Before starting my digital marketing agency around 2 years ago, I had no experience running a business.
I didn’t know how to build a website or how to optimize a website for SEO rankings.
And most importantly – how to market and accurately show the value of the services I was offering.
I had been working in New York City at a few large investment banks. After around 5 years, I was ready for a change.
And I was sick and tired of the:
- Forced long hours
- Way that people were treated at some of these larger companies
Fast forward 2 years later. It still amazes me to this day how much I’ve learned from running this business.
And those fundamental lessons can be applied to any single business venture out there.
These are the best lessons that I’ve learned over the years:
Lesson 1 – Don’t Let Your Ego Get in the Way
It felt surreal at times. I had been working in a prestigious investment bank right on Wall Street.
All of a sudden I was making cold calls in the group study room at the local community college.
After dealing with all of the people telling me I was, “throwing my life away”, it was difficult to have the persistence to keep going when I was getting brutal cold call rejections.
My personal favorite was when I was speaking to a potential lawyer client to redesign her website.
And when she found out I used to work on Wall Street she told me, “why would you ever leave that… that was a good and well-respected job and this isn’t”.
Letting an ego get in my way would’ve absolutely crushed any results or progress. I was so close to getting in the beginning stages.
I’ve seen it far too often in this industry, people think they are above cold calling, networking, or any other means of getting their first clients in the door.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I had my “why” figured out for why I was pushing myself like never before to make this work – I wanted my freedom back.
I knew that I could make this business work and I knew that this would lead to me getting the freedom back to travel whenever I wanted.
No longer would I be forced to wake up to the sound of an alarm clock at 6 am every morning.
And most importantly, I wouldn’t be wasting 50-80 hours a week doing something that made me miserable.
The better this business did, the more likely it was that I would never have to go back to that lifestyle in the corporate world.
Lesson 2 – No One Does it Alone
When I knew nothing about starting a business and entrepreneurial ventures, I always had this image that a business owner would just lock himself in his basement and come out months later with this golden idea.
I couldn’t have been further from the truth. What I’ve learned is that the individuals who get the best results in the quickest amount of time
are those who find a mentor and learn from them.
In the digital age that we live in, this has never been easier. Why do it all yourself when someone has walked the exact same path before and can provide invaluable information for how you can severely cut your learning curve?
When I first started, I purchased online courses, joined website design forums, and read sales/marketing books like crazy.
I tried to absorb all that I could, but I of course still made a lot of beginner mistakes as I was finding my way.
After a while, it was easy to identify who the real veterans were of the groups and it amazed me how often people were willing to help beginners if they saw that you were committed and trying your best to make this business work.
I’d post anything I could think of and run it by people in these groups – sales emails, mock website designs for clients, my cold call script, etc.
Some people were surprisingly afraid to post their work in these groups for ridicule, but I just didn’t care at all.
I had no ego attached to any of this work. I just wanted to get better. And I wanted to do the best job possible for the first few clients who took a chance going with me.
Reach out and you’ll be surprised how people can recognize effort and dedication and help you take your business to the next level.
Lesson 3 – Take Consistent Smart Action
There are two extremes here to exemplify this point. Both won’t get sustainable results.
One is the entrepreneur who constantly procrastinates taking any real action. He or she will do anything and everything to avoid REAL action.
If they need to get clients, instead of picking up the phone and calling, they will do everything else:
- Get their own website perfect
- Work on getting the perfect logo
- Make a huge Excel spreadsheet of prospects to call
But they will NEVER get to the point of actually making that first phone call. They let their fear of rejection get in the way. And it, of course, leads to no success.
What Isn’t Smart Action
The second example is often glorified in entrepreneurial circles, but it really shouldn’t be.
I’d see it all the time in these online groups and forums I was in – someone would boast that they did “100 calls in one day” or “sent 1000 emails in one week”.
They were spinning their tires but going nowhere fast. What’s the main mistake this entrepreneur made?
They didn’t ADJUST their approach, at all. Yes, they were taking action, but it was leading to absolutely awful response rates.
What’s the Happy Median Here?
The entrepreneur who takes action but is constantly adjusting his approach and learning nonstop.
Instead of just making the same 100 calls in a day, this individual who does it the right way will make 10 calls, record himself for one of them and then
post for feedback.
He or she will question everything, such as how to improve their script, their
tone of voice, the businesses they’re targeting, overcoming objections, etc.
They’ll question if cold calling is general is the most effective use of their time.
I can’t stress this point enough – it’s key to take action every day in the right direction but make sure that you are constantly adjusting and learning on how to improve!
Difference Between Success and Failure
The difference between a successful and unsuccessful business is not major at all.
If you look at it purely from revenue, profit margin, and other yearly metrics it seems like the gap is huge.
It simply comes down to what you’re doing day by day. That adds up to a whole year of good or bad habits.
Keep it simple, take consistent action in the right direction every single day and
constantly adapt and adjust when you have enough data to see what is working and what isn’t.
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