I have a secret to confess. I own a small business, but I don’t feel like an entrepreneur.
I started out as a freelance web designer. The benefit of this lone-wolf mindset is that you can preserve your clarity of vision. You alone possess the authority to make decisions quickly. The drawback of course is that you can make bad decisions just as fast. My ratio was about 50/50. I suppose this could be the result of not having any formal business training. I’ve always relied on common sense to see me through to the next project.
Eventually, my intuition decreed that I expand. After all, no man is an island. I hired a small team. Despite a few bumps in the road, I was able to persevere. At this point, I could never go back to freelancing.
Here are 3 tips for any aspiring entrepreneur—especially those with a fiercely independent mindset (such as mine). Trust me, owning your own business is way more rewarding when you make it less of an isolated journey.
1. Get a Coach
Meeting my business coach Nick (Enable Business Consulting) was an integral part of my agency’s success. What a coach or business mentor provides—especially when you’re first starting out—is an unbiased perspective, motivation and validation. However, like any investment, make sure you do the research. I spoke with several of Nick’s clients first. Finding the right fit is important. Trust is key and it’s a two-way street. Nick interviewed me as much as I interviewed him when we first connected. With coaching, I was able to create a vision plan for the future, which meant defining a sales process and hammering out a long-term budget. Our relationship continues to this day.
2. Find Trusted Lieutenants
Every small business owner requires awesome lieutenants. Mine bring a valuable skill-set that allows me to remove myself from the trenches, which is a luxury. However, once you and your inner team have agreed upon a desired outcome, be mindful that the process for achieving that goal is open to debate. It is tough to relinquish control sometimes, but the upside is having partners who will alleviate pressure and delegate tasks.
3. Have an Audience
I’m a big fan of software entrepreneur Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp. I recently read an article where he talked about his active participation in group settings. He didn’t want his random suggestions misinterpreted as the “last-word decision.” By offering an abundance of ideas at any given time, he empowers his staff to do the same. In this way, the best idea will emerge, not just his. I tend to think out loud naturally; as such, I am constantly sharing my plans with the team. Fortunately, the office space supports this and I receive a lot of feedback. This open dialogue serves two purposes. It prevents me from drinking my own proverbial Kool-Aid, and it also nullifies any unexpected surprises for the team down the road.
Whether you consider yourself a small business owner or an entrepreneur, the stresses involved can be tremendous. Part of my achievement-driven personality demands that I be left alone to formulate my thoughts. I need this. That being said, my daily ritual isn’t complete until I play a card game with my staff. It’s all about finding the right balance that works for you. Surrounding yourself with good people never hurts.