By: Rob Comeau, CEO of Business Resource Center, Inc.
What have I learned in my first year of entrepreneurship? Simply put, a lot.
Having come from a business consulting background, I was always able to empathize with business owners and the journey they had taken to start and grow a successful organization. I was able to have intelligent discussions based on the trials that they have dealt with and provided sound business advice to navigate their business appropriately. I related on an intellectual level with the tactical and strategic challenges that they faced while running a business. I appreciated the fact that they built the business on their back until it could stand on its own.
I looked at their plight and path and I got it. Except, I didn’t.
While I understood from a spectator’s view what they had been through, I had never walked their path or carried their stress of growing something from nothing. I had never risked so much with the hope and idea of making something great. I hadn’t carried the burden of supporting a family with zero safety net and no guarantees. While I got it conceptually, I had never felt the burden personally.
I believe that this is one of those things that you just don’t know until you know. Like a woman who understands the idea of being pregnant, until she actually carries her child and then understands from a more intimate point of view. She may be able to recite all the stages of pregnancy but until she has experienced it, it will always be a conceptual understanding versus an experiential understanding.
Solid planning is essential when starting a new venture and ensuring you have the capital to float through unforeseen issues that arise is equally important. That being said, as a first generation business owner, there are things that will come up which you may not be well versed. Therefore it is important to have the appropriate professional contacts to draw on their experience and services.
It is a different kind of stress that is carried when starting a business. A more deep rooted career stress than I had previously known. I have been successful at large publicly traded companies, and those too carry their degree of stress, but they didn’t compare to the depth of burden you can carry when it is your own creation.
That being said, you have a blank slate. You can create the type of company, principals and environment that you feel is appropriate. If you’re profitable, you can build upon this vision. If you’re not, you’re done. Profit cannot be the ultimate driving factor though. Do you need to have a profit to run a business? Absolutely. However, the profit should be a byproduct of the quality of execution to your customer base.
The takeaways that I have learned from my first year in business are as follows: you are not going to build an empire overnight. You will most likely have phenomenal months and months you’d prefer to forget. Aligning yourself and company with solid business professionals whom have walked the path before you will shorten your learning curve. Have faith and work hard towards your goals daily. Plan and outline short-term and long-term goals and initiatives and work towards both on a weekly basis. Set appropriate boundaries and expectations with clientele and do not devalue your offering. Understand your clients thoroughly and facilitate solutions that impact their businesses. Referrals are the best medicine. Know that you don’t know everything and do not be afraid to say no when needed. Always illustrate the pros and the cons of any situation to your clientele and paint a realistic picture that can be fulfilled. Hire the right people, period. Good people are a better asset than good procedures. Make sure you have both. Don’t hesitate to course correct when needed to guide your organization to a more prosperous future. Don’t let the fear of failure paralyze your walk. Make time for your family, while you may be working to support them, don’t lose sight of time with them. Almost every elder business owner I have spoken with in my career is more excited about discussing their family and grandchildren than anything else… there is wisdom in their priorities. Finally, don’t trade what you know for what you don’t know.
You may doubt yourself and your decision to start a company from time to time, wondering if it was the right choice or if you are the right person. Persevere through it. If you are diligent, honest and your company brings value to the table, you will see the light at the end of the tunnel and it will not be a train.
I am thankful for every aspect of these experiences both exciting and challenging. They have taught me a lot and are preparing me to guide my organization for the future. Therefore, I look forward to what is coming next with hope and resolve.