Six things I’ve learned in my six years in business.

by | Productivity

Birthday Cake

It's July 16, and I'm celebrating six years from getting my last paycheck as a W2. As the primary breadwinner with no experience in selling myself, marketing, or packaging what I would offer, being ignorant helped me take the leap. Here are six big things I learned along the way.

1) Hire a coach. All of my coaches have been with me at the right time, helping me with the right thing. It was my mindset, marketing, packaging services, profitability, or speaking. Friends, peers, and the interwebs can give you suggestions and ideas based on their experience, or what they think you are capable of. A coach can help you see what's possible and will push you to reach a destination you didn't even think about or know existed.

2) Join a mastermind or peer advisory group. I have been in invaluable groups that allowed me to learn from people within and outside my industry. Currently, I'm in two groups, a six-person professional speaker mastermind, and a Vistage peer advisory group. Being with people in my field (speaking) who get me and another of business owners and key personnel who are in a completely different industry allows me to get unique perspectives.

3) Be willing to pivot and change focus. When I first started, I concentrated on business travelers. I wrote two books on road warrior health and productivity and was even a spokesperson for two years for a hotel chain. After a couple of years, the people that were attracted to hiring me wanted productivity and health coaching, but without the travel piece. My attention shifted again when I was diagnosed with three autoimmune diseases. We can't know exactly who we will like working with or who will like working with us.

4) Stop networking with the spray and play method. Early on, I went to every event I could because I didn't have a big network coming from corporate and needed to meet people. I also had time then because I wasn't scheduled with clients. As my business grew, I had to flip that model and start being more strategic. Now, networking is hyperfocused for me. I have a better sense of where my ideal clients are and going to events takes time away from my client and project work. 

5) You can be successful without playing the social media game. Yes, I am on a social media channel writing this, but LinkedIn is different (please don't change!). My decision to leave Facebook and Twitter in February, which sucked the joy from my life, is without zero regrets. Will I amass 10,000 on my list? Will I get 500 likes? Will I have a video that goes viral? Probably not. But I only need and want true fans. I trust that I'll be found and can build my community in other ways through LinkedIn, speaking, interviews, and writing.

6) Take time off. One of the biggest challenges I meet when working with my corporate clients in start-ups or business owners is that they don't feel they can unplug. It's my most frustrating conversation that I can't get people to take a real vacation or even 2-3 days off from checking their email. Not only have I done this successfully, but I have my fifth trip scheduled for February 2020 in Mexico for three weeks, where I work from the beach and take an entire week completely off. Every trip my business has grown, and I've created a new product or service when I come back.

Saving sea turtles on the beach with three-time vacationer Wendy Gates Corbett.

Year seven will be filled with a new workshop launching later this summer, followed by the accompanying book on productivity, health, and decluttering later this year and an exclusive membership site to work through the book.

Thank you to everyone who helped me get this far. If LinkedIn is still around in 19 years, I'll write my lessons learned in year 25. Or maybe by then, the technology will allow me just to imprint it into your minds. 🙂

I'd love to know one of your lessons learned as a business owner in your first six years.

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jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects


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