Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ten Years of Lessons: Part I

Lead Your Way Solutions celebrates its 10th birthday on 03/03/13; we have survived and managed a modest profit for forty straight quarters.

I started this company for the same reasons many people start companies:

  • I wanted to work for myself
  • I wanted to prove to myself that it was possible
  • I had a good idea that mattered to me
  • I wanted to make a difference
  • I wanted to spend more time with my family
  • I wanted to have a company that used common sense and was a good community partner
  • I wanted to work with a great team
  • I wanted to make a lot of money and share the wealth with my team
  • I wanted to be an entrepreneur

For all of you that want to have an idea or have a burning desire to start your own business - do it!  Below are some lessons that I have learned along the way that may help you succeed in your journey.

You have to be a good person in order to attract great people.

Good people, good partners, and real talent are hard to find.  Do what it takes to find and keep them on your team or in your world at all costs.  You have to be a good person in order to surround yourself with great people.  Develop your network of business allies and serve them before you need to be served.  Times will be tough and you will need help.

The bank is not your friend.

Borrow money judiciously.  Banks make their money by collecting money; they usually need to collect it when you need it most.  Bankers are usually very nice people but they have a job to do which may impact your plans at the worst moment. Too much debt will crush a business.  It's better to struggle to prove your concept until profitability than to prop up a bad idea with easy debt.

Choose your partners carefully.

It's hard to find partners that want to or that you will want to grow with over the long haul.  Partners of convenience will usually lead to a messy divorce; partners of necessity can have even worse consequences.  Seek partners who share your values, goals, and resources but have different skills and leadership styles to balance your strengths - then serve your partner well.

It's harder than it looks.

The sheer weight of concerns, opportunities, and problems that an entrepreneur must address is hard to explain.  You won't be able to truly understand until you deal with this moment of realization on your own.  You cannot deal with all aspects of a business until you really own all of the business.

It's a long race. 

The Duke of Wellington - the 19th Century British General who out foxed and outfought Napoleon- was once asked by a young officer,  "What's the best advice you can give me Sir to ensure my success?"  Wellington - a man blessed with extraordinary clarity of vision- replied, "Piss when you can."

The demands of mind, body, spirit upon the entrepreneur and those around him or her are total.  It's like running an ultra-marathon every week; you have to figure out where to have rest stops to take necessary nourishment and refreshment in order to keep moving down the path.  Appreciate and celebrate the small victories.

To be continued...

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