Only Read This if You’re a Leader, Business Owner, or Startup Founder

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It started 18 some odd years ago out of the need to make a living and the added incentive that I had grown tired of working for someone else. I’ve always had the entrepreneurial gene within so it comes naturally to me to go against the norms of our social constructs. Thus, make a living doing what I love and know well, and provide a service that benefits other businesses.

And so, upon graduating from an upscale college with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree I realized that I would have to make a viable living. That occupation would be as a professional graphic designer. I allowed myself one year to research, learn, and implement all that needs to be gleaned to label oneself a professional designer.

Working up the ladder of positions (layout, prepress, all things print, and webmaster) I eventually got damned good at what I do. It’s involved a ton, and I mean a ton, of research and constant learning, self-improvement, skills-upgrading, sweat, grit, and usually living over my head.

Now, keep reading as I’m getting to the very valuable stuff. If you are hell-bent on starting and/or running a small/medium sized biz, there is much more to it than what you’ll find through Google and one actually has to live it to learn it. Or, absorb what I’m putting to you here. This is not some self-serving confession but my way of beginning to give back to the Startup community.

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Let’s start with StartUping

I don’t care what you’ve read or studied, it won’t be enough to fuel you through the process unless you’ve been gifted a trust-fund that is larger than $500,000.00. Yep, you can chew through it faster than you can say “shit that went fast”. With that kind of backing, you will be tempted often to spend it because, what the hell, that’s what it’s there for — to invest. In my first adventure, I easily went through $400,000.00 in two and a half years. Now basically that was because I had the wrong mindset. I wasn’t going completely lean and agile. I operated on the premise that if I invested in making my business better (quality equipment, studio, attorney, ads, software, and all the rest) I would naturally gain more clients; clients that would spend the big bucks for high-quality work and they would also return for more. Well, that didn’t happen.

If you’re starting upstart LEAN and adopt an agile approach. Don’t agonize and invest too much time and energy composing an elaborate and detailed business plan. Just don’t. A one-page general synopsis of what you offer, why it’s valuable, and how it’ll fit your market is all you need. Trust me it probably is going to change — you’re going to have to iterate, probably several times. Yeah, there are those few unicorns that have magically arrived but more startups are built on a vast amount of preparation research.

Here, here’s a couple of sites that will help you hone your baby: www.tuzzit.com, strategyzer.com/platform . It took me too long to find these sites but find them I did and they cut through the shit and get you to the point of your what and why. Also, I forgot to tell you, you’re doing this without investing any or very little of your funds. Save the 500,000 for later — you’ll be glad you did.

There are apps galore now that offer freemium services that you can test out to analyze which ones fit your particular business model and culture. I looked through my bookmarks and honestly came to the decision that if you’re searching for a particular type of app/service just ask me and I’ll send you links to lists and apps that I found are actually worth your time — time is money. I’m doing it this way frankly because it’s easier and no, I’m not spamming you for biz, it’s just a better way to establish a community of like-minded folks. If you don’t and can’t find what you need, it’s your loss not to get ahold of me. And, I’m doing it for nothing except the privilege to help you out. ‘Nuff said.

Lastly, if you don’t already, start practicing mindfulness meditation. It works and it’s not hooey. Multi-tasking is great and all but being able to focus on what you need to do first, next, and on what’s in front of you in any kind of environment, is much more important than dividing your attention on various priorities at the same time and getting nowhere in the end. I’m writing this in the noisiest and most chaotic McDonald’s you could ever encounter and I’m not losing my focus — it’s annoying around here but I can do this.

In a nutshell, the reason I folded my first freelancing business was because I didn’t focus enough on my Value Proposition. I didn’t differentiate my talent enough from the competition. I’m good at what I do but not effectively communicating that to my potential client pool, I screwed up. Not really a failure, just a lesson. From the Tao: “Which is more dangerous, success or failure”? Hint — you learn more from failure. You can get complacent during a successful stage.

Business Owner: Keep On Keeping On

This is the hard part; sustaining and growing your business through not only profitable times but also when the going gets really, really difficult. If you’re stubborn like me and don’t want to fold the minute you are drowning then all I can tell you is that you probably don’t have to. It truly depends on upon what type of biz/company you own. And if you’re still going strong after a considerable amount of time, you may “know” more than I do.

That being said, if you are experiencing a negative growth period or are stagnating, you might very well not be tech enough. Yes, tech is now an integral aspect of the contemporary business world. Do you have a website set up yet? If not, invest in a good, no great one. Pay for it and it will return your investment if you also accompany it with the appropriate tools. You cannot just set up a site and expect new customers to flow in. There are millions of sites out there all competing for your same service/product. You must, must, differentiate yourself in some way. It’s not always easy but it’s essential.

Along with that little tidbit is the fact that you now can automate many tasks that used to involve paying additional employees. Take the time and energy to evaluate exactly which talents you cannot do without having in human form. Virtual assistants are well worth the investment. Consultant — probably at first. Tech guru — more than likely. Google em. But also do due diligence on their real life experience not just their on-paper qualifications. What kind of feeling do you get from them? Meet them in person and have a long talk about not just their specialization but also how they got there and what drives them to do what they do.

In the end, you only will need very few employees. Keep it lean. Read Ash Maurya’s stuff on Lean. Also, smallbiztrends.com and www.fundera.com.

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Lead By Following: Leadership

Finally, how does one lead a company towards profit, growth, sustainability, and change? Well, I do know that one concept/approach that’s gaining more exposure and adoption in places I’d want to work with/for is “compassion” and “empathy”. Of the hundreds of books I’ve read and evaluated, the one that still endures for me is the Tao Te Ching translated by Stephen Mitchell. It’s important that you (if you’re so inclined to invest the time) read and implement this particular translation. It’s practical, contemporary, and accessible.

A leader that endures and is truly successful is one that remains flexible and open to the unavoidable changes that our society, both national and global, will go through. Things like technology, sociology, psychology, are always discovering the newest way to operate in this world. And humans, in general, are always fascinated by the latest gadget, way to do something, think, believe, and so on. Change is imminent; to remain static is to die.

Hire and listen to those who know more than you do in their special profession. Delegate, delegate, delegate — that’s something I didn’t do early enough. We live in times wherein you will find those who see things as you do. And can handle and carry out the tasks that fulfill your dream and vision.

End Note

I’ve decided to invest the time to elaborate and validate the ideas, concepts, and themes above in further posts. What I wanted to initially achieve here is to put down what I have come to find through direct experience, what is valuable and what is not when it comes to everything entrepreneurial. I do it simply to give back to those who have given to me, in one form or another. It’s all positive energy whether it’s money, information, or wisdom. You decide for yourself what you need — take it or leave it.

If you like what I give away, feel free to look me up and ask away. If I don’t know the answer I’ll know who to ask, if nothing else.

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