Reflections on Entrepreneurship: 4 Years Without a Parachute

June 1, 2015

Celebrating four yearsI am one of those people who has a great appreciation for significant dates.  I love birthdays and anniversaries.  Today is one of those dates.  Today, on June 1st,  I celebrate four years of self-employment.  For those following the 7DC history, we are six years old, but I juggled a full-time job in the early years before jumping off of the proverbial cliff without a parachute.

Four years feels like a lifetime and yet it feels like a blink of the eye at the same time. I remember the first day of “freedom” like it was yesterday.  I had arranged a car to the airport for a trip to Chicago for a speaking engagement.  A stretch limo showed up and I had to believe that it was a sign that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  I landed in Chicago and had meetings and dinner with good friends. Yes, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

A lot has happened over the last four years.  Social media, the original 7DC service offering, has evolved into a mainstream communication channel and we spend a lot more time on strategy and content creation (don’t you just love the jargon?).   Our team has grown to include full-time employees and a really solid team of partners.  I even managed to publish my first book. If I were to summarize, I would say, that the company I created is “established.”

Here are some takeaways from the last 4 years.

1. Attitude makes a huge difference. Whenever I start to worry about the business, I take a deep breath, let it go and know it will all be OK. Knock on virtual wood, it has been.  This might sound a little woo-woo, but it works. Along these lines, gratitude moves you forward.  Whenever I am stuck, I take a second to remember how lucky I am and say thank you and it helps me push through.

2. The right partners matter. I’m incredibly lucky to have a team of people I can count on to deliver work and support the backend of my business. I place this high on the list of things you need to be successful.

3. Being a good leader is important.  This means learning and taking advice from people with both more and less experience than you. It also means taking care of people, being kind, listening, not always having to be right and not being afraid to admit mistakes.

4. Say yes as much as possible and learn when no is the right answer.  Stepping out of your comfort zone is really important. I am guilty of saying yes too often, but in the end something good always comes out of it.  When you are ready to say no, mean it and feel good about it.

5. The learning never stops. The hardest part of being in an evolving industry is that you need to learn something new every day. I do this pretty well and have learned to listen to audio books when I am in the shower or driving to use that time wisely.

6. Downtime is important.  I’ve read about many business owners working 14 hours days for months. I am personally unproductive after long hours and make sure to give myself and the team time off to recharge.  We focus on working smarter. For me, it’s not worth sacrificing the other aspects of life. This is a big part of our culture that I am proud of.

7. It’s not easy.  No one ever said it would be. Balancing client work, business development and operations can make a person go insane. No, seriously, it can make you nuts.  But you know what? I wouldn’t change it for anything.

I am personally having a growth spurt. I am spending time planning the next phase of the business as well as personal goals including a move toward doing some public service (more on that soon).

Today, on June 1, 2015 I am grateful for everything that has happened over the last four years. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of it, even if you are just cheering from the sidelines.