March 15 is a special day for me. March 15, 2016 was the day I formally resigned from my position at a large non-profit and began my journey as an entrepreneur. It has been a great experience! The support and feedback that I have received has been amazing. With that being said, there have also been some very difficult moments, periods of confusion, and at times, questioning this whole experience. In honor of my one year anniversary, here are the top 10 things I learned in my first year of business.
1. Don’t move without a contract. I love going out to speak at events and I love meeting new people through having a vendor table. Going into the community in general is awesome, but I will not move without a written contract. Not having the terms written down causes confusion and unmet expectation. It is not worth the headache. Even if it’s between friends, I would rather have something in writing than end up at odds with one another. I don’t care if it’s written down in crayon on a napkin- I don’t move without a contract.
2. No one cares about what you “can” do. They want to see what you’ve done and what you’re in the process of doing. When Dr Dre said he wanted to work with Kendrick Lamar, it wasn’t because he heard a rumor that Kendrick was a great artist: it was because he heard what Kendrick was already putting out and saw potential for something bigger. So start with what you have and work with what you’ve got. Even if it doesn’t seem like much, just get started.
3. Don’t run from your weaknesses. When it comes to speaking with people, I’m a natural; very comfortable and confident. But cold networking is not my strength. One day, I was supposed to attend a networking event and I texted a friend and said that I was thinking about not going because I wasn’t sure of myself. He reminded me that I actually did have that skill set within me and I just needed to practice in order to feel more comfortable. But when he finished the conversation with “or you could quit”, it hit me like a ton of bricks. He was right, I did have the option to tuck my tail, give up, and stay home. After getting over the initial shock of what he said, I remembered who I was, got dressed, and killed that event. I realized that I wasn’t going to progress in that area by quitting or opting out when the opportunity presented itself. Now every time I think about turning back when things are difficult, I hear those four words “Or you could quit” and refocus my attention on ways of sharpening my weaknesses.
4. What God has for you, God has for YOU. I have met a lot of people who have had ideas about how we could work together that did not pan out. I have watched other businesses grow in a short amount of time. I have watched other people get opportunities that I would have loved to have. At the end of the day, I have to keep reminding myself: what God has for you, God has for YOU. What the next person does or receives does not change God’s promise for you. If you are going to live in His will, you have to trust His timing.
5. Speak your need. The times where I found myself struggling with something, were the times where I had not told anyone that I needed help. Every time I could narrow down exactly what I needed and then articulate the need, I received help. Every. Single. Time. Sometimes that help was free and sometimes that help had a cost, but every time I opened my mouth and specifically said what I needed, I got it. Don’t be afraid to just say what you need and let God bring it to you.
6. Sometimes you have to do it wrong to figure out how to do it right. That is a part of the process. I think we have this idea that we can read a few books, pick a few folks brains, and attend a workshop and Kapow! We’re in business! Nope… it just doesn’t work like that. You will not always knock it right out of the park on the first go round. Sometimes you have to spend money in one area to realize that you could probably do that yourself. And sometimes you need to DIY something to find out that you need to hire someone. That is a part of the process… just accept it.
7. Some people will never understand your level of vision. Hint hint… I discuss this in my book. Let those people go. I had a meeting once with two small business advisors. For the entire meeting, they kept looking at me with the gas face. Finally one of them came out and said, “but you’re just a therapist”. I was courteous enough to finish the meeting, but at that very moment I knew they did not understand me nor did they understand my vision. I didn’t let them define me and to be sure they didn’t hinder my development, I just stopped including them in my process. I kept pushing until I found my tribe… allow me to introduce you to League of Modern
8. You work to your level of sacrifice. I don’t take evening or weekend appointments because I have other priorities: a loving husband, two small kids, and a doctoral program- in that order. If it means that my business grows slower because I’m not willing to put every minute of the day into it, then so be it. I am not willing to watch the emotional health of my family deteriorate for my business. That being said, there are times when I have to go away and write a paper or attend a weekend event of some sort. There is no way to completely avoid it, but I am very cognizant of how much of myself I allow to be pulled in other directions. That is my level of sacrifice. You have to decide what yours is.
9. Invest in professionals where you need it. I mentioned in #6 that sometimes you can DIY and other times you just need to pay someone. Well, there are certain areas of business that you shouldn’t even play with. Biggest one: the money. Sit down with a CPA or a tax consultant: a) make sure you business filings are in line with the IRS, b) make sure you have a proper system for paying your taxes, and c) create a budget sheet for tracking your income and expenses. If you can’t afford to pay someone monthly to manage this for you, pay their hourly rate once a year and get a consultation. Trust me, when tax season rolls around, you will be kicking yourself as you go through 17 plastic bags of balled up receipts trying to prove your expenses. As you go further in business, you will find that everyone provides a service and everyone will try to convince you that their service is absolutely necessary. It is your responsibility to sit down and figure out where you need to spend money and where you can afford to be frugal. Just remember, don’t be afraid to invest your money in professional services.
10. Enjoy the ride. I have had so many days where I was stressed, confused, and overwhelmed. And then there are other days where I praised God, right in the middle of my office, for giving me both the vision and the opportunity to exercise my gifts in this manner. I have come to terms with the fact that I have so much to learn and that things would move much faster if I knew it all. In the same breath, I trust God’s timing and have resolved to just enjoy the journey.
I hope you found something of value through me sharing my experience. Now go write down your vision and take one step towards making it happen, in honor of my anniversary!