Seven Story Learning turns one year old on August 16th 2011 and it’s time to pause and reflect on what I learned in the first year.
- Perseverance. It’s relatively easy to start your own business, but very difficult to maintain. For a few hundred dollars, I set up my LLC, company name, logo, banking and website, etc. Heck, now all I needed was an actual business plan, which brings me to the next point.
- Know thyself. Taking several weeks to honestly assess my strengths and weaknesses was one of the best investments of time I could have made. I systematically wrote stories of times I had excelled and failed, looking for patterns. I asked trusted colleagues and mentors for their insight. I took time to think quietly. While it wasn’t always pretty, I emerged from the process with crystal clarity on my future direction, and how to distinguish myself in the “sea of sameness.”
- Freedom. Starting a business means not having to wait on decisions from multiple corporate committees. You’re the boss, with limitless choices. Hooray! But all that freedom comes with the responsibility to…
- Focus, focus, focus. Duh! Of course, it’s easy to acknowledge the importance of strategic focus at the intellectual level. But I didn’t really understand this dilemma at the visceral level until I had to kill off one of my cherished “awesome” ideas. My biggest early blunder was spending dozens of hours developing 40 pages of a book that was unlikely to be at the core of my business. After that painful experience, I became much better at telling myself “No” to projects that I had an emotional investment in, but no real business strategy.
- Humility. Recognizing gaps in my skills, I set out to bridge them, through formal classes, speaking events, webinars, mentors, and lots of reading.
- Network. It’s not about the sheer number of LinkedIn connections online, it’s about real human relationships. You know – the ones where you actually travel 1-5000 miles in order to meet face to face; or at least pick up the phone to call. Much of my work has come as a result of the network I had in place prior to starting a business, with another significant group of clients coming from the network I’ve cultivated in the twelve months since I’d chosen to leave. Dig the well before the drought. Networking is reciprocal, and I been fortunate to be able to refer trusted colleagues for business opportunities.
- 2011 Rookie Year Stats: 32 networking events and conference attended, 93 unique live meetings, 24 blog posts, 4 custom courses created, countless emails and phone calls, and 9 paying clients with projects across 9 states.
*Happy Birthday photo courtesy of Will Clayton