This past Saturday I turned 34. When I first entered my 30s, I wrote about how I anticipated this new chapter to shift my entrepreneurial outlook and possibly my business model. As a pause of celebration on my birthday this year, I spent some time reflecting upon whether these predictions have proven true or false. What I realized was that, at the same time when critical parts of my life have evolved and changed, so much also feels exactly the same. How?
It’s the mind’s trick – or self-preservation, maybe – that enables me to carry the comfort of the familiar as I navigate huge milestones, personally and professionally. Over the last 10 years, what I’ve gained as tried and true entrepreneurial knowledge has stuck with me and is used daily. Yet with each passing year, I also gain fresh insights and spark new ambition that drives me further than I’ve ever gone down this road of solopreneurship.
So for my birthday this year, I spent some time reflecting on the advice I received along the way that continues to guide my choices to this day. In honor of turning 34, I’m going to share with you 34 pearls of wisdom that I hope you find as useful and thought-provoking as I have.
1. You have to want it. People can give you the what and the how, but you must be the who and you need to figure out your why.
2. Just because you can outsource something, doesn’t mean you should. If you’re more efficient at completing the task on your own, or it’s a critical part of your business strategy, it’s important to remain hands-on.
3. You will come across clients who aren’t a good fit for your product or services, and vice versa. Don’t chase after them and don’t force it. Listen to your instincts.
4. Your reputation will be the single best branding tool you will ever have. Don’t risk it for anything!
5. No matter your industry or business model, you will have competitors. Get to know them; befriend them. If you do this successfully, you’ll gain a valuable lead generator. There’s more than enough business to go around!
6. You can never overemphasize your thanks and appreciation for your vendors and subcontractors. They make you look good. Make sure they know this.
7. Always know what problem your business is solving. If you can’t easily identify what this is, it’s time to immediately rethink your model.
8. Don’t mourn the loss of a business relationship too hard. Time and time again life will prove that this space will be filled ten-fold, and with better opportunities.
9. Give everyone a second chance. Those who doubted your skills and talents previously just might become a valuable client or lead generator for you.
10. The reward for good work is more work. To grow your business do good work. Yes, it’s that simple.
11. Just because someone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should too. Don’t chase every new marketing trend or fad. You’ll waste a lot of time and money doing so. Carefully weigh the right strategies for your business.
12. Keep in mind that your target audience may not be your actual audience. If you’re aiming for one group, but attracting another, it’s time to rethink who you really want to reach.
13. Know how to say no. This world will stretch you way too thin if you’re not strategic about where you choose to invest your time and talent. Even if you know when to say no, knowing how can be a much larger challenge.
14. Find a reason to laugh daily. Even if this means you have to keep a file of memes, photos and funny memories. If life doesn’t get you a reason to laugh that day, create your own.
15. Ask for advice. Try as you might, you will never have all the answers, nor will the internet. Look to your peers for their collective knowledge on issues they have lived through.
16. Anchor yourself with principles, values, and beliefs that feed your soul. As a business owner or entrepreneur, it’s easy to get tossed in the waves of uncertainty without a strong anchor at your center.
17. Each of us has a point of diminishing returns when it comes to work and profit. Know when more money means, well…more problems. Don’t let greed or pressure push you beyond this point.
18. For most of us, technology is a necessary evil to do our jobs. However, we must, must be intentional about unplugging on a regular basis – for the sake of our relationships and health.
19. Have someone with whom you can share your failures and struggles. It’s hard to talk about these things and be vulnerable, but this is when we need support the most. Have a few key people in your life who will always meet you where you are, and simply listen.
20. Consistency is half the battle with running a successful business. Don’t give up before you’ve barely left the shoreline. If I’m being honest, you need to buckle up and stick with this for at least 5 years before you can make any sort of educated decision about the viability of running your own business.
21. Reliability is the other half of the battle with running a successful business. So many people are simply unreliable. If you can show employers or clients that you are reliable, you already have a leg up on most.
22. Be present. It’s simply not possible for the human mind to truly multi-task. With work tasks, focus on one thing and see it through to completion, then move on. At home, be present with your family. Work will always be there, but those family moments are fleeting.
23. You might get some projects that are slightly outside the scope of your core services. So long as you’re being compensated for this time, do it anyway! You’re never above licking some envelopes or running to the printer to make copies for a client. And this good will goes a long way.
24. Don’t get paranoid about success. You worked hard. You deserve this. Don’t feel like it can’t last or it will be taken away from you. Enjoy it for what it is, and pay it forward.
25. Don’t get paranoid about failure. You worked hard. This is not a punishment. Don’t feel like it will last forever and can never be overcome. Appreciate it for what it’s teaching you and move forward.
26. Be a person who gives more than they consume – of time, money, material things, and especially love and attention.
27. You don’t have to have it all figured out to still run a good business. I made the leap when I had very little experience both as an entrepreneur and in the field of PR. But I’m so glad I started when it did instead of waiting until I felt ready – or I would still be waiting.
28. Everyone will go through stressful or unfulfilling seasons of life. Give yourself grace, but do keep track of damaging patterns. If you’re stuck in a cycle, something has to change in order for you to move forward.
29. Never undervalue networking with your peers. Building the right amount of quality networking into your business development plan will open doors to connections and potential clients you would never meet otherwise. You have to put yourself out there!
30. There is no magic number of years in business or any particular age that determines a successful or established entrepreneur. It’s all relative to your industry, business model, and how you define success.
31. The number one thing people want to feel is heard. Even more than liked or respected, if you can make someone feel heard, you will lay the foundation for effective communication.
32. Never, ever tolerate disrespect. Not from an employer, business partner, life partner, client, family member, or your children. We’re bound to get frustrated, not see eye-to-eye on an issue, and not align with everyone we meet. Disagreement through authentic communication is productive. Disrespect is destructive.
33. Perspective is powerful and now more than ever what we see on social media and the internet shapes our perspective. Don’t become brainwashed by someone else’s definition of success or ideal. Carefully and meticulously choose your own definition of success. Money is just currency, the real value is time.
34. Anything worth having takes work. What you need to determine is where what you deem worth having intersects with the work you’re willing to put into achieving it. I say this with equal caution that the effort it takes to achieve some things in life is not worth it…especially if it causes you to sacrifice your morals, value, and those you love. Choose wisely!
And one to grow own…
Every entrepreneur’s journey is unique. You will never be able to compare two people’s situations apples-to-apples, so don’t let someone else’s story make you feel self-conscious or insecure. Most importantly, don’t let anyone else’s experience stop you from creating your own!