Lessons Learned in the First Three Years

It’s the time of year when people take stock of their lives and careers, and think about positive changes.  I read an article this morning that prompted me to do the same.

After 30 years in the corporate world, I left in 2012 to start Advisory and Consulting Services.  I launched my new firm with the expectation that it would provide the balance, freedom, and satisfaction that I was missing. Time to take stock.

My favorite site for talent acquisition and related insight is The Undercover Recruiter. Recently, they posted an article The Top 6 Benefits of an Office-Free Job that discusses various aspects of entrepreneurship, and it prompted me to think about my lessons learned.

Today, I am working harder than I had planned, but having more fun than ever.  I’m blessed with a team to accompany me on the journey.  I have great clients, and growing revenue and profit.  All the indicators point in the right direction.

So, what have I learned along the way?

  1. Revenue is King, Queen, President, and Emperor

Even though I knew better, I found myself at times spending time on activities centered around on “getting ready” when I should have been out selling.

Given experience in sales, I knew this, but didn’t necessarily feel it.  It really hits you when you start to think “which bill should I let slide?”, or worse, “what should I tell my wife about what kind of income to expect next month?”

  1. Time is Precious

I suspect the typical entrepreneur shares similar traits with me.  We think we have new, better, and more effective ways of doing things and can generally do it better than anyone else.

At first, I looked at building my own web site (“I used to be a developer, how hard could it be?”), doing my own bookkeeping (“My business is simple; this should be a snap with Quickbooks”), and writing / formatting / editing documents (“I want it to read just right”).

After repeated experiences of working late nights and watching the sales pipeline get thin, I realized I was spending my time in the wrong place.

Unless it generates revenue, get somebody else to do it!

  1. Develop Multiple Revenue Streams

A typical business launches around a concept that is somehow unique or opportunistic in the market.  Advisory and Consulting Services was no different.  Early on, I received a piece of advice from my pal Mary Dielman at HireCIO that was invaluable.

Typically, in a startup with a single product or service, revenue varies considerably. You will have good months and bad months.  Clients you thought were “locked in” will evaporate. Economic cycles will affect buying decisions.  You will experience “feast and famine”.

Mary suggested alternate services to provide additional revenue streams.  This advice has turned out to be a gem. In my case, this second service line grew exponentially and is much more scalable than my original vision, so much so that it is being broken out into a second company (watch for Falcon Resource Group!).

  1. Build a Team To Build Your Capability

There is a streak of independence in entrepreneurs.  The thought of “me vs. the world” and winning motivates us.

Short story, we are quite often bad at asking for help. At least I am.

This past year has been an incredible year, and 2016 looks to continue the trend.  The number one factor in this success has been that others have joined me along the way.

Find like-minded people, and bring them into the fold. Let them share in the success.

  1. Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

One of the pleasant discoveries is a newfound ability to tolerate and manage risk.  I have always been a bit conservative in business, and reluctant to give up control when it comes to getting things done. Ask my former co-workers!

Controlling and managing things to the nth degree will not work as an entrepreneur (see #1 and #2).  You have to trust yourself and others that it will work out, and if it doesn’t, you can manage the downside.  When I look back at the first six figure deal we bid and won, it was a huge leap for me to trust that we could figure it out.

Now, I will need to ensure this recent confidence does not become reckless bravado!

  1. Have Mentors

If you think you have all the answers, think again. Make sure you have folks in your circle that you can bounce ideas off of, that you can learn from, and that will tell you straight when you are off course.  Somebody who is not afraid of hurting your feelings or smacking you when you need to wake up to reality.

Again, I am blessed with a network of these people, and I pay back by serving as a mentor to others when I can.

There is much to be said for pursuing the entrepreneurial life, and it is a great experience, whether you fail or succeed. It’s not for the faint of heart or the ones that value security above all.  It teaches you how to bob, weave, and jab when the world throws its punches.

For me, I can’t imagine anything much greater.