10 years ago today, I started a web design/development business with 4 partners. Two of those partners have since left, while two others joined. The company changed into a software development business. It grew, and then shrank, only to start growing again. It’s almost impossible to count all the significant changes or learning experiences. Sometimes it feels like it’s been a long time, other times it feels short. This is a period of significant reflection for me, in both my personal and professional lives. But I promise not to get too sappy on you. Honest. With that in mind, here are some things I’ve learned from 10 years as an entrepreneur. Certainly, this isn’t everything I’ve learned, but these points (for whatever reason) hover in the back of my mind all the time.
- Being responsible for other people’s livelihoods is an awesome responsibility. I use the word “awesome” because it’s both wonderful and colossal at the same time. If you ever hire someone don’t de-value the fact that your business has created a job.
- Being an entrepreneur does NOT mean doing it alone. You’ll rely on partners, friends, family, contacts, and you’ll do it often. Don’t think that being an entrepreneur puts you in a silo; even if you’re a 1-person operation. But, don’t rely on others to make you successful. Take responsibility and make things happen.
- You will never stop wearing a lot of hats. Hats that fit. Hats that don’t fit. Crappy, tight uncomfortable hats. Hats with holes in them. Beautiful hats. Hats that sparkle. You’ll do what you’re good at and learn to slog through the rest. And you’ll have to learn to do things you don’t like and do them well. And that’ll never stop.
- If you’re going to sleep at the office, at least buy a couch. Many years ago I worked so many hours I slept at the office. Deadlines, ya know? For a stretch of time we were working on so many big projects at once that it become more commonplace than not. And I used to sleep on the floor, or leaning in my chair, or a few times, under my desk. That sounds utterly absurd I know, but it’s true. Then we bought a couch. So I slept on that. Then I got some work-life balance and stopped sleeping at the office altogether (thank goodness.)
- If you do ONE thing right, it should be how you treat your customers. Sure you might have built the next greatest widget with the slickest, hottest technology, but no one cares unless you treat your customers right. I always made customer service my #1 priority; I swear it’s saved my arse many times over.
I don’t have anything special planned today. I’ll go to work, do my thing, think about those 10 years and the next 10 ahead of me. Maybe you’ll have a glass of champagne for me. Just don’t share any with Basil![tags]entrepreneurship, business, starting a business[/tags]