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7 lessons learned from 9 years since starting a business

Posted on November 20, 2017 by Rob Petersen

starting a business

Starting a business can be one of the best decisions a person makes in their life. But most go through what Seth Godin says is “the dip.” – a temporary set back that can be overcome with persistence if it’s worth pursuing. At least, this was the case for me.

Last week, LinkedIn congratulated me on my 9-year work anniversary of starting a business. According to The Telegraph, the average person spends 4.6 years at a job for company in the U.S. My milestone was 2X longer than the average person who work for a company.

To help anyone who is on or considering this journey, here are 7 lessons from 9 years since starting a business.

  1. IF NOT NOW, WHEN? Most experts say, when starting a business, to never quit your day job until your financially secure enough to go out on your own. Great advice. But not everyone has the luxury of the best of both worlds until the right time arrives. Many people start a business because they are on a road to nowhere where they work or get downsized and lose their job. Equally important to any successful venture is the belief in yourself and your ability to do something extraordinary. Unlike waiting for the right time to arrive, this is a moment to be seized or it passes.
  2. INVEST ONLY WHAT YOU HAVE TO: When starting a business, you spend money before you make it. Minimal or major. It involves costs and services ranging from a lawyer, registrations, subscriptions, insurance, staff, office space and travel. Your investment strategy when starting a business sets a philosophy about how you treat money. You will carry it with you and it will make a long-term difference in the company operations.
  3. BEING BY YOURSELF: For anyone starting a business, even if you have partners, you spend time by yourself. This is an adjustment for anyone. Because most of us can’t stand to be alone. A recent study in the journal, Science, shows people would rather give themselves electric shocks than be alone with their thoughts for just 15 minutes. But there is a difference between loneliness and being alone. And being along, or solitude, can be great for boosting creativity, learning self-reliance and carving a sense of self. It takes time to learn to be by yourself but, ultimately, it’s one of the great personal benefits from starting a business.
  4. LEARN FROM MISTAKES (WHICH YOU WILL MAKE): Even with a business plan, outside advice from people who started a business, online marketing and a clear vision (or so I thought), I made mistakes. And no shortage of them. In my case, my business is a services company. Our revenue is from recurring services with clients who we generally have a six-month or a year contract, renewable each year. But when starting a business, tt was not easy to convince someone, no matter how much I believed in what we did, they should sign a six month or a year contract with a fledgling company. So I offered an analysis of the business with recommendations at a nominal rates. I made lots of mistakes with the wrong types of people and businesses before the right ones surfaced.
  5. BE FAIR TO YOURSELF AND AFFORDABLE TO YOUR CLIENTS: From my mistakes, I learned pricing, positioning and the right business model. All of these elements were in my business plan, but it was only through trial and error that I was able to make it work. I also learned how to determine if trust was going to be in the relationship. This latter proved to be as important, if not more, than the former. These tangibles and intangible came down to being fair to yourself and affordable to your clients.
  6. RECOGNIZE DEFINING MOMENT: Certain events, people and collaborations have a big impact on business growth even if they don’t produce major financial rewards. An example, in my case, was being invited to join the MBA faculty of the Rutgers Business School Executive Education where I have taught for 7 years. From this experience, I found a new skill, revenue stream, friends and colleagues and referral generator. And it gave me a competitive edge from other company heads in businesses like mine. This probably never would have happened if I had not gone out on my own.
  7. REMEMBER WHY YOU BEGAN: Regardless of how successful your business is or isn’t, or how long it takes, it soon seems pointless if results don’t produce a better work and life balance. Celebrate successes when they happen. With yourself, your team, clients, friends and family that helped you get there. The goal of starting a business is to be personally as well as professionally enriched and achieve an independence that worth persevering for. This is something you should remind and reward yourself every once and a while.

Were these lessons helpful? I hope they give you direction if you’ve started or are considering starting a business.

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