July 2016 marks the one-year anniversary of Mosaic Growth Partners and my official journey as an entrepreneur. In this first year, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined:
Go with your gut - We all have that little voice inside of us that tells us when something doesn’t feel right. There have been a few times in the past year, where I had a feeling that something was off with some of the deals I made and with certain clients. In the cases where I chose to ignore my intuition, it always ended up becoming a problem later on. When I listened to my gut upfront and turned down opportunities that didn’t feel right, I never once regretted it. Don’t be afraid to listen to your instincts and walk away from an opportunity when it doesn’t feel right.
- Listen to the market - When you are starting off, there is no definitive way to know what products and services your prospective customers will want. The best feedback will come from the market itself based on what customers purchase. In addition, it’s not always easy to know what the right price point is for your services. I have found the best strategy is to test a few different options of services and pricing structures/fees. Through doing this, I have become better at finding the sweet spot where the client and I can reach agreement on a service and fee relatively quickly. Initially though, I had to go through a lot of back and forth negotiations and even lost some deals, in part, due to my pricing strategy. It’s a tough lesson to learn but if you are willing to listen to the market and adjust your services, fees and deal structure accordingly, it can be a great lesson.
- Don't be afraid to pivot - Related to the point above, if you are listening to the market and your customers, you will probably learn that some of your initial assumptions weren’t correct. That’s ok. In fact, your business should never be stagnant and you should always be iterating as new needs and technologies emerge.
- Take constructive criticism - Sometimes it’s not the market giving you feedback – it’s your friends, family and mentors. While it can be hard to hear criticism from those closest to you, it can also be extremely valuable. At times this feedback needs to be taken with a grain of salt (someone may not fully understand your business or may have other motives), but often these people can provide valuable insights on how to take your business to the next level as they are intimately familiar with your strengths and weaknesses.
Always be learning - This is my favorite part of running my own business. I find I am learning so much more than I ever expected and am constantly motivated to improve. I encourage new entrepreneurs to stay intellectually curious – don’t get too comfortable with your existing competencies and expertise. There are so many ways to keep learning – podcasts, meet-ups, ebooks, conferences, blogs, etc. Take advantage of all the free resources at your disposal.
This first year has been incredibly challenging and exhilarating. Starting a business on your own is not for the faint of heart – you will have mistakes and failures and people will see them. But you are in charge of your path and success and each day offers a new opportunity to improve and make progress. These lessons have helped me get through Year One. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead in Year Two.