It marked the one-year mark for Converse Digital.
Yep, one year of "shitting and getting" as my dad calls it. One year of late nights, early mornings, long flights, hotel rooms, and wondering what tomorrow brings.
And I wouldn't change it for the world. Those of you that have taken the leap know what I mean. For me, this is my second such leap. My first one, Brandmarken was washed away in the waters of Katrina back in 2005.
So for me, May 1 marked a milestone that I'll not soon forget. As I sat reflecting in the moment, I thought about all I've learned this past year and how many of you might find something in that knowledge too. So here goes.
There's Never a Good Time To Launch
If you wait for the right time, you'll never do it. There is always a reason you shouldn't pull the trigger. Mortgages, school tuition, a down economy, an up economy that could crash. But if you're meant to be an entrepreneur, if it's in your bloood (as I have always felt it was in mine) then you just have to pick a day, pull the ripcord and hope the chute opens before you splat on the ground.
Dance With The One That Brung Ya
As any entrepreneur will tell you, starting a company means making sales. That means you spend a lot of time looking for new contacts, networks and clients. It can easily consume 20%-30% of your time. But in that quest to grow, you have to remember what got you to where you are today -- the clients, friends and networks that feed you today. You can't neglect those in favor of chasing the new shiny client or contract. By focusing on and supporting those that have supported you, I've found that it's funny how good things just happen. The new client or project that falls into your lap or referral that converts to a project.
Have The Faith
You can call it what you will... Karma, God, Nature... whatever, but I was raised to believe that someone (in my case God) has a plan. We just have to be smart enough to find it and have faith enough to take the risks (financial and otherwise) that always seem to be between where we are today and where the plan calls for us to be tomorrow.
Prepare Your Fields For Rain
I wrote about the idea of making sure you're ready for new clients/opportunity some time ago. This year has reinforced the idea of the necessity of preparing your business to receive leads. You have to put yourself out there... create opportunities to be discovered by others. By doing so, you create your own luck.
Give and Give and Give
I have spent the last year trying to really become a giver. A person that gives to others without asking or expecting anything in return. Whether that is being a gracious host when my fellow bloggers visit New Orleans or spending a half an hour reviewing someone's blog/resume and offering them advice for ways to improve it in hopes that they'll be able to find a job or move into a new career path. I make a real effort -- way more than I ever made in the past. Why? Because I watched others in this space... folks that are so great at this skill -- and I saw how it transforms them and everything they touch. So much of their success was based on giving -- and by success I don't just mean financial or business. I saw it in their personal lives too. Giving is the gateway to success. Believe it.
Plan To Fail -- small
You'll never know unless you try. And when you try new things a lot, you'll occassionally fail. So plan to fail. But plan to fail small. For instance, I've always enjoyed teaching folks about marketing and social media. So I do a good bit of social media keynotes and breakouts for various conferences. I also do private workshops for clients. I especially like teaching small businesses about the power of social media marketing. But until this month, I had never delivered my own social media workshop. So I've decided to do one... but I've purposely set it up so that if all 35 slots are sold, I win big. But if only a handful of folks show up, I fail small. I won't really lose anything and I'll get a chance to learn a ton that I can apply to make the next workshop better.
Every time I violate this I get smacked around. You have to run your own race. Success today is about being #1 in a category of one. You have to stand for something that is truly unique to you... and no, I'm not talking USP or Key Benefit or anything like that. I'm talking about being something that is truly unique and that people or companies value. Maybe you're opinionated and not all that worried about offending sensibilities. Fine, then be the social media marketing consigliere that calls bullshit when he sees it. Sure not everyone is going to want that...but those companies or clients that do... man, that's gold. And you'll have a ton more fun working for those folks anyways.
I've also found that these days, there is just so much bullshit in the world that being a real person, a straight shooter, a what you see is what you get kind of person is truly unique... and appreciated.
Remember Your Priorities
When you're just starting out, it's hard not to focus 100% of your time and effort on your company. When you've got a wife, four kids and a large mortgage, it's even easier. But don't. Don't make that mistake. All work and no play doesn't just make Jack a dull boy, it makes you one too. Develop some outside interests. Spend good, quality time with your family and friends. That distraction that stresses you out because you feel like you should be working is actually making you stronger, more creative and better prepared for what's next. You have to invest in those you love because there will be a day, actually many, where you're going to need to call on that love as a source of strength to get you through some really dark days where you truly wonder, WTF was I thinking.
And when you've reached a milestone, you win a big deal, land that Fortune 50 client, or just make payroll with a few dollars to spare... sharing that milestone, celebrating it, will be so much sweeter when you're sourrounded by friends and family that are rooting you on to the next one.
It's been a great first year. And I hope to be back here next year with another installment of learning. Till then, use the comments to let me know what you'd tell a new entrepreneur. I'd love to learn from you.