Nineteen years ago, I had this crazy idea sitting at my corporate desk that if I was going to work this hard for them, I might as well work that hard for myself. I kept thinking to myself, "Julie, how can you even think of this - you must be off your rocker to consider leaving the reliability of a paycheck and benefits." But it was like a lightning bolt from the sky - an intense thought that grabbed hold of this young woman at the exuberant age of 28, and it never let go. They say this is the first inclination you are an entrepreneur.
From that day to this, I feel compelled to share with every woman who is reading these words, that if I had the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. It was the right decision, made me wise beyond my years, and honestly comes with zero regret. However, it was not an easy road. In fact, there was no road at all in my chosen field of estate liquidation. Therefore, I found myself at an instant crossroad before I even took my first step: Do I move forward into the abyss not knowing what I am doing and make a road for others to follow one day? Or Should I turn around and stay in a job that I didn't care for with a steady paycheck? As it turned out, I discovered I am an excellent bulldozer and paved my way to success. The really great news is that if I can do it, you can too.
One of the first lessons you learn as an entrepreneur is that while there are a multitude of resources out there for you, ultimately you are on your own. This can be an isolating feeling; you learn quickly what you are made of. It takes great strength and stamina to fulfill your dream, not to mention the patience and support of those closest to you. More than that, it takes tenacity of the spirit, a positive mindset when you feel like crumbling and crying (and yes, it will happen), and the ability to get back up when you were just knocked down.
Even as a mother, when my daughter was learning to walk and she stumbled and fell, I would encourage her to get right back up immediately, brush herself off, and go on to her next adventure. So too, is the unpredictable life of an entrepreneur. Get right back up and no matter what, keep moving forward. Throughout the years, there have been many times I related myself to the hamster that jumped on the wheel with lots of vigor, but never really ended up anywhere. Looking back, I actually was going somewhere, but there are times we are held in a type of holding pattern before proceeding -- like reaching a plateau as you are losing weight -- very frustrating, but part of our personal growth.
There are many different reasons people venture out to become entrepreneurs. Some receive a strong calling - perhaps they have an invention in their mind, or offer services which bring relief to the consumer. Others will feel they are better off building their own business; still others thrive on the satisfaction they receive on the road to success. For me, it was all of the above.
What I wouldn't have given back then to have the experience and valuable knowledge I possess today!! Here, in a nutshell, I share with you the most important lessons I have learned in building a successful company:
1. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't do it. You can and will find a way. People who normally say things like that can be a bit envious of the entrepreneurial spirit, or perhaps live with regret themselves. It's also possible they just don't understand it.
2. If you don't try, you will always wonder about what "could have been." Avoid living with regret and guilt by trying your best. Regret will catch up with you when you are an elderly woman, as I see so often in my senior clients who share that with me. Nothing bad can ever come from trying. The human spirit needs to put forth effort to have some sense of satisfaction.
3. When you come to several crossroads in your life as an entrepreneur, always go with your gut instinct. Interesting that we often let our heads get in the way of what our gut already knows. My gut has never lied to me. Tune into it, listen attentively and keep moving. Do not get stuck in the decision making process. If the first decision didn't work, try another approach. Did you know Thomas Edison had over 10,000 attempts on the light bulb? Thank goodness he didn't quit!
4. Stay the course. So you have stumbled and what you had planned isn't working. Take polls from business leaders you trust. Ask questions and figure out what is needed to move on to the next level. Perhaps you need a different company image, or you are not marketing to the appropriate people. Ask, ask and ask again until the answers come.
5. Figure out what it is specifically that makes you different and better than your competitors. What is it that makes your company better than the competitor? Capitalize on those differences and you now have a new marketing campaign -- a fresh approach to hammer away at those you mean to reach, whether by email, handing out fliers, dropping off marketing packets, etc.
6. The best advertising in the world is a happy customer. No amount of high dollar advertising is nearly as good as the people you please with your work. The part that most entrepreneurs forget is to ASK your clients to tell others about you. You must become a shameless self-promoter, but do so graciously and always with a smile. Branch out your marketing by going after large groups of people, corporate events, civic organizations, faith based organizations, etc. Find a way to get in with large groups of people at one time. Think smart!
7. Identify what it is you are selling. Sounds crazy, but most people haven't figured out they are not selling gizmos or a service. I am an estate professional who specializes in personal property. Do I just sell people's stuff? No, I sell a solution - multiple solutions. A humanity-based solution. Solve their problems, take away their pain, and I can almost guarantee you a successful venture. Really think about this one!
8. Follow through with passion and tenacity. My business advisor told me many years ago that the real reason entrepreneurs don't make it isn't for lack of great ideas. There are many bright, ambitious and creative entrepreneurs-to-be out there. They simply fail for one of two reasons: financial reasons or they never go for it with everything they've got. The follow through is weak and the business never has a fair chance at taking off because people are easily frustrated. He then predicted I would make it because I had the tenacity and the passion to do so.
9. Be the best at what you do. Don't allow yourself, your ideas or your company to get swallowed up by others who do the same thing. You must do it better, as the cream always rises to the top.
10. Always look forward and never look back. Ever notice how some people live in the past and seem to get stuck there? It's OK to visit the past and learn from what went wrong, but then, turn it into a positive so it works to your benefit.
11. For every problem you encounter, there is a solution.
12. Always be kind, courteous and compassionate. Kindness gets noticed because so few people actually practice it.
May this guidance bring as much happiness and success to your life as it has mine.
©2010 The Estate Lady