April 6, 2014 marked a special anniversary – one that not many businesses get to celebrate. Marathon Marketing turned ten years old! Only 34% of small businesses survive 10 years or more and I’m happy to be included in that statistic. It amazes me that we are where we are and my first thoughts are how grateful I am and I want to say “Thanks” to my family and friends for their support and encouragement.
But I can’t help but pause, take stock, and as I think about the next ten years, I want to share my top 10 Lessons I’ve learned these past 10 years.
- Love what you do. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” is a famous quote from Confucius. You have to be passionate about what you do. Wake up each morning with excitement and enthusiasm for what the day holds. I’m lucky to say that I love what I do.
- Love the people you do things with. It’s the people you are working with that really count. Business is ultimately about your partners, employees, customers and vendors. You have to choose to love the people you’re with everyday, because without them you’re sunk. This is one of the greatest benefits of my business.
- You need to constantly evolve. Things change; Things change fast. You have to be ready, willing and able to change too. Listening, absorbing information from every possible source, and making those key small decisions are what help a business evolve. The industry I work in today is markedly different from the one I started out in. Marketing and Licensing has gone beyond “Traditional” to include “Social” – Blogs, Tweets, Pins, Facebook, Instagram, and more. There’s no point at which you can think “okay, I can rest on my laurels now.” As the business has grown, the services we provide has changed and evolved too and they’ll continue to change in the future. It’s important to keep an open mind and remember to stay flexible so you can be prepared for what’s coming next.
- Ask for what you want. In my personal experience, the best way to get what you want out of life and business is to ask for it. It must seem like a mundane concept, I know. But it works like a charm, most of the time. In the beginning, I had issues with asking for things for two reasons: a) It made me feel vulnerable and b) I thought to be successful I should figure it out on my own. I was thankfully wrong on both accounts. Research suggests that we underestimate how willing others are to help us. In fact, successful people often take pleasure in helping, giving advice, and mentoring others. So don’t hesitate, ask for it.
- Proceed with Caution. I’m a naturally trusting person and choose to believe that people are honest and have the best intentions. But you need to protect your business and yourself from potential misunderstandings and misdeeds. Be sure to get clear, written agreements with your clients, partners, vendors and any others you may work with so there won’t be any confusion about what you all intended down the road.
- Believe in yourself. It’s another rather simple concept, but one that if you have the passion for what you’re doing (see Lesson #1 above), will be as natural as breathing. By believing in yourself and what you are doing, you’ll be able to share your genuine sincerity, confidence and convictions with others, and make them believers in you as well.
- You can’t control everything. No matter how hard you work or who you know, there are so many things out of your control. The sooner you realize that, the less frustrated you’ll be. Work hard at the things you can control, be prepared and ready, then respond decisively to the things that are out of your control.
- Focus, Focus, Focus. Have a clearly defined path and stay focused on what you do better than anyone else. Know what you’re supposed to be doing at any given time but accept that some ideas will fail (and some will fail big time!). It will be difficult to face that failure when you’ve become invested in a project. But the best course of action is to let it go, and move on. That way, you can continue experimenting, find out what works, and stay focused on your ultimate goals.
- Be Inspired by Others. Take the time to learn from others who have been there, done that. There are inspiring people all around us and they aren’t always in obvious places. Over the last 10 years I’ve had had the chance to meet many inspirational people and form lasting business relationships and friendships, and I’ve learned something from each and every one of those people. Be open to the opportunity to grow, both as a person and a professional. Each of our experiences shapes us for the better and one of these encounters could be one of those small moments that transforms you.
- Be true to yourself. To start and run a small business you have to have a combination of courage, ambition, passion and self-discipline… all essential elements of to successful operation. But, for me, it never was about being cut throat, or “whatever it takes, not matter what”, to be successful. If I have one core message it’s that you can achieve things you dreamed of, including business success, without losing sight of integrity and honesty and that self-belief that got you going in the first place. I have a quote from Maya Angelou posted on the wall in my office as a daily reminder - “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
So here’s to the next 10 years, (a little older, but a little wiser too.)