Entrepreneurship Month is in full swing, so it’s a good time to write about the triumphs and tribulations of business ownership. I’m very passionate about entrepreneurship. So naturally, I’ve written a lot about it before. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I thought I would review my past posts on the topic to find some steadfast nuggets of wisdom relevant to all entrepreneurs, no matter where they are in their journey. Read onward for that classic insight and some new knowledge I’ve gleaned while scaling my business.
12 Timeless Lessons Learned from 12 Years of Entrepreneurship
#1 Survival is dependent on core values, grit, and people.
If you follow my social media channels this week, you’ll learn much more about these necessary and circular “musts." If you’re spinning your wheels, go back to your core values. They will help you get unstuck so you can muster the grit to keep going. Build your tribe, and let them help you. (This applies to you, too, solopreneurs.)
#2 You must spend time on the business.
Many business owners get so wrapped up in doing the work — i.e., “working in” their business — that they neglect “working on” their business. That’s unfortunate because planning is integral to business success. While plans don’t always go “according to plan,” it’s crucial to know where you are headed and why. Otherwise, who knows where you’ll end up? (Spoiler alert: it’s usually not where you wanted to venture.)
#3 Fear cannot dominate decision-making.
If I had to identify the biggest roadblock to my success, it would be fear. I am fearful of a lot — risks, unhappy team members and clients, losing money — you name it. However, I have found that if I let fear dictate my decisions, I may as well go back and work for someone else. This is my business. I have to do what I feel is right — within reason, of course — and be willing to let go of fear.
#4 There are no shortcuts.
I’ve talked with many budding entrepreneurs who think that owning a business is how it’s portrayed in get-rich books. They believe there is a magic formula for success and they can achieve greatness working just four hours a day. That’s not realistic. Frankly, it’s stupid. I have never met a successful entrepreneur who only worked half days while launching a company. If you want a profitable business, you need to work for it. There will be long hours, sweat, and tears.
#5 The unexpected is constant.
When you’re a small business owner who is heavily involved in the day-to-day activities of running your business, you will encounter surprises at every turn. From technology failures to rush projects from clients to tricky staffing situations, and more — unanticipated circumstances happen. Prepare to be nimble when facing the unexpected!
#6 Stick to what you’re good at — and stay the course.
Impatience to grow my business faster prompted me to attempt to change course several times. This was time-consuming and resulted in wasted effort. Before switching gears and turning 180 degrees, consider what you’ve built and the time, money, and energy invested. Even though your efforts may not yet have paid off to the extent you believe they should, you will likely find it more beneficial to stay the course than to start all over again.
#7 Success is not a straight line.
When I celebrated my first year in business, a client congratulated me. He then said, “The next ten years will be the most difficult.” He wasn’t kidding. I survived my first year with mild success. What awaited me after that was another story. I falsely assumed that each year would get better — more profit and more people. Some years (and the months and days that comprised them) were just plain hard. Running a business is a journey. It’s not a straight line to the top…the goal is overall progress.
#8 You must do what’s necessary, not what’s easy.
It’s simple to tackle the low-hanging fruit — whether it be something you’re trying to attain or something you’re trying to move out of the way. There’s something to be said for checking things off the list. It creates momentum. But, to truly see results, tough decisions have to be made. The desired outcome may require a lot of work and likely a lot of change, but the payoff will be worth it.
#9 There will be trade-offs.
I took a walk on a beautiful day in Harrisburg to discuss two things I am noticing lately about entrepreneurs. Watch the video on TikTok now to hear my thoughts. The bottom line is this: being your own boss comes with responsibilities. There will be trade-offs. How some people envision the entrepreneurial dream is often different from reality. To be successful in business, entrepreneurs need to make some personal sacrifices.
#10 You can’t scale doing things the same way you did them before.
As my business grew, I simply doubled down on what I did before, thinking that since it got me to that point, it could get me to the next. But I learned (and it was a hard lesson) that it doesn’t work that way! As we continue to grow, I constantly have to re-learn that lesson. Executive Coach Chad Harvey offers great insight on this topic in this YouTube video.
#11 Everyone will have an opinion about what you do.
Trust me on this: People who don’t work in your industry or run their own businesses can’t understand how you spend your time or your responsibilities. Many people think I play on Facebook and Twitter all day; that couldn’t be farther from the truth!
#12 You must take care of yourself.
The entrepreneurial journey is no joke. Without self-care, you’ll crash and burn. Everyone has something that helps them unwind. Rely on this. I’ve seen too many people wait until irreparable damage was done before they tried to make changes. Take the time to recharge before you reach the point of no return.
A Final Word
I tend to be a black-and-white thinker because I am a process-oriented person. I have an “if this, then that” mindset. Because of that, some people have labeled me harshly. They think processes dictate how I lead and I can’t get out of my own way. However, I’ve learned that to be a successful entrepreneur, I must accept the gray area — which can be rather extensive. The unknown is ever-present and massive. I’ve overhauled days, evenings, and weekends more times than I can count because of the “gray.” It requires my full attention.
I believe what makes or breaks an entrepreneur is their dedication — the willingness to embrace anything that comes their way and work through it. That’s what I have done and what I will continue to do, no matter how I’m wired (or labeled).
What about you? What do you think makes or breaks an entrepreneur?