. It IS risky. You ARE going to make plenty of mistakes. But for some reason, many of us feel like we need to keep our fears to ourselves. That if we don’t ever say we’ve made a mistake or ten, then somehow we are stronger. In fact, I think the opposite is true. So, here are a couple of things I’ve learned so far.
Get Over Yourself. I used to be the kind of person that took EVERYTHING personally. If a clerk in a store was snarky to me, I’d worry about what I’d done to tick them off. Heaven forbid one of my friends or colleagues should disagree with me; I’d feel bad about it for DAYS!
When you are running a company, people are going to disagree with you every day. Lots of people are going to try and shoot you down. Others are going to talk behind your back. People will say no to you a lot. The last thing on earth that you should do in any of these situations is take it personally. I’ve learned that taking things personally is actually a sign of self-centeredness. If you stop taking things personally, a really cool thing happens. You are able to start seeing the other person’s perspective. And then, you are able to make rational choices based on that. Suddenly, the naysayers and backstabbers don’t matter anymore. And the people saying no, start to say yes.
Ask for Help. I was just about to start in on this entrepreneurial adventure full time when I met the person who was responsible for introducing me to all of this social media stuff. He’s a super busy guy, but he spent a lot of time giving me snippets of advice, feedback on what I was doing, and basically just being encouraging and supportive. For that, I’m infinitely grateful. I remember one day I was struggling with something. It was a technology issue, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to overcome it. I was terrified that my project was going to fail because of it. I sent a message to my friend, to ask his advice. He said something really simple – “why don’t you ask Twitter?” Seems obvious now, however Twitter was pretty new to me (and everyone) two years ago. Always ahead of his time though, my buddy had already figured out the power of the network. I did as he suggested, and posted a message. Within minutes I had advice, contacts, and was on the road to a solution. I wrote back to my friend and said “Wow! It worked!”. He replied with a bit of advice that has stuck with me to this day:
“You have a whole network of people available to you now. Use it.”
Never, ever, ever, ever be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Successful business ventures are successful because there are PEOPLE behind them. You can’t and don’t (and shouldn’t) possess every skill you need to accomplish everything you need to do. A good leader is someone who can surround herself with good people. Hire people who are better at what they do than you are. Ask your network for advice, contacts, or just their opinion. But don’t forget to give advice and help and time when asked, too (because nobody likes a Needy Nelly). We now have instant access to more help and advice and resources than ever. Use your network. It works. And your business will be better for it.
That’s what I’ve learned – what about you?