Business Mistakes Learned the Hard Way: 5 Entrepreneurs Share their Story

Where are you in your entrepreneurial pursuits? Idea stage? Development stage? Growth Stage? Whatever stage that may be, there is excitement and uncertainty. Many of us know to seek out mentors, business coaches, and peers about their experiences and insights. For good reason too: learn from them. Listen to their advice. Take their words of wisdom and apply it to your own situation. Yet, regardless of where we are in the process, we will encounter obstacles and problems. We KNOW we will make mistakes; we KNOW there will be failure, but we fight to minimize the depth of failure. However, there are situations that pop up without warning or they creep up on us to create havoc. These 5 entrepreneurs share their story and lessons learned:

Jennifer Tamborski

Jennifer Tamborski, Virtual Admin Experts: “Hiring people and being a leader is entirely different from the corporate world. I hired employees and set them loose, assuming they knew what I knew. When they came back to me confused and lost, I realized I didn’t have the processes necessary for my employees to effectively perform their job. It’s a process I had to learn as I taught them.”

Lesson learned: a clear, concise, communication and documentation plan must be established. Follow-up with employees is just as important as follow-up with clients.

**

Chris MacLellan

Chris MacLellan, Whole Care Network: “My theological background inspired me to trust without hesitation. That approach to life did not transfer well to business. I didn’t discover this until I handed over the IP (intellectual property) to a business connection in which the gesture was not reciprocated. As a result, I lost lots of money and my humility. It took a great deal of time to restructure my business, much of which conflicted with my trusting nature.”

Lesson learned: Life skills do not always transfer well to business skills.

**

Mary Scott

Mary Scott, Make Believe TV: “Create a clear, contractual arrangement for each project which includes payment agreements and pricing for situations that influence the service offered. All decisions must be clear and understood before the project (or any part of the business arrangement) begins. If it isn’t clear, it will cost a lot of time, money, and frustration.

Lesson learned: Do not rush into a project without the proper documentation.

**

Angie Monko

Angie Monko, Harmony Harbor Coaching: “I jumped into business without a clear plan, quickly becoming distracted by multiple business objectives. I didn’t recognize the situation until ~18 months later when cash flow and momentum declined. It took another 18 months to create a business plan and to begin recovery.”

Lesson learned: Create a business plan, follow it, and revise as your business shifts and grows.

**

Paul Heirendt, True Bearing Advisors: During my corporate days, I had ‘two young guys’ working with me. They frequently joked, ‘You’re not the boss of me’, which resulted in them learning very little and becoming a liability rather than an asset. I eventually left the corporate world and took one of these young guys with me. As his urging, we moved into his uncle’s free office space in downtown St. Louis. The caveat: the uncle’s son must become the CEO of my company. With no written partnership and nearly 100% of the company in my name, I dealt with legal issues, lost opportunities, lost revenue, and lots of bad blood.”

Lesson learned: It’s better off not partnering unless each member can prove their value AND share the same business goals.

**

These entrepreneurs faced some crushing blows to their business growth but regrouped, adjusted and recovered. Communication and documentation were the top business issues. How can you apply their lessons? Share your ideas or stories below.

Kristen Edens
Kris the Scribbler

Entrepreneurs: Are you a Pantster or a Plotter with Your Business Style?

Calendar-Pen

“Vision leads to proper planning and proper planning leads to successful completion.” 
― Farshad Asl, The “No Excuses” Mindset: A Life of Purpose, Passion, and Clarity

 

In the fiction-writing world, two terms define what sort of writer we are:

Pantster: we write by the seat of our pants

or

Plotter: we plot everything out before writing a single word into our first draft.

As an entrepreneur, which are you?

While one form of getting things done isn’t better than the other (as long as it gets done!), plotting requires a bit more planning. If you are a plotter, as I am, here is the process as it has developed for me:

Urgency—don’t make 1 year business goals to yourself or your business—make it 1 month. Break each goal into visible segments that highly depend on one another. Just as you wouldn’t miss a deadline to a client, made a high-demand deadline for yourself.

Accountability—who in your support team will keep you on target, but also stays on target? Choose someone who sets a good example rather than living by the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mantra. Bad habits are contagious.

Hustle—this is the personal kick we give ourselves to get things done. This is the attitude we take when we’re rather watch tv, drink another cup of coffee, or go shopping with a pantster. We sacrifice to make our vision a reality. This is what brings us deep satisfaction when things happen. We must hustle through the obstacles, landmines and vultures that attempt to trip us up.

An editorial calendar for yourself—what do you want to accomplish this month? How can you break it down weekly? Daily? When I was in college, I created an elaborate schedule that include classes, homework, meals, exercise time, friend time, and spare time. As with all these things, they start out well, but they fizzled because of family, friends, and situations (in reality, excuses, avoidance, and delay). To make your personal calendar work for you is to train yourself so those external influences won’t derail or distract you. Implement your virtual assistant, accountability partner, favorite scheduling tool or app. USE THEM—CONSTANTLY!

Establish a consequence chart—what happens if you miss a goal? Make it visible, make it painful. If a weekend vacation is your motivator, then that’s your lost opportunity. If attending an industry conference is your motivator, then HUSTLE so you can attend! If contributing to your child’s college fund or your retirement fund is your motivator—if you don’t reach your business goals, you don’t have the revenue to contribute. OUCH!! If that’s not motivating enough, get out of business.

Create a daily schedule—just as when you worked your 9 to 5 job, you had a set schedule. Make one for your business. As business owners, we have the freedom and flexibility to establish our schedule based on our early-bird vs night-owl preferences, our family, and our self-care. Create a schedule that works for YOU—not someone else, but keep your clients at the forefront. If needed, find an off-site location that gives you the space and uninterrupted time you need to reach your business goals. It’s tough, but it’s necessary for you and your business success.

The busier we get and the more responsibilities we take on (family, business, self), it becomes a little more necessary to plot our course. Looking through your own habits, preferences, and lifestyle, how do you describe your entrepreneurial style?

Kristen Edens

A grandparent in business

Becoming an Entrepreneur: What Must You Let Go?

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Is entrepreneurship something that grows on us? I had always wanted to be a writer, but was guided elsewhere by caring parents. Others had dreams of being an astronaut, a fire fighter, the president, or other well-known careers. Somewhere along the way, our visions changed and led us to considering building our own business. Then one day, we step out and do it—most of the time without financial resources or the support of friends or family. Yet we do it anyway. Even though there are big risks associated with taking that step into the unknown, there are situations or things we must give up for our business to succeed. I interviewed several business owners to find out what they had to sacrifice and the results from their decision.

Mark Allen, WRS Solutions, LLC

“My toughest decision was to close a business. I had to make a decision that was right for me as well as my employees. The answers don’t come easy, but action is still required. The positive gained was the lessons learned. I grew from the experience.”

Bill Prenatt, Experts 4 Entrepreneurs

“Letting go of control was my toughest decision. I’m 72, and couldn’t continue with the pace and demands of business. I mentioned my intention to step down at a recent board meeting and many associates stepped into various positions so I could still be involved. It was difficult to do it, but I learned that letting go opens other opportunities. Similarly, the partners weren’t aware of how much I contributed until they got involved.”

Angie Monko, Harmony Harbor Coaching

“I put in long hours and wear a lot of hats in my business. I don’t get to clock out at 5pm on Friday, and I don’t have a guaranteed paycheck to rely on. Joining a networking organization helped balance business and taught me more of what I needed to know. The ultimate lessons I learned is about giving to others, fulfilling their needs and helping them grow.”

Don Guenther, Hockey Valet

“The biggest sacrifice is time and sleep. Many entrepreneurs have a day job, so they give up sleep to research, develop business plans and to build. It takes away from family time. The positive results is the satisfaction that I’ve solved a problem in the world and put a smile on someone’s face.”

Kimberly Moos, Cotton Cuts

“I had to give up on my vision of being the ideal wife and mother—the sports mom, the Pinterest mom, and doing all those great mom and wife things. Instead, I learned how to spend quality time with them and my business without feeling conflicted or stressed.”

Kristen Edens, Kris the Scribbler

“My tough decision was to no longer live with my partner. I was too readily available to their needs—major or minor—and needed to make a change for us all. Read more at Making the Hard Decisions to Preserve Your Quality of Life.

Even though we encounter obstacles and difficult choices, the results from our actions make us all stronger—personally and professionally.

What tough decisions are you contemplating?

Kristen Edens
Kris the Scribbler
A grandparent in business

Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone for More Business Success

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Q: What can I do to build awareness for my business?

A: Step out of your comfort zone!

Owning a business is enough to knock us out of our comfort zone, but when it comes to marketing our business, most of us catapult ourselves into another level of discomfort.

There are plenty of marketing options to consider and they all have the potential to dip into our fears and doubts. Regardless of the options you choose, when you feel those fears or doubts rolling in, reframe your thoughts toward curiosity and possibilities instead. My latest speaking engagement incorporated a bit of doubts, but resulted in more possibilities by implementing a different mindset.

Early October 2016: I contacted the Venture Café organizer to discuss ideas I had for hosting their Office Hour sessions. Following our call, my sessions were approved, and in under a week I had two scheduled:

Social Success for Introverts: tips & wisdom for the quiet entrepreneur, scheduled on October 19, 2016

And

Pep up Your LinkedIn Profile: scheduled for November 4, 2016.

Once scheduled, I eagerly awaited the Venture Café e-newsletter to hit my inbox (usually by Monday afternoon). When Wednesday morning dawned and the email had yet to arrive, the fears and doubts started knocking on my door.

When the e-newsletter arrived at 8:35am, all 6 sessions for Social Success for Introverts filling up by 10:12am! I took a 15 minute break to celebrate and share the good news with my family, my assistant, and on my social media accounts. I also took some time to review my fears and prove to myself that (once again) they weren’t realized.

The day of the event: I arrived an hour in advance, set up my table, and made a quick Periscope broadcast to let listeners know what was happening with Kris the Scribbler. See the replay here:

Social Success for Introverts: Tips & Wisdom for the Quiet Entrepreneur

During the event: 3 of the sign-ups showed up. We had great discussions; they inspired me and I helped them with their problems. For the 3 that didn’t show up, their reserved space was opened for others interested in my topic, but I followed up with them afterward with an invitation to a free 15-minute appointment.

From those that visited my sessions, these were the topics discussed:

  • Criticism is tough. How do I get over that?
  • How do I start a conversation? I never know what to say.
  • How do I break into a small group without appearing rude?
  • How do I keep myself from stumbling over my own words?
  • I have to force myself to attend, but what do I do once I get there?
  • What do I do when the person I planned to meet doesn’t show up?

After the event: I was approached by a business owner who asked if I did onsite coaching sessions.

Lessons learned:

There are plenty of opportunities to pitch an idea. Seek out events that complement you and your business. The size of your audience doesn’t matter; the relevance of your message does. You’ll find eager organizers ready to put you on their calendar and attendees in need of your message.

There’s a crowd interested in your topic. Do your research before pitching; the more you know, the less likely you’ll get a friendly, ‘Good idea, but I don’t think it’s suitable for our audience.’

You know you’ve hit the target when your idea or session fills fast.

Be ready for the unexpected. Seven other visitors approached me after my sessions were over.

Take the positive feedback and build from it! I’ve now got 6 blog topics, several Periscope sessions, a group session in the works, and additional ideas for webinars, company presentations and a new service offering.

All of this came with that first step—out of my comfort zone!

Where will your first step take you?

Kristen Edens

Kris the Scribbler

A grandparent in business

There is No Room for Worry in Entrepreneurship

“If I was to worry, would it change the future?”S. Miles fdp.net
David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine in the Kung Fu television series.

Much of what we learn in life begins with our parents’ teachings. My father taught me that I could be anything I wanted as long as I worked hard. My mother taught me the art of worry. Though my dad considered me determined and hard-working, I unconsciously pick up some of my mother’s worry-gene. This certainly wasn’t something I wanted, but as I entered the entrepreneurial world, worry nipped at my heels. Whenever I told mom of my business ideas, progress or goals, she’d wring her hands and follow up with:

“I don’t know about this, Krissy. It seems so uncertain.”

“Aren’t you worried that you’ll never make any money?”

“I’m worried you’ll fail. Wouldn’t it be better if you got a real job?”

“You’re getting a little old for this. Aren’t you worried about your financial future?”

Gee, thanks, Mom.

However, she had her supportive moments:

“Krissy, honey, if you’re having a mid-life crisis, I’ll be happy to pay for professional counseling.”

Building a business comes with plenty of uncertainties and unexpected obstacles, but worrying or quitting is never a viable option. Sure, there may be times we fall into that toxic mind set, but we need to focus on the truths:

  • Each of us is an expert in our chosen industry
  • We deliver a unique approach to our product or service
  • There are plenty of resources available to help us reach our goals
  • We will make mistakes, but we learn from them and improve
  • We believe in what we do

If worry weighs you down or interferes with your productivity, these tips will help ease your mind:

Focus on your accomplishments: The advantage of being ‘a little bit older’ is that we have a larger pool of memories to boost us up. We’ve seen more, done more and experienced more that challenged us every step of the way. You’ve had some down times, but you bounced back.

Reflect on positive feedback: I often deflected my mother’s worry darts, but they were lobbed so frequently that some hit the mark. During the barrage, I often forgot my father’s positive words. Find those positive words in your life. Review client recommendations and testimonials. In their words you won’t find worry or doubt; you’ll find respect, trust and relief. You solved their problem and made life easier for them. You will continue to do so!

Meditate or exercise: Use this venting time to release pent up energy and fill with positive thoughts. Some days may require a little more time than others, but if worry is already affecting your productivity, then fill that wasted time with activity to clear your thoughts.

Treat yourself: with all we have to do, it’s very easy to overlook our own care. The result: our business, our family and our relationships suffer. Make time daily for yourself, by yourself, to recharge your batteries. This may include your favorite tv show, food, drink, activity, but whatever it is, this is your ME time. Let your family know that this is vital to your happiness—and their survival!

Being a grandparent in business is serious business. Do you have suggestions or other best practices to add? Comment below!

Kris the Scribbler
A grandparent in business

(photo credit goes to Stuart Miles of freedigitalphotos.net)