By: Joanne Verkuilen
I may have the risk-taking gene. When I was 14, I would drive myself around town in my mother's station wagon while she was away. I would go to the skating rink, pick-up groceries and even visit my boyfriend. Was I nervous about getting caught? Only that time when a cop flashed me because I had my high-beams on, and when I didn't get the message, he started to follow me. Luckily, I figured it out in the nick of time, and turned them off.
I haven't changed much, although hopefully I am a bit more intelligent in terms of calculating risk.
This is the second time I can call myself an entrepreneur. I started a company with my uber-talented sister about six years ago, and recently, I joined two trusted colleagues in a start-up focused in international financial services. Is there risk? Yes. Is it manageable and will I live through it? Of course. Will I feel a sense of accomplishment no matter the outcome? Hell yes.
Energy is everything. Staying focused and efficient is tantamount to success. To stay positive through the abundance of problems we have already overcome in our short existence, here have been my go-to strategies:
1. Have the difficult conversations.
You will quickly get over the initial exuberance when you first start out and you believe that "EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!" and your plans will take shape exactly as you planned. Give it about two months when that period ends and the real work begins.
And when you start to feel that the situation is bleak and the disappointments seem to keep happening, it's so important -- in fact absolutely imperative -- to speak frankly about these concerns and fears with your partner(s) or a trusted advisor. If you don't have a trusted advisor, find one immediately.
2. Be aware of your fears and label them.
Coming face-to-face with your personal insecurities is tantamount to getting comfortable in any situation you may find yourself in. And when you are starting your own company, those situations crop up every single day.
The brain is an instrument, and we like to think we are in command of this instrument from an analytical perspective.
The truth is, however, we are all emotional human beings. We think through this filter of emotion that tends to veil and complicate things. We get hurt, we get scared, and we get stressed. Warranted in some cases, but probably over-reacting in most everything else.
3. Be helpful.
I love this quote from Peter Diamandis: "The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people."
Isn't it really that simple? I think we like to make things way more complicated than they need to be. And if time is against us, finding ways to simplify decisions should be an enormous priority.
When you distill it down to the essentials, forgetting about the dollars and cents of the "qualified lead" you are pursuing, you realize you are there to be of service. Once you begin to truly help others, you have the beginning elements of a successful business. Being helpful to your clients/customers is the best marketing exposure you can get.
4. Be OK with "No."
I am still not okay with no, but I am getting better. Rejection is one of my deep-seated fears that I acknowledge and label so that I can rationally work though that emotion. Otherwise, I find myself in the Facebook-procrastination-abyss, making me feel even worse.
You will hear "no" from potential new customers and clients, and it will come in many forms. Getting ignored is certainly one way, and probably the worse kind.
Assuming that this isn't a product/service marketability question, playing the numbers game associated with sales and marketing gets you to the point of actually looking forward to getting the no's, as that means you are getting closer to the yes's.
5. Pivot, and do it quickly.
Every entrepreneur should read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. The central idea is to quickly iterate, change and improve -- not every six months, or every few months but basically every day.
The sad fact is that most start-ups fail. Start-ups either act too slowly or invest too heavily before interacting with the market at large.
Our start-up is a professional services firm, so we are trying to have as many conversations as possible with clients and the market at-large, asking a lot of questions, going back to the drawing board and ensuring that our strategy makes sense and value is maximized for our clients.
By the way, you assume correctly -- I am excellent at driving station wagons.
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