Serial entrepreneur, lifestyle entrepreneur, entrepreneur mom. Actually, I’m more of an accidental entrepreneur.
It started tragically with my father’s sudden death. My dad was a cowboy entrepreneur, he had no processes in place, and closed deals on the strength of a handshake. I wouldn’t recommend this style, but I sure learned a lot.
Below, I share 5 lessons I’ve learned for mompreneurs and small businesses, from 5 different companies that I’ve been involved with.
Lesson #1: BUSINESS IS ABOUT BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
Here I was, at that time 27 years old and suddenly stepping into a man’s business – selling car paint to customers like Honda, Toyota, BMW – all the major car manufacturers. You can just imagine how ridiculous it was because we had no idea about marketing and entrepreneurship. My 20 year old brother and I went around with a briefcase with nothing inside, meeting all our customers and telling them nothing will change in their service and experience with us.
Now I don’t know if everyone felt sorry for us, but you know what? They gave us a chance. We made a lot of mistakes, but they kept giving us a chance and eventually (with a lot of help) we even sold the company at a profit. If my father hadn’t had such strong business relationships in place, everyone would have abandoned us in the beginning and we would have lost it all.
How are you building relationships and customer loyalty?
Lesson #2 – FOCUS ON YOUR NATURAL GIFTS
So 11 years ago, after selling my father’s company, my husband and I move to Canada. Although I had lived and worked in the US, in the UK and in Asia, I could not for the life of me get a job in PR, which is my background. Again, kicking and screaming, I had to start working for myself and took on PR clients.
After the first year, I had one person working with me. After 5 years, I had an international PR agency with about 20 contractors working on various projects for clients. By focusing on my natural gifts such as business development and creating winning teams – the things that I am good at, enjoy doing and bring me energy – my business took off. I also look for this when hiring people. For my team members, I work with those writers who love to write, graphic designers who love to create and publicity people who know how to do PR and love talking with the media. It sounds simple, but I can’t tell you how many people out there do what they do because they “have to” or tell me they can do “anything”. They have no passion for it, and it shows in their work. When each member of your team focuses on their talents, everyone is happy and your business thrives with ease.
What are your natural gifts?
Lesson #3 – BE PASSIONATE
In university, I had considered getting a psychology degree so it’s funny how life brings me back full circle. I stumbled onto the coaching profession and now I am passionate about coaching women and entrepreneurs who want to make both money and meaning in their lives.
Are you passionate about what you do? If you’re doing something for money, when times get rough – and it will, passion and belief in what you are doing will get you through. My coaching is my business that makes the least money, but I need to have it in my life. The fulfillment it gives me allows me to work on the other businesses with renewed energy.
Whatever you are doing now, ask yourself, would you be doing what you are doing if you made half the money? If not, what do you really want?
Lesson #4 – DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES
I’m a recovering perfectionist, so this is especially difficult for me. But don’t wait till your product or service is perfect. Just do it, learn from your mistakes and move on. When we started an e-commerce business a couple of years ago, we had numerous challenges – the glue we used turned out to be inferior so our packaging fell apart in the mail, our stocks ran out, we had a very clunky back end and manual logistics, we even tried vacuum packing our clothing product with a machine designed to vacuum pack food to save on costs! We tried a lot and laughed a lot. And we learned so much that we wouldn’t learn if we weren’t willing to make mistakes and just go for it.
Despite all this, we were getting PR in local and national media. We were profitable in the first quarter, and one of those media hits attracted a buyer for the company less than a year after launch.
So, what’s the biggest mistake you are willing to make, in order to succeed?
Lesson #5 BUSINESS IS ABOUT PROFIT, NOT REVENUE
Finally, I know lots of us start businesses to have the freedom and flexibility to enjoy the lifestyle that we want. However, you are still running a business. Don’t get dazzled by people building companies in the millions of dollars (they are probably also millions of dollars in debt). If your revenues are $50,000 and your profit is only $5,000, you need to take a serious look at your business model and why you are doing what you’re doing. My dad started his company with $2000 and grew it to seven figures. I’ve started companies with $2000 – $5000. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you just have to have a customer!
Check on a daily basis whether you are on the right track when you prioritize your work day using the 80/20 rule – did you know 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts? Stop reacting, and start planning.
You can work on long term goals, but also ask yourself – what’s the fastest path to money today?
I’d love to hear what key lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur, so do leave a comment and share.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies, which she's also using for her own bling flip flop company.
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