The plight of an entrepreneur
Although I’ve spent about half of my career as an independent, I’ve recently learned that there’s a distinct difference between offering a consulting service and manufacturing my own products. In fact I will quietly admit that if I’d known all that was involved in getting a product off the ground, I might not have jumped in feet first. That said, I guess there is a benefit to ignorance.
Although Naturals by Gina B. is a burgeoning company that has yet to really take off, I’m tenacious, encouraged, and therefore optimistic. A few key lessons that I’ve learned so far to share for anyone who is thinking about becoming an entrepreneur in any industry:
- Relish in your mistakes. I’ve made a lot of them, and I’ll make many more. Some of them have nearly caused me to pack up my materials and take down my website. I’ve learned to laugh at them, and in most cases just write another check. My solace is that I’ll never make the same mistakes again (and if I do, I’ll have to laugh again, and write another check). Enjoy the journey.
- Everyone will not love your products. This is common sense, because everything is not for everyone, however when you spend a long time working on something and create an outcome that you’re absolutely enamored with, you want the world to share in your excitement. Newsflash . . . most of the world will not. In fact people think absolutely nothing of making negative sideways comments that will not make sense to you, and make your doubt your creation. Move on and find your audience. It’s there. You just have to look for it.
- Marketing is a real struggle, and it takes time. In this age of information, we are over-saturated with content. Yours needs to stand out and you must have a strategy. I’ll let you know when I develop one.
- Take the time on the front end to properly set up your organization. This includes incorporation, solidifying all legal documents, bank accounts, etc. It’s more difficult to implement a proper structure on the back end than to set up your company correctly in the beginning. Fortunately, I learned this lesson several years ago with my first business. Never again.
- Here’s a hard lesson — most of your friends will not support you. And it’s not because they don’t love you, but you can’t rely on your friendship base as your customer base. Nor should you. As an example, I’ve penned at least 4 regular columns, and some of my very close friends have never read a word that I’ve written. Now don’t get me wrong, some of your friends will be incredibly supportive and insist on purchasing your product and becoming true customers. Others will not and will expect that the benefit of your friendship is endless free shit. Maybe it’s because they feel that you know they’re in your corner, or perhaps they’ve known you so long that they don’t take you seriously. Whatever the case, it’s best to set the expectation in the beginning that your friends might be the last to jump on your bandwagon, and be surprised and appreciative when a few gems step up to the plate. Your friends like you for reasons other than what you do for a living, and you should be happy about that.
- Don’t start off trying to make money. I realize this is counter-intuitive, but if the end game is money you won’t succeed. Be patient with the business and have low expectations in the beginning. Focusing on money takes away from your ability to properly structure your business and provide good service. Focus instead on your love for what you’re providing. If you think too much about what you’re making, you will become disgruntled and resentful. Find another way to make a living until your baby grows to become a prosperous adult.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m sure there will be more as I continue to stumble through this. Sigh.
Oh, and if you’re interested, check out my products! :-)
Gina, this is all such great advice. I would add that when you decide to make the leap from having a “hobby business” to a “real business,” make time to write out a 5-year plan. Start with where you want your business to be 5 years from now (small? growing? big? IPO-ready?) and then work backwards from there so you have a road map for the direction of your business. The “Let me just see where this goes” winds up costing a lot down the road, when you’re trying to cast long-term vision but are distracted with the urgency of day-to-day operations.
I can totally relate – I didn’t start a business but I did publish a book and so many of the same things apply….
Love the line “enjoy the journey” – although it is easier said than done