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A year of firsts: 10 lessons learned

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A year ago today I set out on an entrepreneurial journey that has resulted in occasional sleep deprivation, successes, trying moments, victory pumps and a still unconfirmed ulcer.

For many years, I worked as the director of marketing and public relations for one of the largest IT providers in the nation. I left my post in 2009 and founded our company with the goal of helping clients brand their businesses and build their bottom lines through innovative marketing, public relations and communications strategies.

We all know what the business environment looked like in 2009: dark clouds and silver linings that were hard to spot. It was indeed one of the most difficult years to start a business.

I took an opportunity in 2010 to work with a financial advisory firm and put my dream of being a business owner on the backburner, all in an effort to seek stability in such uncertain economic times.

The entrepreneurial “itch” resurfaced by 2012. The economy was markedly improving and I’d outgrown my role. I was unhappy and found myself stripped of creativity by the corporate grind. For some reason I was still scared to death to take the necessary steps to move on, wondering whether I could make the vision for my company a viable reality. Like Indiana Jones in “The Last Crusade,” I needed to take a leap of faith and I knew it.

In early 2012, I set out on a monumental journey believing that the moment was just as good as any to resurrect my consulting firm. If you’d told me a year ago that my company would be managing marketing strategies for multiple Inc. 5000 companies, I would have slapped you silly.

Yet 366 days (a Leap Year) later, multiple partnerships, and more cups of coffee than you could fill a swimming pool with, we’ve been blessed with unexpected and tremendous growth. We currently manage marketing and PR strategies for more than 25 clients from across the nation in industries including arts, construction, education, financial, fitness, health care, logistics, manufacturing, non-profit, publishing, retail, technology and transportation. During this time, we’ve maintained a retention rate of 100 percent.

Here are 10 important lessons I’ve learned over the past 8,784 hours that are applicable for every business owner, no matter your industry:

  1. There’s never enough time to accomplish what needs to be done. What can’t be accomplished today can wait until tomorrow. There are rarely true “emergencies.”
  2. You can’t do it alone. Surround yourself with people that are obviously more awesome than you are.
  3. If you want to succeed, you’ll work until at least midnight multiple times a week.
  4. Passion is key. If you don’t have passion, forget about it. You have to love it, hope for it, live it, breathe it, and occasionally wish upon a star.
  5. You never have a “real” day off. Ever. Your business is your baby and it’s always in the back of your mind no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
  6. Working “on” the business is different than working “in” the business. Your business itself deserves and demands constant attention (developing processes and procedures, streamlining, accounting, time tracking, proposals, contracts, etc.).
  7. The balance between work and family is harder to identify when you’re a business owner. A spouse who is a willing participant and a raving fan, in good times and bad, is essential.
  8. Nothing is impossible but at times may seem highly improbable. Who cares? You’ll never know if you don’t try.
  9. Networking and introductions are the lifeblood of your business. Connect with centers of influence to build your client base.
  10. Take time for you. “Burning out” not only affects you, but your clients as well.

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