I guess I should start this post with lesson 5.5 – when starting your business, deadlines should be honored, but you should also be flexible enough to recognize when deadlines can be changed. That said, part 2 is going live today, Tuesday, as my original goal of Monday was sidelined by a “typical Monday.” Here is part 2 of the top 10 things I learned during the first year of entering this insane world of entrepreneurship:
6) Treat starting your new business the same way you would treat finding a new job. When I first dipped my toe in the entrepreneurial water, I knew very few people in Colorado. I made it a goal to set up at least three “coffee” meetings a week with people I didn’t know well and then asked them questions about their business, the community and the trends they were seeing in the economy. It never failed that from those meetings I was introduced to a few of their personal and professional contacts. I drank a lot of coffee (not that I minded) and heard some great stories. Many of the contacts I made in the first year are still confidants today.
7) Reduce overhead. Don’t move into a fancy office the first year or two, unless it’s absolutely critical to the business. Spend money wisely. I worked out of my basement the first two years and then rented a small house off of Pearl Street in Boulder. It was so small; that the kitchen doubled as the conference room. It still remains my favorite office.
8) Spend time with family and friends. Make sure you talk about your plans with your friends and family so they know that this venture into entrepreneurship will consume you in the near term. At the same time, schedule dinners where you leave your smartphone at home. Plan a vacation and make a goal to check in for an hour in the morning and an hour at night. It’s not reasonable to think you can be “off the grid” in the early years, but put some parameters around the time that you will take away from your family during your getaways. We fondly refer to this concept as the “work/life blend.” The idea of achieving ‘work/life balance’ was thrown out with the bathwater early on.
9) Join professional organizations. But don’t just join – get involved – really involved. Try to pick the one or two groups that are most meaningful to you — either personally or professionally. Once of my greatest experiences was joining EO Colorado http://www.eonetwork.org/Pages/default.aspx
nearly five years ago. It is a global organization of more than 7,300 business owners in 42 countries that provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other. I served on the board for the past four years and recently completed my term as president of the chapter. While the time commitment was considerable, it has been rewarding on multiple levels. EO just launched a new program for emerging entrepreneurs called EO Accelerator. accelerator.eonetwork.org
If you have the desire to connect with like-minded folks, this program is worth considering
10) Market yourself. You are fortunate. You are starting a business when it has never been easier to market your company. Social media is the least expensive and most powerful way to start conversations with potential customers, partners and employees. Use it wisely and you will gain far more traction (and spend far less money) than advertisements provided entrepreneurs in the 90s.
You will never catch me advising someone against starting his or her own business. I just wished someone had spent time telling me the pitfalls to avoid before I dove in headfirst. But, then again, I may not have gotten on the diving board at all.