Last week, on the three year anniversary of launching DB + Partners, I dropped a quasi-sentimental blog about, well, the emotional ‘journey’ from getting fired to being a small business owner with a modicum of success that I can be proud of. And that’s good and fine.
But this week, I’ve opted to get more literal with answers to the questions I get from friends from time to time. Not like ‘how’s business?’ but more along the lines of ‘what advice do you have for starting?’ (Short answer, get fired – it’ll speed up the process). Here are the questions I get most,
Here’s some advice that I’d give to anyone who was in my shoes three years ago, looking to make a go of it as a small business owner. Maybe that’s you today.
Just effing start. I’m not being facetious when I say this, but it’s true – starting is the hardest part. Picture this – it’s Monday, 7:30 a.m. You’ve hit the snooze button four times. You spring awake because you’ve got left over turkey burgers to load into Tupperware for lunch, but only after you’ve strapped on your business casual costume and queued up your Spotify playlist for a 30 minute commute. Sounds mint! No, no it doesn’t. You’ve been bitching about this routine for four years, and guess what? It’s not gonna change unless you do. And yet, here’s the irony of a wannabe-entrepreneur – the people who want to do it the most tend to hate their jobs the most, yet apparently not enough to quit. Stop thinking about it, seriously. If you have a plan, even kind of a plan, and a serious work ethic, you’re never gonna know if it’ll work unless you effing do it. So effing do it.
Brag about it. No one else is going to brag for you, and incredibly, so many people you’ll want to cheer for you will not give a shit, and will actually begrudge you any compliments. That can sting. But here’s the surprise – if you brag enough about your accomplishments – through the lens of what you’ve done for your clients/customers – people will eventually find a chance to work with you or buy from you. And if they don’t, they’ll refer you to someone who will. It’s about playing the long game. As I look back on my roster of clients, most of them have come from my openness about our work. And in time, those same people will start doing your bragging for you.
You don’t have to be the best at everything. There are things my business generates revenue from today that I have no idea how to do myself. I’ll admit, the first time I took that plunge, I was apprehensive. Which in hindsight, came from a lifetime of conditioning to be an employee. When you’re an employee, your entire value is predicated on your ability to do a job. When you’re a business owner, your value is predicated on your ability to delegate a job. Or several. In fact, at some point, if all goes to plan, you may not actually do any of the work at all. You’ll sell the work, build the vision, and empower others to bring it to life. That’s not only normal, that should be a major goal.
Ask for help. Not a lot of people will offer to help, and those who do probably have something shitty to sell (pretty much everyone on LinkedIn). But you do need help. At a minimum, you need someone objective with an opinion worth trusting. For me, by and large, that has led me to a weekly, dedicated call with a coach – a hero of mine, Nick Matiash (http://movingpastmediocre.com/). Because here’s the thing – when you no longer have a boss, you probably don’t have anyone forcing you to focus on the bigger picture, either. Someone you trust, with an objective viewpoint, can help ensure you stay focused on those bigger goals – and actually hit them.
Remember why you started. Of all the things I need to be reminded of most, it’s this one. And that’s sad. People start businesses for a myriad of reasons. Some of those reasons are financial, but most of those reasons tend to be more intrinsically valuable. Freedom, flexibility, balance. All of those things mattered a great deal to me when I started, and here’s the thing – when I started my business, those are things I started taking advantage of on day one. Now, not as much. Some people will tell you that being an entrepreneur is about short term sacrifice for long term freedom, but I’m inclined to tell you it’s about enjoying that freedom on a daily basis. Life should be enjoyed now and it can be enjoyed now. In fact, you should demand it of yourself. I’m working on that…again.