Thinking back over this journey, it truly makes me smile ear to ear. I can hardly believe it has been 10 years since I started my entrepreneurial journey. The need to celebrate this milestone does not escape me, as I am painfully aware that not all businesses make it this far. The path I've taken has been filled with unexpected twists and turns, decisions I never thought I would be making after starting a business… things like selling, dividing and merging, even buying a building, I’ve experienced it all. But it has been gratifying. In this blog, I want to share the ten invaluable lessons I've learned along the way, offering insights that have contributed to my personal growth and success, accompanied by a helpful tidbit of advice.
Celebrate the Wins
From the early days of uncertainty to the present, celebrating wins—big or small—has become second nature. Embracing and recognizing accomplishments not only lifts spirits but also cultivates an atmosphere of positivity and motivation. It's essential to take a moment to revel in the success of others too, as it strengthens team camaraderie and fosters a united spirit.
Tip: Let your team choose their favorite “pump-up” song and play it when they have a big win. In my Hitch Studio days, Renee and I would play “Uptown Funk” and have a dance party whenever we got a check in the mail.
Grace Goes A Long Way
We all know the analogy. Just like a swan is graceful on the surface while paddling furiously beneath the water, as a business owner, it's crucial to remain calm and composed in the face of challenges. Maintaining a poised exterior while tackling difficulties with determination and resilience is a valuable skill.
Tip: Lead with grace. If you need to tackle a difficult conversation or address a difficult situation, sleep on it first. Wait until you calm down, gain some clarity, and can choose the right words, and most importantly give grace.
Embrace the Numbers
While math may not be everyone's cup of tea (it is definitely not mine), understanding the financial aspects of your business is crucial. I'll admit I'm not a math enthusiast myself, which is why one of our earliest investments was hiring an accountant. However, I soon realized that outsourcing the work doesn't free me of the responsibility to understand it. A firm grasp of your revenue, expenses, profit margins, and cash flow empowers you to make informed decisions and navigate your company toward success. Instead of shying away from numbers, embrace them as powerful tools that provide valuable insights and pave the way for growth.
Tip: I'll be honest—I usually trust my gut when making big decisions. But there are moments when I feel like I need a little more than just a hunch, and that's when I turn to the numbers. Now, I know not everyone relies on intuition like I do, and that's totally fine. The important thing is to find the approach that works for you and brings you the best results.
Surround Yourself with the Right People
The saying "you are the sum of who you spend time with" holds true in business. Surrounding yourself with talented, positive, and driven individuals can significantly impact your growth. Seek out mentors, collaborate with like-minded professionals, and build a network that challenges and supports you.
Tip: One of the best things I’ve done since starting my business is joining a Masterminds Group. This community of like-minded entrepreneurs provides a platform to share successes, navigate challenges, and collectively brainstorm solutions for difficult decisions. Find your group and if you can’t find one, make one!
Give More Than Expected
Delivering exceptional value to your clients or customers should always be a priority. Go the extra mile, exceed expectations, and strive to create remarkable experiences. Providing exceptional service not only builds strong relationships but also establishes a positive reputation that can lead to referrals and repeat business.
Tip: This was one of my college design professors' mottos, and though I may have initially found it less than appealing, as it meant doing countless additional thumbnail sketches, I now realize the wisdom behind his words. As I've grown older, I've come to understand that he was teaching us the importance of going beyond what is required to deliver exceptional value. It involves gaining a deep understanding of your customer's needs and then finding innovative ways to exceed their expectations.
Define Success, But Remember To Be Nimble
While it's important to have a clear vision of what success means to you (i.e. set those goals!), be open to adaptation. Being a business owner is unpredictable, and being agile allows you to seize new opportunities, pivot when necessary, and remain adaptable and open to change.
Tip: The pandemic served as a profound example of the need for adaptability within a short timeframe for all of us. From this experience, I learned that we are capable of stretching ourselves beyond what we thought possible. When faced with unprecedented challenges, what once seemed unattainable suddenly becomes within reach, highlighting the resilience and untapped potential within each of us. Long story short, you are more capable than you think.
Its Ok To Be Selective
When selecting clients, partners, or team members, it's essential to be picky. Surrounding yourself with individuals who share your values and goals fosters a positive and efficient work atmosphere. It's perfectly okay to decline opportunities that don't align with your vision. Trust your instincts and prioritize collaboration with those who resonate with your mission.
Tip for Hiring: I've been lucky to work with some amazing people. Having a small team has taught me a valuable lesson: when a new team member effortlessly blends in and feels like they've always been part of the gang, that's a sign you've found the right fit. Their smooth transition and ability to click with the team dynamics show that they share our values and fit right in. So, how do you know they're the right fit? Take your time when hiring. Give yourself enough time to get to know them. Consider options like internships or a three to six-month trial period to ensure it's a good fit for everyone involved.
Tip for Customers: Trust your instincts. After a few years in business, you'll have a good sense of whether a client aligns with your values if they don't, don't be afraid to part ways. In the end, it's in the best interest of both parties to find clients who share the same values and vision as you do.
Unpopular opinion, you will fail a time or two. Failure is an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey. Instead of viewing it as a setback, try your best to embrace it as a learning experience (after the sting wears off). Failures provide valuable insights, teach resilience, and often pave the way for future success. Embrace failure, learn from it, and keep moving forward.
Tip: Acknowledge your failures openly and honestly. I've learned that the moment you openly admit to a failure, you strip it of its power. Take the time to reflect on what occurred, analyze how things could have been handled differently, and use those insights to propel yourself forward. Embracing failure as an opportunity for growth allows you to learn from your mistakes and create a path forward.
Success Lies Just Beyond Fear
The very nature of owning a business means you are stepping outside of your comfort zone. Being uncomfortable soon becomes your norm, and suddenly, you are constantly making decisions and having experiences that push you past the limitations of your fears. It can be exhausting, and there may come a time when you feel like giving up. However, that's precisely when you need to push a little further. Just past that fear could be precisely what you are looking for.
Tip: There was a time right after the pandemic when I felt lost and uncertain about my next steps. Whenever I find myself in that situation, my instinct is to dive into learning something new, so I decided to join Co.Starters. Going back to the basics and making some tough business decisions, I finally reached a point where I was done feeling lost. That's when I gathered the courage to push past my fear, and suddenly, doors opened for me.
Invest in Personal Growth
Please don't hold back when it comes to investing in yourself. It's crucial to spend money on sharpening your skills, gaining new knowledge, and staying updated with industry trends. I know it may seem obvious, but so many people hesitate to make that investment. Don't be one of them! Take the leap and spend the money on resources, courses, or conferences that will fuel your growth as an entrepreneur. Trust me, it'll be worth every penny and open doors to incredible opportunities.
Tip: Engage in a book study with your team, attend a conference together, or set a goal to learn a new skill within a year, with mapped-out milestones along the way. There are numerous ways to sharpen your skills and knowledge continuously. Transform it into a team event where you support each other and hold one another accountable throughout the process. By making learning a collective effort, you enhance team synergy and promote a culture of growth and development.
Looking back on the last ten years, I can't help but feel grateful for the lessons, challenges, and growth. Celebrating victories, surrounding myself with awesome people, getting a handle on the money side of things, and not being afraid to fail—these have been game-changers in my journey. Moving forward, I'll keep these lessons close, always seeking personal and professional growth, and ready to seize new opportunities with curiosity and a grateful attitude.
Speaking of curiosity (see #5)...
BONUS: Come From A Place of Curiosity
Stay open to new ideas, perspectives, and opportunities by keeping that sense of wonder alive. Dive deep into the nitty-gritty of your industry, market trends, and what your customers really want. Cultivating curiosity is the secret sauce to staying ahead of the game, adapting to changes, and finding killer solutions to problems. Don't stop asking questions and venturing into unexplored territories. That's what will drive your business forward and create a culture of constant growth and exploration. So, embrace that curious spirit.
Remember, being an entrepreneur is a continuous adventure filled with triumphs, challenges, and ALL the gritty in-between. Embrace the opportunities ahead, stay curious, and keep pushing the boundaries of what you can achieve. I know my journey is far from over, and there are countless possibilities waiting for me, and that gives me so much joy.