Written by Anthony Stone, MBA
CEO – Orange County Veterinary Assistant School
The best thing about being an entrepreneur in my opinion is the self-discovery that comes with the challenges that you encounter along your journey. My journey as an entrepreneur is still in infancy but I have grown such an incredible amount both as an individual and businessman.
I’m co-owner of a start-up that is moving into its third year of existence. I’ve had many wins and many losses but nonetheless I’ve learned a lot. I’m well aware that there is still plenty to learn. Here are a few of my biggest takeaways thus far.
1. YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL
As expected with a start-up I initially had my hands in every aspect of the business from day-to-day operations to the strategic planning of the company’s expansion efforts. Just recently I had the realization that yes you can juggle many projects and run multiple departments and survive, but who really wants to just survive? Not me!! I want to thrive; I want my business to thrive and in order to do that I need to be able to focus on the tasks that can allow that.
It came down to this, I needed to understand my value. Which has the better return on investment (ROI)? Having the CEO/Owner whatever you call yourself, filing documents, answering phones, and adding vendors and customers to QuickBooks for 4 hours a day? Or does it make more sense for the CEO to be reviewing Profits & Losses as well as making adjustments to business strategies, building on the businesses network, spending time developing team members and their roles within the organization, focusing on opportunities for the business to grow, or strategizing on how to claim more market share. I certainly like the latter of the two, so know what you’re good at and focus on that. It makes a lot more sense to pay a part-time bookkeeper who is probably a lot more efficient in QuickBooks and data entry than you are. Ultimately, you can be just ok at a lot of things but truly great at far fewer. Be Great… with things that you aren’t great at, go out and get someone else who is great and develop the strongest team possible.
See here for 13 ways to be a successful entrepreneur.
Just go for it; the phrase is really easy to say and to visualize, but boy let me tell you this is probably the biggest obstacle you’ll face. I get it, a majority of us spend our formative years being told that the appropriate way to do things is to attend school get an education and find a nice stable 9 to 5 job, which hopefully pays well. It sounds all great and perfect, however nothing in this world is perfect so why not LIVE knowing that nothing is going to be perfect. Most people are predisposed to being risk averse because that’s what society teaches us from the beginning.
Please believe me when I tell you this!!! Working for a company has big time risk as well and can often be far less rewarding. No knock on those people who have an amazing 9 to 5 that they love, that’s great! However, there is still risk because the companies first priority is always the company. Similar to sports, it’s the next man up especially in many of the large companies who often utilize denominator management techniques. Layoff or force into early retirement those individuals who are making a substantial amount of money and replace them with a new less experienced individual capable of getting the job done and costing far less.
Long story short, it’s not uncommon for people to dedicate their lives to a company to just be pushed out or even worse laid off. I personally worked for a company who filed bankruptcy with no warning to its workforce. Simply closed the doors and sent out last checks via mail and get this… the checks were for minimum wage!! No one received money for earned time off, no severance for the individuals who had been with the company for over 20 years. I personally was with the company for 11 years. As crazy and crappy as my story is, it was probably the best thing to happen to me professionally. It gave me that push to go out and chase my own dream versus breaking my back to fulfill someone else’s. Take the jump! There is risk in everything you do.
Don’t be scared… “some of the best things in life are on the other side of fear.” Will Smith
3. STAY INSPIRED
In the world we live in today it is easy to get distracted or discouraged. The internet is one of the best things to happen to entrepreneurs but can also be one of the worst. It is so easy to find things that demotivate you or distract you. Don’t do that, don’t get caught up in the fantasy world that is social media. Don’t get scared into thinking your idea won’t work because of some article that is trying to evoke fear. Use your tools to seek inspiration! Seek knowledge! We are so lucky to have literally 99% of the answers we need available to us at a click of a button. My advice is to find someone you admire in your chosen field and use them for inspiration. Often times the greats of today talk about the greats from previous generations that inspired them, or that they modeled their skillset/strategy after. Find a mentor or a person of inspiration, they will be extremely helpful on rough days, which there will be.
Don’t be afraid to put your goals and aspirations out there… Talk about the things that you want to do with people in your network like your friends and family. I think that this does a variety of things, it keeps you motivated and thinking about your goals. The more you think on something the better you can craft an organized vision/idea. It also gives others an opportunity to help you, closed mouths don’t get fed. I’ve received unsolicited help from countless people in my network who simply found or noticed something that they believed could help me.
See here for 6 great ways to be successful.
4. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE
This is important! I specifically wanted to follow up staying inspired with this little section. I believe that people can be the biggest suck of your motivation as an entrepreneur if you allow them to be. Surround yourself with like-minded motivated people who will inspire you to go out and pursue that vision that you have for yourself and your business. We’ve all heard the saying if you’re the smartest person in the room that’s a problem. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole heartedly. I will say if you’re the only motivated/driven person in the room that’s a huge problem. Complacency is where dreams go to die! I just made that up, but it’s so true. Don’t get comfortable, stay uncomfortable and surround yourself with people who inspire you to step out of your comfort zone. My circle of friends are not involved in my business at all, however they have always been a lifeline that breathes life back into me when doubt starts to creep in like it inevitably does. Keep those hustlers close, their energy is contagious!!
THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT IF YOU HAVE A PARTNER(S). Having a partner or partners can be great, more people to help manage the stressors of starting a business. Humans are social creators so having someone there to go through the good and the bad with you can really help manage some of the stressors. Mainly you never feel alone in some of those dark moments.
With that beings said, it is important to make sure that there is a clear vision and clear roles. As uncomfortable as this can be, especially early on, it is extremely important as the business begins to grow. The main point that I want to make is that you want to be clear on compensation, roles, how big decisions will be made, and definitely have by-laws (LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp). I mean the list could go on and on… This is important because you want to avoid someone feeling like they are not valued or appreciated. I know the number one demotivator for me is not feeling valued or being compensated fairly for the work I’m putting in. Keep partners compensated fairly and challenged!
Communicate clearly! If you have a business partner(s), organized communication is extremely important. Be clear on what you want out of the company and what your expectations are. It’s just as important to LISTEN to what your business partners are expressing at the same time. ONE UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATION is worth it if you can really hash out all of the things that are important to you. A close friend of mine shared a story about the time his new boss sat him down and explained the importance of communication. The manager explained the importance of open communication because he’d much rather have one really tough conversation to begin with versus having several tough conversations which inevitably leads to that last really tough conversation.
Remember, the most important thing to any company is the people. If someone isn’t happy or doesn’t feel appreciated their work reflects it. Take care of your people and most importantly take care of yourself. This all starts with communication.
See here for 6 Amazing Ways to Motivate Yourself to Exercise
6. GOOD PEOPLE ARE YOUR MOST VALUABLE ASSET
This is simple and to the point, I’ve never heard of a successful person who reached all of his/her success by themselves. All successful people have gotten to where they’re at with the support of others; financial support, labor, innovation of original ideas, or even by simply being present. All successful entrepreneurs rely on other people in some fashion. So it’s important to get the right people on your team. As a new entrepreneur I struggled with having good people but failed to put them in positions where they would excel.
One of the biggest lessons in that whole experience is to trust what your eyes and mind tell you. If a person is social and has a way with people do not tuck them away in front of a screen all day. Get them out and interacting with target consumers or vendors and let them excel. The person who is very type A and organized give them tasks that fit them as a professional. Set people up for success and you will reap the benefits, fail to do so and you will inherit the headaches. It might take some time to identify some of your team members best skillset but they always tell you who they are through their actions. Trust what they tell you!!!
My last point is that things always tend to work themselves out one way or another, Gretzky said it best; “you miss 100% of the shots you never take.” You’ve never heard of a successful entrepreneur who hasn’t failed along the way. Those failures are valuable lessons! Take those lessons and keep it moving. Be consistent and don’t quit!! Never quit!! You might need to call an audible or two and maybe even pick up a side hustle to make ends meet. That’s ok, just stick with it! Best of luck… See you at the top or at least on the road to it!