Do you remember where you were when you saw the Internet for the first time? I do. I was working at Henry Holt and an assistant asked me to check out something cool. He showed me a page of text on his computer. Nothing impressive yet, then he clicked on the word Paris and we went to a site in France. Like magic.
That was it. I was in love. Two months later I quit a job and a company I loved to chase hyperlinks and surf the Internet. Thankfully Holt became my first client and so FSB Associates was launched. That was 18 years ago today. Wow. Will you believe me if I told you it felt like yesterday?
I have been thinking about the lessons I have learned along the way and here is what I would advise anyone just embarking on their own path as an entrepreneur:
- Be honest always, with your staff, with your clients, and most importantly with yourself.
- Keep every promise, even the small ones. Apologize profusely if you can’t keep one.
- Treat everyone with respect. Apologize if you act disrespectfully. We all have bad moments.
- Be on time, always in every way. It’s the easiest way to earn trust.
- Don’t borrow money.
- Bigger is not always better. It took me 16 years to learn this one.
- Value your time. It’s the only way others will, too.
- Get yourself an excellent partner (in business and in life). I owe all my success to one very amazing man.
- Hire really, really, really good people.
- Know when to quit an idea. You can’t be brilliant all the time.
- Never stop learning and evolving.
- Define your ideal client/customer then develop services to help them.
- Learn to say no graciously, and often.
- Everyone messes up; Give second chances.
- Nobody can do everything well; define your niche and master it.
- Don’t spam ever, anywhere, in any format.
- Be grateful everyday that you get to live with passion and do the work you were meant to do.
- Take time off and unplug. It took me a long time to realize that I was more productive, more creative, and more enthusiastic about my work when I took regular unplugged breaks. I wrote about Finding Balance in a 24/7 World.
Having your own business is awesome. I would recommend it to anyone who has a passion for their work. Go forth and learn lessons of your own. It’s not an easy ride, though — expect sleepless nights and be ready to face every fear and every insecurity — but at the end of the day there is nothing better than living an authentic, flexible, brave, scary, passion-filled life.