Small Talks: Mistakes to Learn From

This past Thursday I was invited to be on a panel with Craig Hyde, President and Co-Founder of Rigor to discuss our journey and stumbles as entrepreneurs. The panel was the first of the Small Talks being sponsored by Turnstone. It was a great conversation, and although Craig and I are different in many ways, it seemed we both had very similar advice to offer.

Our host, Jon Eggleton provided us with a list of questions to be ready to answer. Going through this preparation was a great way for me to reflect on my journey as an entrepreneur.

Below are the questions and my answers.

What Motivated You to Become An Entrepreneur?

Many times in my life I recognized trends and opportunities and came up with what I thought were good business ideas. I would always try to convince someone else to run with the idea and was always let down. When I saw what was going in social media, back in 2005 and the opportunity to help businesses take advantage of the opportunities that were going to open up, once again I tried to convince the company I was working for to run with my ideas, and once again I was let down. I basically snapped and decided I could not let this one pass me by. I left a steady paycheck and made the decision to own my ideas.

The lesson I learned is you have to take ownership of your ideas. They came to you for a reason.

What Was Your Biggest Fear Before Before Starting Your Business?

That I had totally lost my mind. Seriously my family depends on me bringing home a paycheck, and now my income depended on me selling an idea that I had not yet completely developed and that was completely foreign to the business world. But within a couple of weeks, some very senior people in the city were inviting me to lunch and providing me with their very valuable consultation. In a couple of months, I had clients who were helping me to develop my offerings and processes. Within 6 months I had a team of people supporting me on projects and within 16 months I was the co-founder of a pretty impressive conference.

The lesson I learned is crazy people attract other crazy people, and together we can make some crazy things happen.

If You Could Go Back and Do One Thing Differently, What Would it Be?

Get a good accountant from the start. When you are launching a new business idea your time is consumed with figuring out your offerings, marketing, selling, managing the process, bringing together a team of people. Accounting is the last thing you have time to think about and before you know it you have a mess to deal with.

The lesson I learned is that other people are readily available to help with those pesky business operation stuff and well worth the money (which does not have to be much).

What Would You Describe As Your Biggest “Failure” Along The Way of Becoming an Entrepreneur?

Taking on projects that were not the right fit because I needed the money. Sometimes the client’s expectations were not in alignment with what could be delivered and sometimes it was not a personality fit, but I tried to make it happen anyway. Every time I tried to be a trooper and earn that paycheck I found myself hating what I did and having the soul sucked out of me. Fortunately, there was usually another client in my life reminding me why I love what I do.

The lesson I learned is to turn down work that is going to suck the soul out of you. If you need money, get on the phone and find the next right client.

Was There Ever a Moment In Which You Felt You “Made It” or Are you Still Driven By Fear of Failure?

What is “it?” I have not made so much money that I can stop working. I still have to work to pay my bills each month. But I do make enough income and I am doing what I love to do and I have the ability to run with other business ideas.

There was a time I was running toward some goal of a big agency and big clients and lots of money, but then I realized that I did not want to do the things I was required to do to get there. So I had to redefine what success meant to me.

The lesson learned is to define what success means to you, not some external definition of success.

The focus of this Small Talk was on failure and that got me to thinking about how I define failure. Is it hitting an obstacle? Is it making a mistake? Is it quitting?

No, no, and no.

If I was trying to get from point A to point B and there was a roadblock I had to go around, I did not fail. If I made a wrong turn and had to find a way to correct my path, I did not fail. If on my way to point B I decided I don’t really want to go to point B after all and I gave up on the journey, I did not fail.

I guess failure, to me, is if you want to get to point B but give up because it’s too hard and full of frustrating experiences, but you still want to get there, you just give up. That is failure.

One of the questions was Do you Think Failure is Required to Be a Successful Entrepreneur. If I consider how I just defined failure, the answer would have to be no.