I had $10,000 and one week to start a business. I didn’t have a product. I didn’t have a service. Didn’t have a target market. Heck, I didn’t even have goals. But what I did have was the Sears & Roebuck catalog.
With a dream of success and that catalog in my hand, I spent endless hours selecting just the right equipment: a cash register, an adding machine, a desktop calendar. All the stuff I knew was critical to starting and running a business. Those were heady days and I just knew my plans were going to work out.
Until, just like that, I was out of money. But it didn’t faze me. I didn’t have a mortgage. I didn’t have a family to feed. I didn’t have employees. And I wasn’t devastated.
You see, I was in third grade and this “starting a business thing” was just an assignment. It wasn’t real, there were no consequences, and I got over it faster than you can say, “What time is Dukes of Hazard on?”
Fast forward 32 years and I was starting a business for real. The stakes were higher than they had ever been. I had zero business training. I was walking away from a “stable” job at a Fortune 100 company. I had actual bills to pay. I had a family to feed. I had zero sales pipeline. And I had three months to make this thing fly.
And it flew. Of course, it almost didn’t on countless occasions. There was the “trusted” partner who stole a client and a good chunk of business. There was the mistake I made in that one contract that ensured I didn’t get paid for months on end. And there was all of that revenue I turned down because I refused to hire employees – after all, I wasn’t a people manager.
But it flew, and that feeling was like nothing I have ever felt. Seeing my dreams come to life was exhilarating. Providing work for employees, contractors, and partner companies gave me a deeper purpose than I’d ever experienced before. And not having to sell my house has also been pretty awesome.
This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps. That I mustered up hustle and gumption and worked twenty-hour days out of my garage until I built something out of nothing. Sure, there were plenty of long days. Yes, I own a garage. And, yeah, there was a lot of lonely hustle, but one of the biggest keys to my success has been the people and community I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by.
You see, when I started my business, it may have felt like me against the world, but it wasn’t. It was me plus a powerful community of people with countless years of experience, wisdom, and connections that made my success possible. From former clients to friends, from mentors to authors, this community enabled me to succeed when failure wasn’t an option – even though it always seemed to be just around the corner.
Here are eight people in my community that you need to put on your “team,” too. Their insights have been invaluable to me, and it’s my hope that what they have to share will help your business survive, grow, and thrive.
Seth convinced me I had something unique to offer the world, and he gave me the insights I needed to weather the inevitable dips that come with starting a business. He also introduced me to cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been instrumental in helping me shift the story I’m telling myself. That story shapes how I envision the future for my business.
Brené taught me that it’s okay to be vulnerable at work. When I was an employee, she helped me overcome toxic shame in the workplace. And now, as a small business owner, I’m working to create a healthy culture where employees can thrive and achieve their goals.
Rand taught me to be generous and vulnerable with my story. He showed me that it’s okay to have weaknesses and that you can use your failures to help others succeed.
Marshall taught me how to effectively track my goals and execute on them every day, with a measurable framework and a fail-safe system for making progress.
Victoria helped me recognize that the story I was telling myself was holding my company back. She helped me reshape that narrative, uncovering a much larger purpose for my business, and then she gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get out of my own way and let the business grow by trusting my team.
Matt taught me to spend two hours every day on the thing that matters most without letting anything get in the way. At the end of a month, I will have spent one week on my top goal. At the end of a quarter, one month. At the end of a year, one quarter. I’m just getting started on this one but am already seeing the clarity and power this brings to my business.
Matt taught me how to build a powerful connection between marketing, sales, and the customer. He continually models generosity and humanity in the way he does business, which is something I aspire to. And he has pushed me to focus relentlessly on driving revenue and profit (while maintaining that generosity and humanity he’s known for).
Mike showed me that I would never be profitable until I put profit first. I know this sounds obvious but, like a lot of small business owners, I was focused on generating revenue and tracking expenses, then taking whatever was left for profit. He taught me to turn that around by taking out profit first, and I’m now putting a system in place that will ensure my company stays in business for a long time to come.
As you build your business, remember that it’s the community you surround yourself with that will help you thrive. Put people on your team who will contribute to your success.
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