It has been exactly one year since I officially started this journey into entrepreneurship. Now before your eyes glaze over from the common fluffy rah-rah blog post about all the amazing things that someone can go through when experiencing something new, please know that I am from Jersey and well, practical, sassy and direct in my thinking. Just to put it out there, I never wanted to start a business that just wasn't in my wheel house of dreams. To put it into perspective, I don't think ever really had dreams.
To be clear, I had visions of succeeding, supporting myself from the financial succubus that was college loan and vivid images of being a leader, but no direct idea of how I was going to get there, or even if that was what I actually wanted. I was endearingly loyal to the companies I had worked for, but unfortunately, since I held the majority of my career in a support, operations and customer service role, no shining performance review was going to save me from budget cuts, mergers, acquisition and/or leadership teams who ignored company culture.
I did what I was supposed to. I attended school, paid an exorbitant about of money for an education, always worked one way or another, stayed in line, became compliant, and never ever knew my worth. I was stuck in a unique and ever-changing position that I had allowed myself to be in because in some twisted way, I thought that was what I was supposed to do. Nobody really likes their job, right? The only thing that was consistent was the hustle I had. I was too prideful to never be unemployed. I always had a job and thought that feeling out of place, and uncomfortable all the time was just my lack of experience. But I didn't lack experience. I had worked in high-pressure environments with celebrities, entertainment offices, C level executives and multi-million dollar companies. What was I missing?
I married a wonderful man who encouraged me to be happy by any means necessary. I mean I had worked in every other office environment: open office, closed office, corporate, small, the one-man show, and the only thing I had not tried was my own thing. I hit my breaking point. If we were ever going to have a family, can I truly be a good role model for my future kids if I wasn't the best version of myself? Someone who settled? That thought haunted me, and after some self-reflection, I did the most uncomfortable activity that made my skin crawl.
I asked for help.
Anyone reading this Irish Catholic? Yea, you get it. We do two things: never accept defeat, and work until we stroke out. I was always the "go to" in my roles and if I didn't know the answer, I sure as hell found it. So, this new concept of accepting that I needed support was terrifying and unfortunately my only option.
And when I did, the WORLD. OPENED.UP.
Mentors, coaches, communities, strategic partners, industry leaders, networking partners all supported me one way or another. They came out of the woodwork. I found my value, my worth in this journey was figuring out a way to support them.
Now a full year later, I have learned more about myself as a leader, as a partner to my clients and a decision maker than I had ever learned in my 12-year working career. Those sexist comments in the break room that I would usually laugh off? NOPE. Negotiating down my agreements because of lack of confidence and not standing my ground? NOT TODAY. Saying yes to everything? GOOD DAY SIR!
So, after all of that here are the most important things I learned along the way to pass along to my fellow entrepreneurs.
#1 You can do incredible things in two weeks and espresso blend coffee.
Don't have time to start your business? I did it in two weeks to accommodate a potential client. It was duck taped together and hanging by a thread, but who cares. You started, you are moving forward. Start executing. Things like a website landing page, an outline of a statement of work, a template of a business plan, and building achievable goals. Break it out daily. Social media is secondary. Two weeks of pushing my limits, I was dehydrated, but I had the makings of a business, I had nothing to lose. You will be shocked at how far you can push yourself when the ideas are your own.
#2 Rally your champions
Unless you are a recluse, you have friends and people that care about you. You have spent a lifetime of building relationships and have met acquaintances along the way. Rally them up, let them know what you are doing, keep them updated. People inherently want to help, so they might offer it up!
#3 Ask for HELP for God sake
Find a subject matter expert in your field or a call up a business coach to get the creative wheels turning. I can honestly say a two-hour conversation changed my life. You don't know everything. Stop pretending that you do, and if you are a "fake it until you make it" person, be that on the inside and work with people that will knock you off your pedestal a bit. Let's be real, you have no idea what you are doing. And, it's ok.
Resources: Get Successfully Unstuck with your business.
#4 Throw stuff to the wall until it sticks
You are going to have crap ideas. Don't worry. If you are still trying to figure out what will work or not work? Go to networking events, walk around ask other professionals. Ask them for their opinion on your concept and be completely honest at where you are in the process. This is a great way to get feedback. My first client overheard me talking to another professional at an event about my Networking Concierge idea and he became a client on the spot.
Resources: Networking Newsletter - Identifies the best networking events and groups in the greater Philadelphia and South Jersey area
#5 You will be tired
The importance of mental health is going to creep up on you. Remember you are a company of 1, your health is what is going to move you through the ups and downs. TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY. In the crazy world, we live in today, having a sounding board from a close friend or professional is going to be HUGE.
#6 You're going to fail
It's a fact of life, and guess what, no one cares. Don't put your eggs all in one basket and keep executing. You are going to say the wrong thing or embarrass yourself at parties with a half put together idea. But who's going to fire you because of your mistake? Everyone sees failure differently. Identify what that means for you and be self-aware of exactly what that means.
#7 Plan your work, work your plan
Time Block, build a task list and EXECUTE.
#8 Find a community of weirdos
You are now an entrepreneur - find YOUR PEOPLE, whether it is networking groups, meetups or mentorship programs, find the people that will compliment your business with their services. Make them strategic partners. Rinse and repeat.
#9 You weren't meant to fit the mold, so own it
If your story is anything like mine - you probably thought that the world owed you something. It doesn't. You need to create the world you are in, not just live in it. Tired of having someone else depict your future? Good, then change it.
Resources: Gary Vaynerchuck is a fantastic source to get you motivated and he talks a lot about the simple but effective ways to get started. If you like a big personality with fantastic advice, he's your guy to check out. (To be transparent: I sometimes can only watch him in waves, still effective nonetheless)
Resources: You need your own theme song - make a "BOSS" playlist on Spotify and turn it up, lip-sync the bejesus out of it and pump yourself up. Here's mine! - Don't judge my show tune choices.
#10 You don't have to ask for anyone's permission
(Take a minute, let that sink in) This specific statement was my "click" moment. My entire life, I was asking for permission. Permission to have cookies before dinner, to borrow the car, to send that email, to run that program, to negotiate that deal. I never had an original thought or felt confident in my decisions NOW? I make the rules. And what do you know? Things get done on time and on budget.
#11 Say yes to every meeting... in the beginning
You need to build a network of people that know you. Learn about who you can HELP, what they do, and it will give you an opportunity to practice talking to people about what resonates with them in your business. What pain points in their business you can help find a solution for.
Resources – Calendly
#12 Give Give Give
Just read or listen to this - I will accept chocolate and compliments as a thank you.