What I Learned from 10 Years as an Entrepreneur

It seemed like an appropriate post to write. Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of The Marketing Spot and supposedly, after 10 years in business, you’re should no what you’re doing. Supposedly.

But then as I tried to jot down my list of things I learned I realized that I’m still trying to get a hold on this being a business owner stuff. To some people it comes naturally, to me it’s a lot of work. I don’t just mean a lot of hours of hard work, I mean working at knowing how to own a business.

The most important thing I learned is to keep on learning. An entrepreneur should never feel like he or she has arrived, and I never have. So mine in a continuous journey of learning how to be an entrepreneur. However, there are a few minor lessons from the entrepreneurial school of hard knocks I can share:

1. Focus

I learned this one the very hard way. For a while I tried to operate two businesses. It worked for a while until reality popped my serial entrepreneur balloon, not to mention my ego. To stop losing money, and to survive, I had to cut one of the businesses loose. One year later I had my most profitable year in business.

I wrote about that experience here: Are You Breaking the Law of Focus?

2. Find a Partner

With the exception of three months, I’ve flown solo. The Lone Entrepreneur. I think it’s been my biggest mistake. In my recent podcast conversation with Todd Sattersten, author of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, Todd recommended that every entrepreneur should read The Partnership Charter. It seems that companies founded by more than one person are three times more likely to be successful that singer founder companies.

(You can listen to that complete conversation here: What’s Going on With Business Books?)

But if I did have a partner, I wouldn’t want he or she to be another me. Why would I want to partner with someone who has the same strengths and weaknesses as me? Partners should have shared vision, shared passion. But rather than being the same, they should be complimentary, have different qualities and strengths that together make up a greater whole.

3. Don’t Try to do Everything Yourself

Many times during the past 10 years I thought that just because I could do something, that I should be the one doing it. But doing everything means ignoring the principle of opportunity cost. What could you be doing instead of trying to do everything? You could be doing the most important thing, the thing you’re best at. Hire people to do the other things.

As I look back at the past 10 years, I was most productive when I had other people doing the things I was not best at.

4. Sell Your Soul

It’s easy to get tempted by something that seems like easy money. I’ve always found that the best businesses sell their soul: what they are most passionate about. That’s not necessarily the product. As in the case of Zappo’s, CEO Tony Hsieh’s passion was the customer experience.

Yes, you’re in business to make money, but don’t get tempted by seemingly easy ways to make money. The customer will sense that you are just trying to sell something, anything. They would rather purchase your passion.

(see my presentation on the entrepreneurial spirit: Selling Your Soul)

That’s my short list, but it’s very incomplete. Please help me fill out the rest of this post. What are #’s

5, 6, 7, 8?

Special Offer:

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Marketing Spot, here’s a special deep discount on all my premium webinars. By the end of the day on Monday, use the discount code “10years” and get each webinar for just $10. That’s a $59 discount! (don’t the quotation marks in the code) This event ends midnight Central Time on Monday, October 3rd.

Here are the all the webinars available for $10: Marketing Edge Webinar Series

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