This month, Bennis Public Relations officially turned eight years old! If I’m being honest, I completely missed this milestone on its actually date, and I felt a bit like I missed my child’s birthday. After all, this business is my first baby. But before I let myself feel too guilty for being distracted by my full (though still relaxing) summer schedule, I realize what a blessing this is.
As a business owner, to have a steady workflow, to be fully immersed in projects that stir my passion, and to feel secure in the growth of my business to the point I’m not counting down the days and months until I finally feel like “I made it” is really, really nice. More than nice, it’s everything I would have wanted to accomplished when I set out on this journey eights years ago.
Thinking back to the 23-year old who didn’t have a solid plan, but felt a calling to entrepreneurship that was stronger than anything I could ignore, I can say there are a lot of things I wish I would have known back then. Not so much because it would have made me make drastically different decisions, but because this wisdom would have helped me to enjoy the growth process a bit more, to not be so worried of what’s to come, and to pull my head up from my computer every so often to see some amazing things unfolding in my life.
So today, I want to share with you, and any other young entrepreneurs that may be out there, eight pieces of wisdom I wish I would have known back then. My hope is that maybe, just maybe they will help you embrace the unique journey of entrepreneurship with confidence and clarity.
1. There will always be a natural ebb and flow to business – embrace it!
Not only is it unrealistic to think a new business will grow at a steady and steep trajectory, it’s simply not sustainable. If I aimed to add even just one new client a month, for every month I’ve been in business, I would need a whole different business model and one that would likely come with a lot more headaches. So my wisdom here is to seek and embrace slow and sustained business growth. It’s far better to slowly grow a wild flower, than be responding to wild fire.
2. Give your business room to grow and evolve.
Many new entrepreneurs set out with a clear vision for how they think their business should look and act. While having a plan is essential, so is being flexible. What you thought might have been your most attractive service or product, might not resonate with your target market. Be willing to change anything you need to about your business, especially in the early stages, in order to get on the right track.
3. Have confidence in your professional opinion.
Far too often in my early years I would let clients call the shots. I’m a people pleaser, so by nature when a client suggested a change to my recommendations I would try to accommodate them. Looking back, I should have stood behind my knowledge and expertise. In most instances, this would have produced better outcomes in less time and avoided a lot of back and forth and tough conversations later on.
4. Outside influence can be both inspiring and damaging.
As a young entrepreneur I had a lot of coffee meetings with a lot of fellow entrepreneurs, many who worked in different fields or who served different markets. There I would sit, absorbing all their “advice” like a sponge. While some advice proved useful, some did not. Instead, it would make me question my strategies and even halt or alter some things in an effort to mold myself to be more like someone else’s business. In pretty much all instances, this is a big mistake. Don’t be so quick to adopt someone else’s ideas. Your journey is unique.
5. Hurdles are not a reason to stop, they’re a reason to jump.
Did this come across as cheesy as it did when I read it in my head? I’m sure it’s printed on a plaque somewhere that you can buy on Etsy. Anyways, the point is still a solid one. As a young entrepreneur, just two years into my business, it seemed like a great time to expand our family and add a baby to the mix. The timing was less than great and it really caused me to dig deep to find the time, energy, and head space to continue growing my business while nurturing a newborn around the clock. It all worked out (and 3 years later we added another new baby into the mix just to up the ante!), but not without some major dedication.
My advice is this: anything worth having is going to come with obstacles and opportunity costs. Always be clear about what you want most – not just what you may want right now. Even if you simply need to slow things down for a while in your career, continuing to move in some capacity is far better than coming to a stop
6. Consider everything – only commit to the right things.
In my early years of entrepreneurship, I felt like I had to monetize and say yes to every opportunity. While it’s important to put yourself out there, so is carefully vetting these opportunists. Not all will be the right fit, in fact only a fraction will be a fit at all if you really do your research and weigh your options. I wish I would have known that saying no is not turning away business or being foolish. It’s actually leaving margin for a better project to come along.
7. Avoid bad habits early.
As a young entrepreneur, especially before I was married or had children, I only had to think about me. I could put in the long hours and allow myself to become consumed in my work. I hustled hard in the beginning knowing I was laying the foundation for upon which a strong business could grow. However, you must be careful not to establish an imbalance between work and non-work life. If you’re not careful the two can blend together quickly. I feel up and coming generations must really heed this advice. Like any dependency, don’t let work rule your life. It’s a means to an end. Remember that.
8. Happiness should always be your first metric for success.
Finally and most importantly, I wish I could go back and stress to my younger self that it’s happiness – not income, likes on social media, number of clients, the car you drive, or really anything else – that should be the measure of your success. It sounds simple, but I’ve heard of people who end each day by “rating” that day with an emoji. If too many consecutive days end with a negative rating, it’s time to make a change. This could be small, like treating yourself to a day off or seeing a friend, or it could indicate a major shift in you career must take place. Don’t fall for the trap of believing success will provide happiness. Put happiness first.
How many years have you been in your current role? Whether it’s been 35+ years or just a couple of weeks, I’d love to hear the pearls of wisdom you have gained along the way.
Join in the discussion by leaving a comment below.