Guest post from Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing.
My business is now almost 10 years old. What started with a guy and a laptop now has eight employees and is growing.
I’ve learned a ton along the way, and still learn every day. Here are ten things I now know and respect about starting and running a business.
1. You are never “ready”
Three things in my life I never would have done if I’d have waited until I was “ready”: get married, have kids, start a business. You’re never really ready, you just have to build enough of a plan and confidence (rational or not) to step off the cliff and give it a try.
2. It’s exciting and terrifying
Far more exciting than terrifying, at least for me now, but running a business has regular highs and lows. You have to get used to it and be OK with it, and keep yourself focused, humble and productive throughout.
3. Put your hard hat on every day
You are going to work. Hard. Even as the business grows and you don’t have to do all of the execution, you’ll still work hard and execute tactics daily. It doesn’t really get easier, but you get more confident and comfortable with the work required to sustain and grow what you’ve started.
4. It will not go as planned
Things will go wrong. Plans will go awry. The market will change. Customers will evolve. Your culture will emerge in an unexpected way. All of these are opportunities to root yourself in what you stand for and adjust your expectations and execution to move forward.
5. Take advantage of opportunity and serendipity
Luck is the residue of design, so smart people put themselves in a position to have more opportunity and serendipitous situations. Look for them, be open to them, and walk through the door more often.
6. Take risks & make mistakes
You’re not always going to be right, but that’s not the point (or the goal). Test things, be OK making mistakes and learning from them. Ship more often. Break some glass. Mitigate your risk and stay true to your values, but figure out what others have not.
7. Get a mentor (or 4)
These can be formal members of your board, or informal advisors who enjoy a free lunch on your dime from time to time. Surround yourself with people far smarter than you, who have been where you are or at minimum have a parallel set of experience that offers an entirely different worldview and perspective that can help you think better and make smarter decisions.
8. It’s hard to turn it off (but you have to)
You will think about work all the time. There will always be a ton more to do. Your new ideas will consume every moment you give them. But you still need to turn it off, take the evening or weekend off. Find a hobby that’s as far away from a computer screen as possible, play with your kids, distance yourself from the work. You’ll come back refreshed and more creative.
9. Relationships are everything
Your customers. Your employees. Your partners. Everything is about the relationships you create and sustain with the people around you. It’s the most important asset you have, no matter what business you are in.
10. People will hate you (so you need thick skin)
No matter what your business, you will have enemies. People who envy what you’ve done or created, people who disagree with how you do it, people who simply don’t share your worldview or values. You won’t change their mind, and it will drive you crazy if you let it. Learn from the experience, but develop and keep the thick skin and resolve necessary to fight through the adversity and do what you believe is right.
For the other entrepreneurs out there, I’m curious to hear what you agree with, what you’d add, etc. Leave a comment below!