Advice for My (Much Earlier, More Naive) Entrepreneurial Self
(Note: Much of this post first appeared on the Prosperity’s Kitchen website under the title, “An Open Letter to New Entrepreneurs.” I’ve modified the text somewhat.)
I’m really proud of you for taking charge of your dreams and making things happen! And look, I know you’re excited about the future.
You SO should be.
Are you sleeping, though? All those adrenaline-filled days and nights can make you feel like you can change the world. Just be sure you take care of that body while you’re all wrapped up in thoughts of world domination.
And I know you probably don’t want to hear this right now, but stay away from fast food and take more walks. Your passion has the power to infect others, for sure. But it also has the power to take over your entire life. And you might end up ignoring what really matters: your most important relationships. (When was the last time you called Grandma?)
My best piece of advice for you is: Keep It Simple.
Make a list of just three things that will move you toward your goal the fastest and then work on those and forget the rest.
For you, this means getting out there and meeting people. Building your network. Sharing yourself and your expertise. It doesn’t mean learning how to attract 10,000 Facebook fans (that kind of thing won’t mean crap to your bottom line, trust me). It also doesn’t mean whipping out your credit card multiple times a day to pay for things that really don’t matter. (Especially those memberships to professional associations you think you need for credibility. Seriously? The Better Business Bureau? Four different Chambers of Commerce? Please!)
And don’t shy away from giving away your services in the beginning. But for the love all that’s holy, do it strategically. Make sure you know who your Ideal Customer is and where you can find them. Then, go there and give yourself away.
But be sure to ask for something in return. A review, a testimonial, a connection to someone in the media. Or even better — feedback on how to make your thing even better.
Beware of Hype
You’ll need and want to find mentors who can help you get where you need to go. But, you’re bootstrapping, and cash is tight. Guard your wallet carefully. (Did you hear what I just said about the credit card? Put that sucker down.)
Don’t shell out thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars to someone making promises that sound too good to be true. You’re way smarter than that. You know that short cuts and secret tricks are lies made up by nefarious marketing types.
And you know there’s absolutely NO substitute for hard work. Remember all those get rich quick schemes you fell for as a kid? There are 10x as many on the internet these days. So, if someone promises you the “Blueprint to 6 Figures” or the “Roadmap to Crushing it Online,” just back. the hell. AWAY. You know better!
Look for humble people. The ones who reply to your emails and aren’t afraid to share you with their networks. The ones who don’t treat you like you’re just another name on their list. Those are the ones you want to learn from. They’re the ones who can help you the most.
For Every Peak, There’s a Valley
It might not seem like it now, but once you’re in the thick of things, your passionate adrenaline-filled days will begin to wane. Don’t panic — this is perfectly normal. The thing is, your goals won’t materialize as quickly as you’d hoped. This isn’t Instant Gratification Land. This is Planet Earth. A planet filled with billions of other people and their billions of other dreams. If it were just you and your dreams, then sure — you could manifest things almost instantaneously. But we’re talking about lots of different agendas and needs here. Yours isn’t the most important one. So be okay with things taking a little longer. And don’t give up too soon.
Embrace Your Inner Child…AND Your Inner CEO
Make time every week to wear your CEO hat. To plan your plans and check in on the big picture stuff. (Re-read Michael Gerber’s the E-Myth Revisited.) To dream Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. And then figure out the best path to get there.
Also? Make sure you build in enough time for building real relationships with people. You’re going to want to collaborate more than you think.
And finally? Make everything FUN. Don’t take this “changing the world” thing too seriously. You didn’t start this business to make yourself another J-O-B. So if (when) things start to feel like one, that’s a clear sign that you need to step back and think about how to bring more fun to the table. Nurture your creativity and stay curious about the world and how things work. Your ability to stay passionate about what you’re doing depends on it.
Oh, and for Pete’s sake, don’t spend all your time on this thing.
When was the last time you painted a picture? Or read some fiction? Dig out that camping gear! Spend time with your friends and family. Nobody ever said, “I wished I’d worked more hours” on their deathbed. Even if those hours were for something you believed in with all your heart and soul. Your time away from the business will actually keep your energy and passion high — and bring you better ideas and more creative insights. Lastly, watch this and stay inspired:
If you can remember — and live — these things, you’ll be well on your way to creating the world changes — and the life — you’re here to make.
With love, Your (Much) Older-Wiser Self
I might not have answered the question, but you definitely went way beyond ONE thing! ;-)Despite that, this is all fantastic advice – in particular, taking care of your body and spirit (through art). The best piece of advice for me was: There’s no substitute for hard work. Ze Frank’s quiet desperation in that clip and William Shatner’s “At My Age”-style enthusiasm for doing the next project are cut from the same cloth.It’s hard to think this way when you’re eating ramen out of an old yogurt container with a DQ spoon… but definitely worth considering! 🙂
I so wish I had read this letter, had it framed and hung above my desk the day I hung my shingle over my door Tea. It should be read to college graduates too! Do a poster, but you could do this as a video as well. Like Ze Frank.
I second that
This resonates Tea and reminds me of the early years. I love Laura’s allegory to romantic notions which we absorb without realising and which have nothing to do with reality. I went into business without a plan. What I learned a few years into it was MAKE A BUDGET. One year and five year budgets.This is what I’d tell my starting self. In the cold light of a spreadsheet you see where your romantic notions are just that. Don’t get carried away by people who talk big and seem to know what they are doing – check them out. Even before internet marketing scams, there were plenty of people ready to lead new entrepreneurs up garden paths.That’s why you stand out – with quality, generosity and ethical attitude.
Thanks for being one of the humble peeps Tea. You are a gem. This was perfectly said and inspired me to write my own letter. But for now, I’ll keep reading yours.
I’m going to third the idea of a poster. And that this advice is good for entrepreneurs of all stripes. I know I don’t want to hear from daughter when she’s all grown up – “Mom you never had time for me, you were always working”
Forget “new entrepreneur advice”, Tea – this is rock-solid ANY-entrepreneur advice. So many traps, so little time to fall into and get out of them all…Where to begin… don’t waste money on promises? Sometimes you’ll get bored? Remember you have a life? Step away from the Oreos?I think you should turn this into a poster so we can all hang it on our walls as a reminder of how to run a business while staying sane. ::::applause::::
This is great, Tea – you should make it into a poster. I love “Nobody ever said, “I wished I’d worked more hours” on their deathbed.” So true.
Lovin’ these words, Tea —> “This isn’t Instant Gratification Land. This is Planet Earth.”This is one of those evergreen posts we should all come back and revisit as often as necessary … till we really “get” all the timeless truths you’ve shared. You’ve helped me to envision a new goal. I want me and my biz to be …Beautifully and desirably imperfect. 🙂
Oh man Tea, this is so spot on. Every single point are things I needed to hear then and often still need to hear now. The image of entrepreneurship is much like the image we have of love as a result of too many romantic comedies. The biggest challenge we have is separating our image of what this whole gig is suppose to be and letting it be what works best for us. All these reminders are so vital to do just that!