Business 101: Take Risks & Break The Rules

Business 101: Take Risks & Break The Rules
News
Like Us On Facebook
Like Us On Facebook

I am not a risk taker. Even as a child, I always did what teachers told me to do and listened to my parents — well,most of the time. Through college and the early part of my career at technology companies, I followed a linear and predictable path to get to the next level of management, the next promotion, the next raise.

But then I started my own business. That’s when everything changed. No risk meant no reward. I learned that sometimes, the standard rules don’t apply. Especially these:

Never Work With Friends and Family

This is a golden rule, right? Wrong. Family and friends can be some of your most trusted confidants. Who better to surround yourself than with the people who have been time tested and proven assets in your life. The ability to openly communicate will be a strong factor in building your business. Of course, these individuals who are very close to you must share the vision, work ethic and passion for the business as you do. You’ll be able to cut through a lot of the politicking that goes on with acquiring new partners or team members since you already have a rich history with family and friends. Just make sure that everyone on board understands that just as easy as you came in is just as easy as you can go. Family and friends must be held to an even higher level of accountability than anyone else on the team. That’s a fact.

Get an MBA

As we’ve learned from Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg, having an advanced business degree is not required for successful entrepreneurship. Leverage smart people, trust your instincts and just get out there. I gained tremendous insight by joining an angel investment group to see how other entrepreneurs positioned and marketed their companies. Professional organizations in my industry led me to successful owners whom I still tap for advice. And a CEO organization called Vistage gives me access to a braintrust of experts on any business matter.

Sales is the Key to Success

As the business owner, I was the primary rainmaker for years. Unfortunately, I sucked at sales. I hate asking for money. So I hired professional salespeople, and they all failed miserably. Now I understand that my customers hate being sold as much as I hate selling. They really just want someone who will share a cup of coffee and understand their pain, then come up with a solution that doesn’t require even more work. That’s all.

You’ve Gotta Get a Plan

For years, our team didn’t have any formal business plan, just a revenue target and a few key objectives. Of course, like a map-less Magellan, you can waste time and resources. You can even fail to notice when you do reach your goal. But spending weeks discussing and writing a comprehensive plan that few will follow isn’t productive either. Our started simple, and it’s staying that way: One page with an annual revenue target and theme agreed upon by the entire team, followed by one or two major initiatives for each person per quarter. That’s it. When the tech market dipped in 2009, our “plan” allowed us to quickly shift gears. We eased up on major account sales and made a major investment in social media. In the end, that’s what moved our recovery along.

Diversify Your Client Base

Really, we’ve tried for years. But when an industry giant is your largest client and managers tell colleagues in other departments about you, who’s to complain? Word-of-mouth marketing is always a gift. Sure, we’ve worked with many other large clients, and plenty of small clients too, but our largest client is the one that keeps us in business. We work hard to earn their business again every day.

Never Work for Free

There are still rare occasions when we give away our services. Actually, it’s how we started this business–by connecting friends who needed marketing and PR help with friends who provided exactly that expertise. After two years we knew there was a true business opportunity. And while we do have rent, payroll, insurance, taxes and other overhead costs now, there are times when we can’t resist supporting a non-profit organization or an especially close friend.

I may still be a rule-follower at heart. I still use my turn signals and wait patiently in lines. But one of the most exciting things about being an entrepreneur is being creative and discovering what works best, even if it goes against what others recommend. That’s the beauty of being your own boss.

Inc.

Share Tweet
React
Like Us On Facebook
Like Us On Facebook

Preston Waters

Preston Waters is a thinker. He's not your traditional philosophical persona, however, as he leaves no topic untouched. Covering all the bases, from business to women, Preston Waters is the ultimate man's man for Gen-Y.

More In News

World Emily Arata

Chilling PSA Shows Exactly How The Words Used Against Children Can Become Weapons

Interested in the effects of verbal abuse, China’s Center for Psychological Research interviewed juvenile delinquents about their pasts. The resulting PSA, called Words can be Weapons, examines the way emotional abuse affects Chinese children by warping their self-image after extended periods of time. The center turned hurtful phrases the juvenile delinquents often heard, like “You’re […]

Also On Elite

Dating

5 Things You Learn About The World After You Get Cheated On

Frankly, there’s no right way to cope with getting cheated on. It’s pretty traumatic for anyone — girl or guy — because, at the end of the day, heartbreak truly knows no gender. While you may look for ways to cover up the pain, be it through drugs or booze, or even a phase of […]

Life

Honest Love: How Our Hobbies Teach Us What Real Love Feels Like

Despite being the furthest thing from a hopeless romantic or an expert on the subject, I somehow end up writing about love a hell of a lot. I’m going to hope that as I get older, this will start happening less, since ideally, I’ll have figured enough out by then to not have to sort […]

World

The Average Penis Sizes By Country May Or May Not Shock You (Photo)

This chart created by humor website 9gag is based on the average penis sizes around the world, and everyone’s probably pretty jealous of Congo right now. The original page doesn’t say where the statistics come from, but they definitely support some socially-perpetuated stereotypes. The US is below the global average and if it’s assumed the […]