I was 20 years old when I started my first business. Now with 20 more years of entrepreneurship under my belt, here are a few things I wish I’d known when I was starting out:
- Don’t Get Too Attached to Your Dreams:
I know it sounds crazy not to get too attached to a dream. But I now recognize that a dream is merely a marker for your journey ahead. A dream can be a beautiful vision for a goal. But it’s not always a goal you will hit. And that’s OK. Think of dreams as internal instigators to get you moving but also be open to having your dream ebb and flow and become more fluid. Small business owners know that you need to pair dedication, flexibility, and hard work with a dream.
- Relationships Are the Currency To Care Most About:
You won’t be able to build your business alone. So learn to ask for help. Find mentors. Utilize your network. You may be incredibly talented and smart and driven, but you will not and cannot maximize your success without the support of others. Surround yourself with good people to bounce ideas off of, learn new skills from, and gain feedback from. You’ll realize in the end that solid love and support is priceless.
- Find the Difference Between Pushy and Passionate:
No one likes a pushy sales pitch. It’s a major turn off. If you’re trying to pitch yourself or a project to someone, be genuine, be conversational, and be a human. People respect subtly and humility and while they love passion, it’s done best when you are focusing on sharing it with others, not forcing it upon others. Remember, specificity and subtly in pitching and networking can be your best asset.
- Taking Risks Is Non-Negotiable:
You can’t grow personally or professionally by making safe choices all the time. Take smart risks. Sometimes it’ll be a bust (a risk is a risk), but risk-taking can also open doors to incredible opportunities and relationships. And taking risks also applies to saying no to things. Saying no to a round of funding because the investor isn’t the right fit, saying no to a networking meeting because you need to focus on something else – all may seem counter intuitive but sometimes you have to risk saying no to the wrong relationships to open up space for the right ones to come through.
- You Don’t Need a Hobby But It Helps:
I resisted this insight for a long time because I never felt I needed a hobby – I loved to work, I was passionate about my career, and I was seeing the rewards. But then ultimately (and inevitably) a burn out happens. And you realize that you’ve not spent time cultivating your most important asset – YOU! So even if it’s reading, taking walks, traveling or knitting – find something that you can do for you. Not for the business. Do it because it makes you happy, makes you wiser, makes you relax. The best entrepreneurs I know are well rounded and don’t forget to play as much as they work!