As an entrepreneur, I love to learn from the stories of others. When we share our triumphs, challenges and setbacks, we all get a little smarter and wiser a little faster. That was the spirit of the panel discussion, "How to Be Your Own Boss in Book Publishing," held recently at the Exceptional Women in Publishing conference at UC Berkley. Here are some of the top business lessons I shared during the discussion.
1. Be realistic about how you will spend your time. When we fantasize about entrepreneurship, we might picture doing the things we love to do all the time. While there are many wonderful benefits to entrepreneurship, remember that you still have to run a business. You will probably only do the thing that inspired you to start your business about one third of the time. The other one third is time spent running the business and the last one-third is getting customers. Make sure you love the core part of the job so much that you'd do it for free (just don't tell anyone that)... otherwise, it's hard to sustain the energy, passion and workload that owning your own business requires.
2. Stay in your lane of strength. There's a certain level of crazy when you decide to become an entrepreneur. You have to be working in many directions at full speed: developing business, keeping your marriage together, doing the actual work and managing people. Since you are always moving your business forward, there isn't time to get good at things that you don't know or don't do well naturally. Get the right people on your team to fill in those gaps. For example, recruiting is a great skill. I don't have the patience for it. Although I have an amazing group now, I have gone through my share of bad hires. I'm also terrible at numbers, so it really helps that my husband, who joined FSB early on as the CEO, is great at numbers.
3. Stay debt-free if you can. Any company has to face changing trends and shifting economies and our decision to remain debt-free and investor free has helped us survive the dot com bust and the latest recession. While this tip may not apply to everyone, if you can go forward debt-free, it will secure you peace of mind and freedom to run your business as you see fit.
4. Innovation requires time, testing and setbacks. When we're in innovation mode (which is always), we have to run on two tracks: business as usual and running a startup. If I want to try something new or add a service, I'll develop an idea, brainstorm it with my husband and staff and noodle with it for a while. Once we have a viable idea ready for testing, we roll it out. Sometimes, we'll run with an idea for a while, and I'll realize it's not working. At that time, I just say "that was idiotic" and move on to the next thing. Sometimes failing is the best way to learn. Give yourself a free pass when you make mistakes because each mistake makes you a smarter business leader going forward.
5. Something always looks more appealing on the other side. One thing I do miss about my former corporate life is having a boss. I do miss the collaboration, advice and mentorship that comes from having a boss. The raises, promotions and bigger titles that come with a corporate job are clear signs that you are moving forward. When you own your own company, you don't get the same external forms of validation and you don't get a regular paycheck.
Lastly, there are some business tenets that I live by.
Remember that being busy and being profitable is not the same thing.
- Value your time. It's the only way others will too.
- Keep a learning mindset, and don't be afraid to learn the hard way.
- Know when to quit an idea. You can't be brilliant all the time.
Lastly, love the journey. I know I do.
A Note of Appreciation
On the panel, I will be joined by two amazing women entrepreneurs, Charlotte Abbott (Content and Media Strategist, Abbott Communications) and Jill Tomich (co-founder of Slicebooks) We all run companies that specialize in digital marketing, publicity, strategy and content development. Our panel is called " How to Be Your Own Boss in Book Publishing." Lynn Rosen brought us all together, who recently did the bravest thing of all. She opened http://lynnrosen.com/bookstore/a bookstore a Elkins Park, Pa.
The conference was full of interesting women of all ages doing interesting work in publishing, print and digital. The UC Berkeley campus, the food, the wine and the stimulating conversation all made it a top notch event.
The Keynote was given by Jory Des Jardins, SVP Global Strategic Alliances, SheKnows Media and co-founder, BlogHer, Inc. Talking about her entrepreneurial journey, she was honest, real, inspiring and funny. She talked about the value of risk, and I loved hearing her story.
It was challenging to figure out which break out session to attend, they all looked great. LaToya Drake, marketing manager and media outreach of Google did an outstanding job. I thought I was a Google power user and she showed impressive shortcuts and features that were new to me.