entrepreneurship

On Being an Entrepreneur

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?

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  1. Congrats on your 2nd anniversary, what a great feeling that must be. I totally agree with your lessons learned, and it is timely for me to read as I am just passing my 1 year (part-time) anniversary.

    The other lesson I am learning is to set my own goals – everyone and their mother will have an opinion on what you should do, how fast, in what way, etc… but at the end of the day it needs to make sense for yourself and your life. There is more than one way to be an entrepreneur. :)

  2. Susan –

    We’re running in a parallel universe. I too took my businesses full-time two-years ago (June 7 is my 2-year anniversary) and I “thought I was all alone or could do it myself”. I quickly learned the value of professional organizations, input from other entrepreneurs and the power of asking for help.

    One thing I’d like to add is the importance of sharing what you’ve learned and helping other newbies live out their dreams. What you put out there truly does come back to you.

    As one of your Twitter followers, I KNOW you subscribe to the giving back philosophy. I learn from you frequently.

    Congratulations on moving into your third year of a successful, growing enterprise. I look forward to “our” anniversary party again next year, and for many more to come!

    @dawnbugni on Twitter

  3. Hi Susan,
    Congratulations on your 2nd anniversary.
    Thabks for the great post and a real reminder that social media and networking is a two-way communication.
    Many entrepreneurs using social media make the same mistake as with offline networking and think that it’s all about what you say when what you hear is as important if not more so. I always remind my clients that twitter is a great market research tool and an informational tool andd shouldn’t just be used for self-promotion.
    Have a great 3rd year!
    Janet @jan_helft

  4. Suze!

    Congrats on two years. You have a great team within your company who I’m sure support each other.

    I am about this far (holding my index finger and thumb about 2 inches apart) from going full time, but when I do, I’ll look to people like you.

    The one thing I’ve learned up to this point is the value in “risking it all to be myself”. I’ve learned that hiding behind a URL or fancy logo is, for me, playing it “safe”. And “safe” equals death.

    I continue to get people telling me, “I love doing business with you because of who you are!” And being affirmed in this way is very, very sustainable.

    John

    John Haydon’s last blog post..How @problogger, @guykawasaki, @timoreilly and others use Twitter – Summed up by @paddydonnelly

  5. I’ve learned that if you’re not doing the work for yourself first, you took a project just to earn money, and for that you may as well have stayed someone else’s employee. Also, I don’t let others tell me what my business is about or where it should be going. Suggestions are helpful, but ultimately it’s you doing the work, not them.

    And the single most important thing I learned in business school and relearned working for myself is that you need to make time for the balance in your life. Go home at a set time, don’t take on too much work that you need to stay away from home or even take some of it home every night, and socialise with those that aren’t into the same line of work. Go out, have fun, let your hair down. Do fun things that make you laugh yourself silly or read a book about something that’s always interested you but you kept putting it off. Take up a hobby. Take a special interest class. In short, remember to pay yourself some fun downtime so that work won’t become a chore, an obligation, a dreaded thing that sucks up your whole life. Gavin has illustrated this beautifully, no?

    Stacerella’s last blog post..What’s cookin’, Stacerella? (part two)

  6. First off, congrats. I am going to check out your companies site in a bit. And, secondly great advice, sometimes it just seems like common sense, huh?

    Jim Gaudet’s last blog post..Costa Rica Sunset

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