In the spirit of National Entrepreneurs’ Day, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on my own  journey and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. As a small business owner, I’m often asked what entrepreneurship means to me. The word ‘freedom’ is commonly used to describe it, but it’s much more complex than that. Running a business is dynamic, ambitious, innovative and rewarding. It’s also VERY HARD. It’s the 24/7, never-ending task that is the most challenging and fulfilling part of your career. I’ve worn many different hats over the past 21 years as an agency owner that taught me a lot about myself and running a successful business.

Looking back on this experience, these are the 5 major lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur: 

Take calculated risks

Entrepreneurs are often known for being risk-takers, go-getters and self-starters. In my experience, the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is the level of calculation and strategy they took beforehand. Some say that everything that happens is a result of what you did or didn’t do three months ago. The regret of not trying is more devastating than the fear of failure; take the risk. That said, trust and accountability are key when looking at who to work with and what you think the next opportunities are. That’s where the calculation comes in! Make the time to weigh your options and see the opportunity from all sides. 

Be clear and define your goals

Success is different for every business owner. It might be sales, awareness numbers or opening a certain number of ‘doors’. What is important is to define your goals, targets and KPIs – and chase them hard. And if/when you don’t meet them, understand why and tweak for next time. Failure is an opportunity to learn and improve; you can only improve when you fail. With every challenge you encounter, you are one step closer to a solution.  Teach that to your team and everyone involved to help you meet your goals.

Always-on idea sourcing

Read anything and everything; listen to podcasts and attend seminars and conferences. From international news feeds to lifestyle magazines, to following a new group of social channels – don’t limit yourself. Talk to customers, interview mentors and secret-shop the competitors. Take advantage of multiple sources of input; you never know where your next big idea will come from. Share this info with friends, clients and other stakeholders who might find it useful.

Always-on networking

Take all this newfound info and turn it into talking points at events, on calls and when socializing. These openers can really make the task of making small talk, or opening a new conversation, a cinch. They also come in handy as new business development tools. Use that info for smart Linkedin posts and for sourcing new potential collaborators or leads.  

Find and nurture good people

As entrepreneurs, we aren’t experts at everything but having experts in your network can be a huge weight off your shoulders. Tap into your network, reach out to mentors and utilize your connections and relationships for support.  It’s also important to have a succession plan. Two months ago, I appointed my long-standing collaborator and team champion, Lexi Pathak to President & Partner. Some ask how did that come about? I’ll just say it was a LONG time in the making. Fast on the heels of that transition, we named two Vice Presidents, Lindsay Singer and Megan Taylor – both of whom are long-time employees and brand champions. Those skills are hard to outsource.