As I write this on my 31st birthday, I thought it may be helpful to take a look back at this year in my life as well as in business. I probably learned more about business in the past 365 days than I have thus far in my life.
Overall, my business did grow (prorating fiscal year) and I brought on some great clients, but most importantly I did a lot of work on myself as a CEO. Therefore, instead of discussing my successes, I thought I would tell a few stories and subsequent entrepreneurial lessons that I did not know 365 days ago and those few events that forced me to learn these business / life lessons.
As you’re reading this, it is important to realize that old habits die hard, but to get to the next level, you have make sure that you kill them. With that being said, please enjoy my essay recounting the last 52 weeks of my entrepreneurs journey.
1. Come To Terms With Your Shortcomings. Ignoring Them Can Lead To Dangerous Places.
I hate numbers and used to consider them a shortcoming not because I couldn’t learn them, but because I was almost afraid that if the business would dip even 1%, that meant doomsday.
The thinking is very irrational, but I always figured that if I did what I needed to do (marketing, recruiting, media stuff, internal recruitment, etc.), the numbers would just go away. Ignore and everything is good.
This boneheaded tactic almost hurt me and could have damaged a great company that I gave everything I had to build what it is today. As terrible as it may seem, to be successful in business you must face your weaknesses and figure out how to make them work in your favor.
It’s not all that bad once you start working on them. After all, you’re the CEO of your own company – you must grow yourself in order to grow others.
2. Make Decisions Based On Logic, Not Based On Emotion
A very bad habit I had when I was younger was that I would make impulsive decisions based on a particular emotion I was feeling that day or sometimes even in the moment. It was never quite a problem until my business got bigger and I became responsible for others.
I don’t think that it is intelligence that makes the great CEOs from the average, rather it’s their ability to use their intelligence to make decisions even during times of stress that prove to be emotionally taxing.
What soothes in the short term can become a pain in the long term.
3. Don’t Think In Black And White Terms
There is a commercial running in the U.S. for an online print shop, which among other things prints basic business cards. In the commercial, one of the actors refers to the time when he first showed printed business cards he purchased to his sister only for her to say that he now has a real company.
In business, there is no line that you must cross for your business to be real. When you land your first deal, nobody comes to your door to congratulate you and they sure as hell don’t either when your business becomes worth ten million.
Real is what you make it. Don’t think in terms of all or nothing. It is very self-defeating.
4. Don’t Overspend. No Stock Goes Up Forever, No Business Increases Forever.
Many people associate entrepreneurs with lavish spending. When you become successful and things are readily available to you, don’t over indulge thinking that you are invincible in business.
My best season in little league was when I was 13 years old. I remember two things from that season: my batting average and my friend A.J.’s father.
A.J.’s father was the nicest guy you would ever meet. A self educated man, he owned a construction business and when it did well, he would buy boats, awesome interior decor… and most impressive to us was the deep fryer they had in their kitchen (very high class for Toms River, NJ).
About two years after that season, my friend’s house was empty. We would sit on the floor to watch the gigantic TV screen too young to comprehend how miserable it must have been for A.J. (my friend) and his dad. He would eventually build back up his business years and years later, but digest this story do your best to prevent it from happening to you.
Even more unfortunate, A.J.’s father made another grave mistake. Not good with numbers and not wanting to face it, A.J.’s dad kept a lot of cash lying around the house while logic would say put it in a safe place. His house was robbed and he lost a fortune.
The story ends there. There is not a positive takeaway except that maybe all these lessons are somehow intertwined?
5. Learn How To Delegate And Think Like An Employee
The hardest part of management for entrepreneurs is that they don’t think like employees and assume that employees think like entrepreneurs. Many psychologists refer to this as “projecting.” Don’t get me wrong, if this were only the case, my life would be a lot easier.
To successfully manage an employee, you must delegate a set amount of work for them everyday or else they will take what you would describe as your life’s work and perceive it to be wishy-washy. While that doesn’t sound right, it’s the truth.
Treat your employees with respect, not as friends and always give them guidance and knowledge, but not without that signed non-disclosure.
Years 30 to 31 were cramming years for me. I pretty much laid it out and really hoped that somehow it connected.
Now, I must warn you that anyone can read this article, but the man or woman who can execute on 1 or 2 will be further along in their journey as an entrepreneur. None of us are perfect and none of us will ever be, but I have a feeling that the ones who come closest lead the happiest, most lucrative lives.
Photo courtesy of Tama Leaver