Stop Romanticizing Entpreneurship

Picture this.

You wake up without an alarm on a weekday. You take half an hour to meditate, another half an hour to do some bodyweight exercises. You grab a light brunch before heading to the office so you can tackle the to-do’s you set the night before. You click some buttons, sign some checks. You take a client call some time in between. Business is booming!

Before you know it, the clock says 6:00PM and you’re off to dinner and drinks with your friends. You talk all night about how amazing it is to run a business. I mean, what’s not to love? You make your own money. You have full control of your time. You have no boss. You get to do whatever you want to do. You don’t understand why you didn’t take the leap from employee to entrepreneur sooner.

Except that this isn’t entrepreneurship. It’s a damn fairy tale.

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The Struggles Of Writing

This year, I finally got to start writing for my blog. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time now. So far, it’s been really insightful. I think it’s an amazing way to share my life with family and friends while developing skills I need for work.

I’ve had some great hits as well as some epic flops in the 20+ stuff I’ve written so far. Maintaining my blog has been a really important part of my personal growth this year. I feel like I’m still crafting my writing style and finding my voice.

I understand now why people hire copywriters or why authors take long to finish a book. Writing looks easy but it’s not. There is so much that goes into a single page or paragraph. It really is an art form that takes years to master.

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Lessons And Failures From A Young Entrepreneur

My marketing agency turned one-year old last week!

 

When my partner and I opened business, nobody wanted to take a chance on us. We had to take a lot of bad contracts and do more work than we signed up for just so we could get going. We had clients who cut us off mid-contract. We had clients who refused to pay despite service already rendered. We also had clients who berated us and forced us out of our agreements. Quite the baptism of fire for us.

Despite all of that, I have no hard feelings or regrets. I understand that it’s all part of the process. This is all part of growing up in the industry.

But it wasn’t all bad news for us.

I’m happy to say that we’ve already serviced over 30 (?!) different clients in various industries like government, technology, food, and real estate. We’ve nearly tripled the size of the team since we started. And most importantly, we continue helping our clients fulfill their commitments to their customers and communities. Our mission is to help them fulfill their missions!

I am really proud of this milestone considering I had zero experience working in an agency when I started. It was a year full of fun, learning, and growth. To cap off the week-long celebration I’ve had in my head, I wanted to share my biggest lessons (and failures) from Year 1:

1) Stay ultra-conservative with cash flow.

Cashflow is the lifeblood of your business. Without it, you can’t do anything. Repeat after me: YOUR PASSION CANNOT PAY THE BILLS! When we started, we thought that we would be able to manage our expenses well and collect payments easily.

It never happened.

There were so many expenses outside of what we forecasted. It was also quite the challenge to collect payments from clients. There were dozens of times we got stuck because we didn’t have enough cash to make things work. Shit happens so it would be smart to be ultra-conservative with projecting costs and anticipating your cash flow. Make sure you have enough cash for all the rainy days.

2) Be picky with who you do business with.

This works for your suppliers and your clients. It’s hard to move around or get things done when the people you’re supposed to be “partners” with try to shortchange you or unfairly cut you off. We took many deals and we got burned badly.

Looking back now, I would’ve passed on certain opportunities just because we weren’t a good fit with the supplier or client. Trust me on this. Some deals aren’t worth the emotional stress. If you don’t benefit equally from the arrangement, it would be wise to reassess the situation. Doing business with a supplier or a client should be beneficial for both parties. It shouldn’t be parasitic.

3) Respect your own time and worth.

This advice works two ways.

First, learn to value your own output. I have seen how many people take creative work for granted. It’s not as simple as clicking and copy pasting. There is a lot of effort that goes into making a single design or video. Say no to clients who aren’t willing to match (or at least come close) to what the market is actually paying for the same service.

Second, pay yourself. My partner and I took little to no salary at the beginning for the sake of the business. It didn’t take too long for it to backfire on us. The stress that comes with financial instability will pour over to work. Even as the owner, you must be compensated fairly for your time.

4) Invest in people.

I will never take full credit for our success. Never. I played only one role in this whole act. It’s my team that makes the magic happen. I would be absolutely nothing without them.

A huge part of our success stems from the fact that I invest in the growth and well-being of my team. I don’t allow consistently working long hours at the office. I give my team full creative control over campaigns. Hell, I even require everyone to pursue a passion or project outside of the office. My team will always come first on my list.

This was a philosophy my partner and I shared from the very beginning. The commitment we have to the growth of the team has returned positive results for us. Business is great because we take care of our people.

5) Do things with love and service.

It’s easy to get disheartened or jaded doing business. Many people only want to make money. They are even willing to step on other people if necessary. Fight against this. I’ve always taught my students that businesses exist to solve problems. Profit is a measure of how effective your solution is. It shouldn’t be the end-goal. The financial rewards will follow after great service.

I’m proud to say that clients happily refer us to their family and friends because we do everything with love and service. We do our best to overdeliver on our promises. We stay transparent with everything we do. We will never compromise the integrity of our work. Yes, it will get frustrating but this will never get in the way of our commitment. When you do things with love, amazing stuff tends to happen to you.

Be The Leader Your Team Deserves

There are plenty of factors that decide how far you will go in your career but nothing is as important as the company’s leadership. Many people remain stagnant in a job simply because their respective leaders don’t value their growth or involvement.

Here is what you should do to be the leader your team deserves:

1) Ask for input.

Regardless of where they stand in an organization, everyone on your team has something to offer in the decision-making. You have to recognize that their input is valuable. Involve them in key meetings and always ask for their thoughts. You need all the perspective you can get and your team is always the best place to start.

2) Promote transparency.

Many leaders tend to leave their teams in the dark on problems the company goes through. By explaining the context of an issue, you are able to give them a better understanding. Being transparent with what’s going on will help your team navigate through situations better.

3) Provide opportunities to learn.

You are directly responsible for the growth of your team as professionals and individuals. Always look for ways for them to learn something new. Invite them to meetings they aren’t usually part of. Sponsor an online course. Share books and articles. Be committed to their growth by giving them the right opportunities. Their development as people will allow them to their work better.

4) Give feedback constantly.

A great leader knows how to give both positive and negative feedback. When you get the chance, praise your team for accomplishing a task or project. Don’t be selfish with your compliments. Similarly, always communicate the things they can do better at. Explain to them were they went wrong and offer ways they can make up for it.

5) Lead by example.

The best leaders are the ones who lead by example. Any value you uphold must be something you embody as well. It’s hard to commit to a standard when you’re barely reaching it yourself. If you want your team to be on time, you have to be on time. If you want your team to be transparent, you have to be transparent. Your team watches and scrutinizes your every move. You will be able to show them the way to success by practicing what you preach.

Recognize your responsibility.

Your responsibility as a leader goes beyond just financial metrics. Your team’s growth and overall morale should be a top priority. When you become the leader your team deserves, they become the driving force of your company’s success.

Doing What You Love Sucks

We’ve all heard it before.

If you want to be happy in this world, then you must go out and follow your passion. If you want a fulfilling career, you must do what you love. Life is too short for a 9–5 so go quit your dead-end job and become a full-time starving artist or a broke entrepreneur or both! #YOLO

This is bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit.

I’m careful with giving this piece of advice because I don’t want to create unrealistic expectations. As someone who has been doing what he loves since graduating, I can tell you that it’s nothing like how it’s advertised. All these feel-good articles and speeches left out an important note: doing what you love can actually suck.

Let me tell you why.

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