It’s been just over a year since I left my job to start my own business but it honestly feels like three.
Not just because of all that has happened, but also because of all of the mistakes I’ve made. Luckily, I’ve been able to learn (relatively) quickly from those mistakes (for the most part). Now I present for your benefit, the nine most important things I’ve learned about being an entrepreneur.
1. People Lie
Sure they don’t want do. They might not be doing it on purpose, and they might not have bad intentions, but it just happens. They’ll say things like:
“I’ll call you.”
“We should connect.”
“I definitely need your card.”
But there’s a good chance they won’t, you won’t, and they don’t.
It’s part of interacting with strangers. We want to endear ourselves. We want to think that we have more in common. We want people to like us. People might even genuinely believe they are going to call you but most likely they are just trying to connect with you.
I’ve had people take my card that didn’t email me for three months. I’ve traded cards with people who said they definitely needed my services who then asked if we could connect the following YEAR.
It can be easy to take it personally but hey, it’s just business right? I don’t think so. I try to make the way I do business similar to way I live my life. I fail regularly, but I try to be aware of that.
2. Put Your Business Cards Everywhere
After attending way too many meetings where I didn’t have business cards on me, I realized I wasn’t always going to remember to leave the house with them.
So, one night, I took a couple of hundred business cards and started putting stacks into the pockets of every coat, suit, blazer, and vest that I own. It was extremely helpful.
Sure the less layers I wear the less likely I am to have secret business card stashes which makes summer kind of a gamble. But for the most part it’s a huge help.
If you can’t rely on your memory, void it. Make it unnecessary.
3. Getting Others’ Business Cards Is Better Than Having Your Own
People forget their business cards. They run out. They don’t have their new batch yet, etc. There are plenty of reasons why somebody you want to stay in touch with won’t have a business card. This is irrelevant. You have a phone.
If they don’t have a business card, get their information. Maintain a specific note just for writing down emails and phone numbers of people you want to stay in touch with. It’s worth it. You never know who is going to become a client, a contact, or even a friend. Let fate handle more important stuff than which you will stay in touch with.
4. Meeting People Doesn’t Have to be Hard
I should have remembered my mother’s advice when I started going to networking meetings.
Walking up to people, extending your hand and saying “Hi I’m ____ how’s it going?” is the easiest way to meet people. Granted in Kindergarten it failed miserably and the table of girls went back to talking about rainbow bright or whatever while I stood there with my hand outstretched for what seemed like a week and a half until I finally just walked away.
But as an adult it’s so much easier. I thought I had to make some silly joke or quip, or have some sort of an “in.” But really, it’s straightforward, to the point, and really quite simple. I wish 20 something single me had known this for meeting girls in bars. But then again had I been more successful with women I might not have developed all my interesting hobbies.
My point is getting to know people is no harder than letting them know you have a name and you want to know theirs. Anything beyond that is useless mental gymnastics.
5. Get Better at Listening.
You don’t learn, sell or innovate by talking all the time.
It can be strange at first because our natural inclination is to fill any and all silence that appears by talking about things we are doing, working on or thinking about.
It is far more productive to ask the other person questions. You’ll learn who they are, if you like them, if they have a service to offer you, if you can offer them your service. Ask them a million questions. You can learn something from everybody, even if you end up learning something about yourself.
“What if they don’t return the favor?” you might ask, well then, if they let you ask them questions for an hour without taking even a cursory interest in your business, they are probably not somebody you wanted to do business with in the first place.
6. Play Up
Go after the clients that intimidate you. If you land them that are amazing and it could change your business in a heart beat. Even if you don’t you’ll learn a lot more about the expectations they have, the skills you’ll need to develop, and the road you’ll need to walk in order to land them.
Nobody gets better by doing the same thing all the time. Embarrassing yourself in front of somebody important, screwing up a job you care about, and be humbled are all things that you make better in so many ways.
Being perfect all the time blows. Challenge yourself.
7. Stop Talking Once You’ve Made Your Point
This is one I like to forget weekly.
Again this goes back to our insecurity with silence. Sometimes you don’t need to say anymore. Sometimes people need time to think. Silence can be ok. If you’ve said all you had prepared, all you know, and you continue to talk the chances are very high that you are going to end up saying something stupid.
Good ideas need time to marinate, great notes need time to resonate, and smart people need time to process. Trust the quality and the substance of what you have to offer.
The inability to stop yammering comes across as unintelligent and insecure or incredibly self-involved. Either way, you don’t want to be around those people, or worse, people to think you are one of them.
8. Be The One Who Makes It Happen
What does this mean? I mean if you have a call scheduled, be the one dialing. If you are making plans, be the one who sends the calendar appointment. By taking on the responsibility you will spend considerably less time waiting, wondering, and forgetting. Own it.
A great woman named Danielle LaPorte always says, “Do what you say you’re going to do.” It is fascinating how many people don’t. You are always at least 50 percent responsible for every interaction. That’s the bad news AND the good news.
Moving is so much more rewarding than waiting. Pursuing and failing is impressive. Waiting and failing is common.
9. Go Places With a Purpose
It is amazing how often I meet people at functions or networking events who have no answer to the question “So, what brings you here tonight.”
Many times people will say, “not really sure.”
Really? Not really sure? If you’re not really sure, that makes me not really sure that I want to do business with you. Fake it till you make it.
I’m not saying you can control the universe but you can impact your surroundings. Purpose breed’s confidence, which attracts competence, which fosters substance.
That sentence might be bullshit, but maybe not. Be a person people turn towards instead of one they turn away from. I don’t care if you believe in destiny, “The Secret”, or some new agey philosophy that deals with mind control.
If you are trying to accomplish something you need to aim before your fire.
So there you have it. This isn’t everything I’ve learned, nor are they all things I always remember. But they are the things that stick out the most for me. And if you are starting your own business, or even trying to take a stronger hold of the things in your life, maybe they are helpful to you.
And if all of this is already common knowledge to you, congratulations. Now share what you know with others.
We’ve all got a limited, fixed amount of time here. Let’s use it to help move each other forward.