It’s been one full year since I left my full-time job leading the mobile strategy at Cabela’s to go all in on building my business.
I no longer drive 40 minutes to and from the office to have to use a badge to scan into the building.
I get to walk my wife to her job every day and work from my home office and or coffee shop.
It’s been a crazy journey this year.
A lot of ups and downs, wins and failures, but most importantly lessons learned.
No matter the challenges, this journey has been one I’ll never forget and one I plan on continuing.
I sat down and made a list of all of the lessons I’ve learned this year.
These are things I’ve come to learn from the moment I hung up my badge at the Cabela’s head quarters (while blasting Boyz II Men, It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday), all the way until now…one full year later.
Here are the 17 lessons (and tips) from my first year being an entrepreneur full-time.
1. Your Mastermind Partners Are Next Closest Thing To Family That You Have
Since starting my business on the side in 2012 I’ve been a part of one main mastermind group. It started with just me and my good friend John Lee Dumas and after about a year we were lucky to have Rick Mulready join us.
I can’t begin to stress how important these two guys have been in my life and my business since I’ve met them. We meet on a weekly basis, just the three of us. We meet virtually over Skype since I’m in Denver and they are both in San Diego. We’ve even just recently started a quarterly destination trip where we invite a few other entrepreneurs to join us. Our first one went off with a bang including top entrepreneurs like Tim Ferris, Jeremy Frandsen, Andrew Warner, Scott Dinsmore and Jadah Sellner.
Whether you meet weekly, monthly, in person or not, it doesn’t necessarily matter. Just join a mastermind. I recommend getting together in person as much as possible but get in a mastermind with other likeminded individuals.
Every week I look forward to our call. We’re pretty religious about our calls and because of that these guys have become like family. Heck, they were invited to my wedding. When you find mastermind partners that you click with you’ll know. When you find that group, go all in, give them everything you have and you’ll get 10x that in return.
Each week these guys inspire me, challenge me and motivate me to be a better version of myself.
Tip: Join a mastermind with people that you’d gladly call your family and if possible, invite them to you wedding. 🙂
2. Don’t Focus On Following Too Many Mentors
Earlier this year I was consuming way too much info from a lot of different entrepreneurs. When I finally made an effort to only focus on 3-5 entrepreneurs and watch carefully what they were doing, things got a it clearer for me.
Make sure that the mentors you follow and study are not so different that you’re continually faced with conflicting advice.
Tip: Create a folder or place where you monitor the content of these people. I have a Twitter list called “crosshairs” and a gmail label titled the same that I look at frequently to gaze in on what these people are working on.
3. Create A Network of Mentors That You Can Bounce Ideas Off Of
For me, these are people that in many instances I’d want to be in a mastermind with and in many instances, I know call close friends. (Some even came to my wedding).
These are people that know you well, believe in you and will give you honest, constructive feedback when you have questions.
These are people that you should actively be supporting as well as this is not a one sided street. These are people that you try to deliver value to however you can. Engaging with their audience, sharing their stuff, giving them feedback on their ideas and even hopping on an unannounced call to hash out a few ideas to help them move forward.
Tip: Don’t force this. This is a group of people that builds over time organically. It’s a long ball game and also known as relationship building. 🙂
4. Just Like In Sports, You Need A Coach
I don’t care what your business is or what your goals are, a coach will help you push through to the next level.
There are all sorts of coaches out there and many have their own specialties…from accountability to strategy to performance.
You may not stay with the same coach forever…and in fact it’s probably better you explore coaches based on your needs but I cannot imagine where I’d be without the investment I’ve made in the coaches I’ve worked with.
Tip: Have a specific goal before you invest in a coach. The Coach won’t give you the goal.
5. Don’t Manage and Host Two Podcasts
As many of you know, earlier this year I launched my second podcast called Leaving Corporate. It was a passion project of mine and an opportunity to break away from talking about just mobile, which I was doing with first and main podcast, Mobile Mixed.
It was a difficult decision to end that show. There were even some episodes that never got published because it was just taking up too much time on top of all of the other things I was trying to work on.
Will I bring it back? Who knows but definitely not right now. After reading The One Thing, I realized that I had too much on my plate and I was setting myself up for failure.
To be honest after working with a handful of entrepreneurs I’ve realized that this is one of the main reasons…if not the reason, that most early entrepreneurs struggle to find success. They simply try to do too much too soon and that’s exactly what I did.
I’m thankful I recognized it and had the courage to end it despite how many people loved the show and were sad it ended. I needed to do it for me and I wasn’t going to regain momentum until it was off my plate.
Tip: Evaluate all of the things you’re working on. If one (or many) isn’t serving you and helping you actually reach your goals, cut it. It’s time to cut the fat.
6. Choose Your Speaking Engagements and Conferences Strategically
After attending and or traveling 17 times this year (mostly for speaking engagements) I realized one major thing…the amount of actual time I have to be productive and gain true momentum is very limited.
With all the travel, I’d peek at my calendar and it looked like string cheese. Tiny pockets of time here and there where I had to get a lot accomplished before heading off to the next trip.
Being my first year working for myself I’ve come a long way on increasing my productivity but I was not at a point where I felt like I was able to attend/speak at all the events I wanted to and build my business.
Now, there were obviously a lot of pro’s to speaking so many times. I was able to get in front of large audiences, build upon my authority and credibility. And I got to spend time with many of inspiring entrepreneurs I now call friends.
In 2015 I’ll choose conferences that put me in front of my ideal customers or pay me. There will be one or two others and that’s it.
Tip: Go to conferences that meet a specific goal. Clients or exposure to the right audience. Don’t go to just go. That time is better spend building your business.
7. Don’t Create Products For An Audience With A Scarcity Mindset
Earlier this year I launched a program teaching people how to make money selling mobile services. I can’t say that I did the best job promoting it and or honing in the offer but, I did realize that the audience is was attracting had a scarcity mindset. The reason they were looking for this opportunity was because they were not happy with where they were but, they weren’t willing to invest in themselves to actually make a difference.
Due to that, I pulled back on my efforts in promoting the program and am now working on revising it accordingly to address what I learned after speaking with potential customers of the product.
Tip: Create products and services for people that have money and have proven their willing to invest it in themselves and their business.
8. Understand What’s Working and Do More of That
When looking back on where my revenue was coming from, I realized that a good percentage of the monthly recurring revenue was coming from services. Once I realized this (which was a bit too late) I decided to go all in on that which is leading to a new announcement I’m making for 2015 for my business and the direction I’m taking it.
More to come on this soon.
Tip: Pay attention to what has been working for you and see if you can focus more on that.
9. Entrepreneurship Is The Biggest Emotional Roller Coaster I’ve Ever Been On.
Now, I can’t speak for all entrepreneurs on this but I knew I was an emotional person but going into business for myself has been the most emotional up and downs I’ve ever experienced.
More so than any relationship I’ve been in. Yup! I said it.
I’ve learned so much about myself during this time that I’m very grateful for but damn…it would have been nice to know about this going into all of this. 🙂
Tip: Embrace the ride.
10. Find Your Inner Business Owner ASAP
Starting a business and running and thinking like a business owner are two completely different things. Now, I’m not exactly where I want to be when it comes to thinking like a business owner but I’ve come a long way. I’ve learned the hard way that I was spending money on things that didn’t matter and things that I didn’t even know I was spending money on…yeah, it was that bad.
As a business owner you need to understand what dollars are coming in and what dollars are going out and for what. Are those things necessary? Are they nice to haves? Are they must haves?
I can easily call myself out and say I was spending money on things that I wasn’t ready to be investing in. Lesson learned.
Tip: If you’re not a fan of accounting work with an accountant and do everything in your power to get at least the basic understanding of your income vs expenses.
11. Routine Are An Ever Evolving Thing
Earlier this year, I created a pretty strict schedule. What I later realized was that it was the only way I could manage all the stuff I had on my plate, which you learned earlier was way too much.
Now that I’ve cut the fat, my routine has been updated and continues to change as I find what works best. You know what? That’s ok!
My routine is just that, my routine. It doesn’t need to be the exact same as the “15 things that all successful entrepreneurs do every morning” ,because the author of that post doesn’t know what my definition of success is.
Don’t get all caught up in that hype. I literally see a “morning routine of successful people” article 100 times a day. Most of them are the same and that doesn’t mean it is going to work for you.
Tip: Use those articles as recommendations and try different things to see what works but stick to what works for you. Forcing a routine upon yourself that doesn’t make sense or work with your schedule/makeup won’t make you successful. In fact it will probably just prolong it.
12. Done Is Better Than Perfect.
Could this post be better? Most likely yes. But I’m tired of always trying to make things perfect. This is my personal blog and it was created to share my thoughts and learnings. I can’t wait till my thoughts are perfect to share because that will never happen.
The same goes for what I do in business. I’m continually challenging myself to ship things sooner and iterate from there.
Tip: Stop waiting for permission and give yourself the damn permission.
13. Take A Friggin’ break.
I push myself pretty damn hard and a lot of times I’m not productive yet, I keep pushing. Sometimes you just need to take a break and step away. Go for a walk, watch that football game, get on the bike, workout, do something. Stepping away will be one of the main ways you overcome the current roadblock you’re facing.
Tip: Schedule some breaks on your calendar and actually take them.
14. Say No More Than Yes = You Getting Sh*t Done
I’m so guilty of saying yes to almost everything and I’ve suffered for it. I’ve gotten a lot better this year and even more so in the last few months to saying no to meetings.
I can’t tell you how many meeting requests I get to “pick my brain” or review an app. If I accepted all these requests I’d literally never have any time to work on my own stuff.
So to you, person that requests my time…know that it’s not you I’m saying no to.
It’s the distraction from what currently has higher priority.
I’m continually working on being more aware of what meetings I accept and what I reject. The same goes for when I request someone else’s time. I challenge myself now to write an email with one quick question vs asking to hop on Skype real fast.
Respect your time and respect the time of others.
Tip: Force yourself to say no to every meeting request next week. See how good it feels and how much more you get done.
15. Other People’s Definition Of Success Doesn’t Need To Be Your Definition Of Success.
It’s easy to get caught up in what others are doing and want what others have. I’m guilty, I’ll admit it. This has been one of my biggest challenges in defining success on my own terms. I’m competitive…very competitive, so it’s easy to stack yourself up to others but, in the end that gets you nowhere.
Define success for yourself.
Tip: The next time you want something, ask yourself why you want that and make sure it’s not because of external factors that may have influenced that decision or thought.
16. Breaking Down Big Goals Into Mini Goals Makes Things Reachable
This became apparent to me when I took Noah Kagan’s Summer of Marketing course and set out to increase my email list over the course of 3 months. Once I came up with my goal for number of email subscribers, I broke that down to the number of daily number of email subscribers. I didn’t focus on the larger 3 month number, just the smaller daily number.
Smaller daily metrics have been less scary for me and make things feel more attainable. Give it a shot.
Tip: Take your next big goal and break it down to a daily metric and give that a go for three months. See how you feel.
17. I’d Be Nowhere Without The Loving Support and Encouragement Of My Wife.
My wife (of 2 months at the time of writing this) has been my biggest fan since I’ve set out on the journey to work for myself. Since I’ve started working for myself, I now get to walk her to her job everyday. She’s in her first year residency as an OBGYN and loves what she does. Our morning walks (or evening walks when she is working nights) are the best part of my day and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t work for myself and control my schedule.
Her continued support, encouragement and love continues to drive me to be better and allows me to enjoy everything I’ve got so far. Thank you and I love you Sarah.
Tip: Get your loved ones (spouse, family friends etc) involved in your journey and share it with them. Make them a part of your vision and the rewards will be priceless.
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
Now, you might challenge me that I was an entrepreneur while building my business on the side which, I’m sure can be argued as true. For me…I wasn’t able to call myself an entrepreneur until I was an entrepreneur full-time working for myself. Not working on anything else.
You may define things differently for yourself and that is completely ok. 🙂
Whether you’re just getting started as an entrepreneur or a even a few months in, I hope these lessons make you realize that you’re not alone.