What I’ve Learned After Seven Years As A Business Owner

On May 11th, 2009, I took the picture on the right while walking the National Mall in celebration of signing what I thought would be a part-time job running websites for a law firm. After years of trying to convince my mother (and everyone else, for that matter) that digital marketing was actually “a thing,” this small validation was an absolute victory in my eyes.

I had no idea how much my life would truly change in the weeks, months and years to follow. Bredell & Bredell would become my company’s first official client, with Price Benowitz LLP as my inaugural Washington D.C. account. Seven years, two employees and 200+ clients later, my company is now approaching the age of a kid in elementary school.

To say it’s been a wild ride is to put it mildly. According to Forbes, Bloomberg reports that 80% of businesses crash and burn within the first 18 months. Now 84 months later,  I can’t help but reflect with awe and wonder; how the hell did I actually manage transform a part-time job out of my college bedroom into a full time career, anyway?

Well, let’s examine what I’ve learned over the last seven years about entrepreneurship and pursuing professional passions.

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    Learn As Much As You Can From Others

    Even if you’re a mastermind with great ideas, there is always a lot to be learned by listening or following the example of others. A mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be older than you to be valuable, just have insight you previously didn’t see.

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    If Someone Likes You Personally, They'll Help You Professionally

    Work on building relationships with clients and other vendors that are genuine and reciprocal. If a person trusts and respects you personally, they’ll bend over backwards to help you professionally.

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    Business Ethics 101: Be Polite & Come Prepared

    This one is simple: don’t waste anyone’s time, period. This means “please,” “thank you,” and arriving on time are paramount to your success. Also, when sitting down with a potential new customer, make sure you’re ready to share something insightful that proves your expertise.

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    Always Pay It Forward: Reputation & Loyalty Matter

    Regardless of whether you started your business from scratch or you inherited a conglomerate, the truth of the matter is that everyone had to start somewhere. Never forget those that helped you achieve your goals, but also remember to pay it forward to business-owners-in-training who are just starting out.

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    Build A Loyal Work Tribe

    Be on the lookout for professionals in comparable and related industries that don’t compete with yours. Not only are these people great to bounce ideas off of, they’re great resources should your clients ever need their services.

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    Constantly Be Evolving: You Can Always Bring More To The Table

    Getting complacent is one of the worst things a business owner could do. To grow your company, you must also evolve as well. An entrepreneur should be constantly adding to their skills list; one can truly never bring enough value to the table.

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    Learn To Recognize Opportunity & Don't Be Afraid To Seize It

    A major difference between successful and unsuccessful business owners is that the latter have the ability to recognize a good opportunity when it presents itself — and have the balls to seize upon it. (Even if that means thinking five or six steps ahead at all times.)

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    Businesses Are Built -- And No One Will Do It For You

    Sorry to break it to you, but businesses must be built — and that takes time, blood, sweat, tears and relentless dedication. As an entrepreneur (or a solopreneur), you are responsible for every role within your company, from operations and HR to account management and service execution. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing upon first starting out BUT success will never come to those who don’t take it upon themselves to figure it out quickly.