I’m convinced that the craziest thing you could ever do in this life is to become an entrepreneur. Your family and friends will wonder why you insist on being different and difficult. They’ll ponder why you refuse to do what everyone else is doing and won’t get a “real” job. They want you to stop playing around, settle down and ‘get with the program.’ Besides, it’s for your own good, you know. They know what’s best for you since you obviously don’t.
I know you don’t want to hear this, but to some degree they’re right. You might be a tad crazy, but don’t let that get you down. That’s exactly what you need to survive this adventure.
In my case, I started out working for Fortune 500 financial services firms and worked my way up to Senior Vice President of Marketing for a premier wealth management firm. Although I loved marketing financial services, I discovered that I also enjoyed the autonomy and variation of consulting assignments, and subsequently built a career as a successful Marketing Consultant.
In an effort to generate fresh business ideas, I attended a marketing conference for solo entrepreneurs and learned about a host of new marketing and operating business models and strategies. I didn’t know it then, but by the final day of the conference, the trajectory of my life had been changed forever. My week-long experience at the conference served as a catalyst; it fueled my dormant sense of adventure and helped me figure out how to combine my passion for education, specifically my college admissions counseling experience, with my marketing expertise.
Several months later, my new business was born – The College GuruTM, a college admissions counseling firm that organizes, prioritizes and guides parents and students through the ultra competitive college application process. Each day is an adventure as I take on the multifaceted role of chief strategist, drill sergeant and cheerleader for students trying to find their place at a selective college.
Now what about you? No matter where you are in your entrepreneurial journey, the idea formation stage, new business owner or seasoned veteran, there are some tenets that hold true for those of us who are taking the road less traveled. On days when you are overwhelmed and unclear about what to do next, consider the ideas here to help get you back on the right track!
This is not so easy to do given we are bombarded with celebrity images that serve to illustrate and reinforce that our original selves are not good enough. Don’t fall for it! Be brave enough to be you. You may be soft spoken or more of a bull-in-the-china-shop personality, but it really doesn’t matter. Just stand up and share the real you, quirks and all, then watch people take notice. No, don’t wait until you get an extreme makeover or lose those last stubborn 10 pounds. Show up and be yourself fully without apology. Share your unique gifts. Who you are right now is good enough.
Live Your Life Purpose
When I identified my life purpose it frightened me. Was it true that I’m here for a reason? Do I have what it takes to be that person? Will I have the courage to define my business as an extension of that purpose and do what I was born to do? What will people think of me? After a lot of reflection, I decided it was important to do what was best for me. I’ve since taken the stance that I am reflected in my business, and my business is an expression of me. I encourage you to take the time to define and consider your life purpose, what you are here to do and then do it.
Implement Your Plan
If you can’t recall anything else from my chapter, please remember this: Implement, implement, implement! Successful businesses act on their ideas and unsuccessful businesses do not. We live in a time of ‘analysis paralysis.’ I’ve been guilty of it myself what with my large corporation roots. I’ve attended meetings about meetings, and know how easy it is to fall in love with your plan. You’ve spent lots of time thinking great thoughts and had the courage to put them on paper. Plans are invaluable as they provide direction and vision. However, there comes a time when you have to put down the paper and do something, take action. Remember that if you choose not to act, you will not have customers. And without customers, you will not have a business. No matter how scary it is, get out there and get it done.
Once your family and friends realize what you’re doing, they’re going to have ideas about your business – lots of them. Unless they are your target market or fellow entrepreneurs, respectfully ignore them. Love them, but do not let them drive your business plan. No matter how much they love you, they will not understand. For example, one day I was hard at work fine-tuning my product offerings and shared this information with a friend. Although for years I’d been paid handsomely to develop products and services for major financial services firms, her encouraging response was, “Do you know how to do that?” Enough said.
Be Courageous And Persevere
It takes courage to go on your own and create something from nothing, not to mention the financial risk inherent in these decisions. The best advice I can give you is to stay in action. Some days you’ll accomplish a lot, other days not as much, but keep moving. I’m always amazed that if I stay in action, in a relatively short period of time, I’ll have a trail of accomplishments behind me! I’m learning to be more patient with myself and to know that I don’t have to do it all right now, this very second, or the world as we know it will cease to exist. And on those days when you’re overwhelmed, I encourage you to let out a primal scream, cry for a few minutes or chow down on Haagen-Dazs and then get back to work.
Accept That You Will Make Mistakes
Leave perfection at the door. As a recovering perfectionist, I know how hard this is. I’m one of those people who used to worship at the altar of perfection and I am here to tell you, it’s a false god. I pride myself on a job exceedingly well done just like the next person, however, I’ve learned that it’s more important to get the product or service out the door. I used to scoff at an entrepreneur who would do things like schedule a major conference before completing the presentation.
The conversation in my head would go something like, “Is she crazy? That’s just not done! Doesn’t she know there is a proper way to do things?” Yet as I started to observe how much she accomplished and how much money she made (after all, part of this is about the money), I realized that maybe I had it all wrong. Now I get things to a good state and then let them out into the world. I no longer second guess myself and shoot down the idea without giving it a chance to either succeed or fail. If the idea doesn’t work, I tweak it or abort the mission and try something else. You and your business will continue to evolve and that means you will make mistakes.
Enjoy the process as well as your success. I continue to work on this one as I’m notorious for starting a project, watching it take root and then running off to the next big thing. Now I take the time to acknowledge and congratulate myself. I tell myself that I am absolutely fabulous (this takes practice) and then share my triumphs with my entrepreneur friends. In addition, I try not to take myself so seriously. I must confess this did not come easily to me after spending many years working on Wall Street.
Remember: This is your business. Embrace it. Own it. Enjoy it. Live and love your life!
“Just be yourself and say what you mean because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss
About the Author:
Geanine Thompson is Founder and CEO of The College GuruTM, a college admissions counseling firm. A graduate of Dartmouth College with a BA in English, she continued her studies at Duke University, the Fuqua School of Business where she received an MBA. She has extensive experience developing marketing strategies for Fortune 500 financial services firms in her roles as Senior Vice President and Marketing Consultant. For FREE tips on winning college admissions strategies go to www.TheCollegeGuru.com.
It will look like this: The 7 Tenets to Successful Entrepreneurship