Approximately 80% of small businesses fail within the first year. How many of the people you know who have started a business have truly succeeded? How many of them put on a happy face yet are still at every networking meeting looking for business?
I spent 15 years working in corporate America for startups to fortune 500 organizations. Although I enjoyed it for many years, as the economy began to tumble it became less fulfilling. I survived 13 layoffs at one company alone, yet it came at a cost of life balance. I started to lose the passion for marketing and business. I was losing myself and the goals and dreams that once inspired me.
After turning in a financial plan that took my life back I was fired. Yup, not laid off but fired within five minutes of hitting send on the email with attached plan. I was fired by the same CEO who just a few short months before recruited me big time with empty promises. They made me believe they respected my time and I would not be working 24/7. However, even though I took the company online sales from a negative $30k/mo to a $1.2 million annual run rate within three months, it still wasn't enough. I was literally working around the clock yet still felt like a number. I knew there had to be a better way.
I will never forget the day I drove into the garage. My husband had just been laid off and we had just moved into a new home. I remember jumping out of my Lexus SUV stating "well, it happened honey, I got fired."
As I started to look at jobs and talk to companies they all sounded the same. Yes, I could have all the money again. Yet, it also came with a required suitcase strapped to my back with constant travel from Florida to California on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Or I could make a change and follow the dream of being an entrepreneur I had since I was in 5th grade. Well, the story is too long for this blog post. The bottom line is I went for it. I hopped on Twitter and leveraged social media to build a full service social brand, reputation management and digital marketing agency, ZoomFactor, LLC.
Had someone told me two years ago that in less than two years we would be a global company with several offices in the U.S. and over seas, an extended and rockin' team in India, amazing International clients, I would have told ya' "wow, really, that's cool!" My next question would have been "awesome, wonder how I am going to fund that?"
Go Big or Go Home!
It only takes a seed to turn your passion and vision into success. I had no rich daddy, no silver platter. I didn't even have hands on experience with Photoshop as I always had a team who did those things! I sold my Lexus and traded it for a VW Bug. We moved to a smaller home. We made required changes to enable us to make our vision and dreams a reality. I tapped into relationships of 15+ years and people who I had been paying their mortgage for over a decade as copywriters and developers. My husband left corporate and joined me last September, almost exactly one year after I started. Hard to believe my blog, "Pam Marketing Nut" is just a few weeks over a year old!
We have lots going on behind the scenes. People frequently ask us why we don't attend more networking meetings. Because we have been working on a business platform. A sustainable platform for life and business that will support both us and our clients.
There are no words that describe seeing in real life your sweat and tears bear fruit. We have upcoming big announcements of new services, clients and more. What we are most excited about is how we'll be set to help and offer clients ranging from solo-entrepreneurs to enterprise, global accounts.
Many ask us how we did it and what was our secret. I'll tell ya', there is no secret. The key ingredients are belief in self and vision and dedication to make it a reality. We still have a long way to go and know much of the book is unwritten. As I always say "God's plans for your life are far bigger than your dreams could ever be."
15 Tips for Entrepreneur Success
1. Believe in yourself and your vision! If you don't believe in yourself who will? If you don't believe your vision is worth investment neither will your clients, partners or investors.
2. Go big or go home. In this economy status quo is not an option. You either do it or don't. Play to win. I have not strayed from my original vision written on the back of an unemployment statement two years ago. When you "go big" big things happen. If you "go small" then you'll wind up right back where you started from, or worse.
3. Focus on a sustainable business platform versus short term revenue. It is tempting to accept the big contract and check that will help pay off your car, mortgage and fund a nice big fat vacation. However, do such only if it is going to help propel your business in the right direction for sustainability. If it doesn't build your business, but instead takes away from your vision, then don't do it! Sell your car, sell your house, whatever you have to. Make the sacrifices now to build and reap the benefits exponentially as the platform comes together.
4. Don't sweat the competition. Know what your real competition is. Make friends and work with the ones you can. We're all better off in this world as a team than we are as one. Your real competition are those who are in front of you, not necessarily behind you. Keep a closer eye on the ones who are behind closed doors with unknown clients versus those who spend their days bashing you and any organization or association who gets in their way. Focus on quantitative and qualitative data in researching competition. Know what they do, how you can do it better and what differentiated value you can offer your markets. Spend more time on your business then you do on theirs.
5. Don't worry about future funding, focus on executing to vision. I know entrepreneurs who have spent more time trying to get funding than they have working on their business. Build a business platform or product that knocks the socks off the market and the investors will come to you versus you having to track them down.
6. Hang with the right peeps. If you hang out with 9 brokes you are guaranteed to be the 10th. Surround yourself with builders, not joiners. Avoid the wanna be clients who only want to treat you to an endless supply of free lunches. Focus on people who value your time and expertise.
7. Hire the right peeps. Don't rush to fill a position and settle for wrong skill set, experience or personality fit with the rest of your team. Ensure you hire folks who provide balance to your weaknesses and strengths not an exact clone. We are going thru this right now and have a critical role we are filling which is head of digital strategy for our Mumbai, India office. We're yet to find the right person and are in no rush to fill it for the goal of filling the role. We've got key team members in place and know the right person will be found soon. If you know of a rockin' social and tech savvy leader in Mumbai, let me know.
8. Trust your gut. I don't have to explain this one to most of you. If it feels bad deep down inside then it probably is. If it's a business or partnership deal meet with the person or team in real life. Look them straight in the eye. If your gut tells you no, listen.
9. Perfection is the enemy of good. If you wait until it's perfect you'll miss the window of opportunity. Time to market is everything. One day can kill a client deal. However, balance perfection with good. Don't launch junk to the market. Set a minimum baseline up front for key projects. Don't go to market without them and don't delay launch to market for additional items unless they are justified.
10. You are what your community, partners and clients says you are. You can work on corporate brand and messaging all day. However, if it doesn't ring true with who you really are, what your services deliver then it's all for nothing. Same holds true for your competition. You can bash them all you want. However, if your past and future clients love them you are in for an awakening unless you accept reality very soon.
11. Learn from mistakes. The first step in learning from mistakes is admitting you are wrong. Balance being flexible with sticking to your original vision. Often times Plan B is a revised version of Plan A. It's all how you look at it. Don't be too hard on yourself if you wind up at Plan D or E by the time you find the method that works.
12. Don't be afraid to fire a client. We have all been there. You know the clients I am talking about. The ones that don't value you, your services and don't want to pay for it either. If you are losing sleep, hair and sanity from a client relationship then consider giving it up. It doesn't have to be an ugly break up. Your time is better spent on clients who appreciate what you do and can be a partner as you build your businesses together.
13. Keep your mouth shut. What happens on Twitter goes to Facebook, LinkedIn, the local Chamber and the neighborhood pub. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Keep your head down and keep pickin' cotton as my granny would say. If you are focused on the right things in your business you shouldn't have to worry about this anyway.
14. Take time for in real life (IRL). Celebrate the big and little wins. This is your ride so enjoy it. Embrace the bumps, the jiggles and the offroad excitement. Surround yourself with peeps who also like an adventure and are eager to pull you up out of the mud when you fall down.
15. Embrace your WHY. What does success look like to you at the end of the rainbow? If all you search for is a pot of gold you may find yourself disappointed. For me, success will be spending 90-95% of my time on social good related activities. I know this current chapter is simply a means to get there. I have no doubt not only will this chapter be one of success but the next one will be even better.
Your book is unwritten so get out there and write it!
What do you think? Are you a new entrepreneur struggling with not giving up or knowing how to get started? What keeps you motivated? If you've already made it past the first two or three years and are now seeing success, how did you do it? What tips can you share with others?
Our 1 Year (actually 9 months) Video - Update coming soon!