As a serial entrepreneur, I get the question a lot on how I got through not only one company but multiple. Did I have great mentors? Did I learn from someone? Did I learn in school?
I think most entrepreneurs have different journeys of how they got to where they are today and what inspired them. What makes us all unique is we have our own stories, our own journeys, and our own reasons that drive us. What we do all have in common is the determination to succeed.
Since I’ve done a lot of interviews and podcasts lately, I decided to share for those entrepreneurs that are struggling, are thriving, and hit a bump in the road, how I deal with getting through the struggles. Most of all, I hope it will help a few folks have a better week.
Things I learned early on being an entrepreneur and how I deal with them today vs. how I used to:
1. Find a good group of business peers (not family and friends).
Family and friends are great, don’t get me wrong, we all need cheerleaders in our lives. However, you need to find other business owners, executives, and founders that you can call or grab lunch or coffee with regularly to run ideas off them and help each other out. It’s really hard to hang out with (9 to 5’ers) and get unmotivated. Yet this is the foundation for staying positive — knowing you are not alone and everyone is having struggles in business.
2. Know you will fail and make mistakes.
Almost ever entrepreneur I mentor comes into their first experience thinking they cannot make any mistakes. If you are not making mistakes (not large ones), then you are not thinking outside the box, you are not being an innovator, and you are not pushing yourself. You should prepare yourself that everything will not be a win, that you need to move on a dime, learn and don’t make the same mistake twice. You aren’t a real entrepreneur unless you’ve had failure or mistakes. It’s what you learn from them that make you the strongest.
3. Know the reality of being an entrepreneur.
I tell the story all the time of when I was asked to be a guest speaker several times over the course of a semester at the University of Texas Entrepreneur program. I used to ask upfront to the class, “Tell me why you want to be an entrepreneur?” It never failed that each time I would get over 50% of the class saying one of the following answers:
- So I can have more freedom in my life, not work as much.
- I can be my own boss and not have one.
- I can enjoy my kids and spend more time with my family.
I’m sorry to tell you, but none of those will happen for a long time.
If you are reading this and thinking about starting a company, you should probably stay with your current job and take the career path there. I always suggest before someone starts a business and quits their career or day job, they should talk to two to three entrepreneurs who are at least two to three years into their journeys. Ask all the questions that have kept you up at night trying to decide if you want to start a company or if you want to quit your job. It will help you make the decision and might give you the answer you are looking to receive.
4. You need to have thick, thick skin.
Being an entrepreneur, especially a woman business owner, requires you to have thick skin. There are usually more tough times than bright times. You must take it in stride, not let it affect you, and be able to maintain a positive attitude and move on.
5. Know what you are good at, great at, and don’t know.
The biggest mistake I made when I started my first company at twenty-six years old was I thought I knew it all. I thought if you had to ask for help or weren’t an expert at everything you were showing your weaknesses. It takes a much bigger person to ask for help and admit that you cannot be great at everything. Write down all the things you have skills in, and then, highlight what you feel you are an expert in. Most of all, make a list of all the areas that you need to effectively run your business. Highlight what you don’t have skills in and find help in these areas.
6. Always be learning.
After figuring out what you are good in and what you need to work on, make your own personal plan to learn in the areas where you need to grow. With the online world that we live in, there are so many online resources for learning that you need to be a daily sponge. We work long hours. We never have enough time for this, and it’s usually the piece that is always last. You must schedule and make time each day for this. I wake up each morning and end every evening with the same process described below.
First of all, I use several resources to aggregate my news, blogs, podcasts, and whitepapers. Every morning over my coffee, I read blogs, articles, and what is going on with my competitors and industries that I work in. I save articles. I tweet some, and I do additional research as needed. I create a podcast list of things I want to listen to more, and in the evening or while I’m working out, I knock them off the list. Create your own process and schedule for your industry.
7. Interview mentors and experts.
The hardest part of asking for help is admitting you need some. Hence, the easiest part is finding a great group of folks who will help you. Some may think this is very difficult, especially if you are new in startups or not connected to that side of the business world. However, in this day in age, it is much easier than you think. I get two to three requests a day for people asking me to mentor them. I take on as many as I can who meet my qualification criteria of who I am willing to help.
There are online resources/groups like MicroMentor, mobile apps like Shapr, and LinkedIn is a great resource as well. Develop your pitch of why you need help and who you want to target, and go after them. Seems like most people who I tend to help do the following:
- Reach out to me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or mentoring groups
- Tell me their story and WHY I should help them
- Have done their homework on me and express the reasons we’d be a good fit
- They develop the ASK — why they need help, what specific areas vs. everything
8. Make it happen, hold on, and don’t let go.
Dedicate yourself to succeeding, and do whatever it takes to make your journey! Make a promise to yourself to never give up. Hold yourself accountable, and have someone else hold you accountable. Commit to the success, the failures, the mistakes, and the process. Therefore, never start with your backup plan — losing should not be an option.
It’s Easier to Get Better Than Be Bitter
Finally, this has taught me over the years that it’s much easier to get BETTER than be BITTER. We are in the business of having the most highs and lows of any industry. It’s the only job in the world where you can wake up on the top of the world and by lunch be frustrated to tears. It’s how you deal with the curve balls, emotions, and roller coaster that will define your success. You will have difficulty, doubt, discouragement, failures, and wins. Learn from each one, as it will make you BETTER. If you don’t learn from them, it will make you fail and BITTER.