Top 5 Entrepreneurial Lessons I Learned in 2009

What a year. There was a whole lot of learning that went on this year that is for sure. I was thinking last night that out of my past 5 years in this space this year really was different. It was a year of huge announcements in our industry, great growth, conflicts, and amazing conversations. For me personally this year’s end concludes my first full year as an entrepreneur.

Now don’t go clapping or anything, I have after all been contracting out PPC for longer than that, but last year was the year my business partner and I left our old jobs and pushed forward with YourJobStop.com full steam ahead. We took an idea over a cup of coffee we had two years ago and finally saw it through in 2009. We created a solid site with strong functionality and a real purpose for today’s job seekers. Whew…I don’t know about you guys but seriously…this year flew by.

So what did I learn? I thought I would compile a quick list of the Top 5 Entrepreneurial Lessons 2009 Taught Me, if only because I think a lot of the lessons I’ve learned in business this year are some of the most important ones I’ve learned my entire life. So here we go (and yes these are in order of awesomeness)…

5. Great Ideas Aren’t Static
Growing up I was always pretty good with change. I’ve picked up and moved across the country, backpacked unknown countries, jumped from college to grad school to the real world to entrepreneurship, and so on and so forth. I’ve always loved change. Then I started a business, and this business had a very pretty concise business plan. Little did I know that business plan would change.  As this year passed, truths that were evident when we launched our company have evolved, and my partner & I have had to push forward with completely different initiatives.

I panicked like no other. I chugged some coffee (a.k.a. wine) and realized that “great ideas aren’t static.” If your business idea is the same it was three years ago, and you have failed to push into new audiences, areas, and opportunities…well you are not just failing your customers, but your business as a whole is suffering. Movement is a crucial component of momentum…and momentum is key for success.

4. You Can’t Control Other People’s Work Ethics
I tweeted this out not too long ago and—whoa—did you guys agree. It appears I was one of the last to learn this lesson. I blame too many years in academia where you are forced to work in teams and groups and committees. I took this classroom-project approach and thought business would be similar. Nope. I was so wrong, my friends. I spent the first half of this year trying to compensate for others not “quite on my time line” and losing my mind in the interim.

Then one day I just realized…I can’t make people move faster, and I can’t make them work harder BUT as an entrepreneur I choose who I work with. I can fire people. That’s a hard lesson to learn after a year of being told I am supposed to “play nice” with everyone else. So my fellow business owners just remember—if you are continuously bitching about the people you “work with” you have no one to blame but yourself. Suck it up, make some changes, and get on with it.

3. Asking For Help Isn’t A Sign of Weakness, It’s a Sign of Strength
I love challenging myself with new goals. This year I ended up learning so many new aspects of our industry. I dabbled in biz dev, client relationships, billing, editing, and affiliate partnerships. NONE of which was on my resume before starting YourJobStop. The first half of the year was rough as I tried to consume every word out there on these different skill sets, and teach myself the ins and outs. Then a friend of mine in the industry and I were chatting it up and they were like “you know you could just ask one of the 20 people you know that do that for a living.” {big gulp}.

Asking for help before seemed like a great way to announce my inferiority in something. Well guess what…here is a little secret for you…I don’t know everything. Neither do you. So start asking for help, start reaching out to the experts you have met along the road, and be thankful for the advice they have to give you. Trust me…there will be a day you will get to pay them back. It’s the cycle of entrepreneurship.

2. Get to Know Yourself, Others Expect It
I love to dabble. Hell I even love the word “dabble.” I’ve always been the girl that was just above average at a lot of things, but never really AMAZING at one certain thing. I think this trend lends itself to researching lots of new things, but never quite taking a stance on a particular angle. In sports, politics, and conversation this makes you a fair-weathered person. You tend to like what is likable right now, and you talk about it, and get excited…knowing you will move on when everyone does. Well there is no such thing as a fair-weathered entrepreneur.

You need to have opinions, you need to stand strong on certain initiatives and goals and fight for them. Others expect this from you. The more you waiver, the more faith that is loss in you. Not the company, but in you. This year has taught me that all though I may not know everything, I am certainly more willing to stand up for what I believe in. My voice is louder, my stance is stronger, and I’m not afraid to be wrong. That’s a place you have to be if you want to succeed.

1. It’s Just a Job
I just felt all of your eyes roll at once. It’s okay. There is this notion that if you start your own company you have to LIVE THE COMPANY. You have to breathe it in, and breathe it out, everyday, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You all know me well enough to know I love the craziness that comes with getting excited about an idea. I love coffee, I hate sleep, I love talking with you guys and getting all crazy at 2 in the morning on Skype, IM, Twitter, etc. But this year has taught me that all of this…is just a job. Contradictory, I know.

I watched a lot of you this year tweet out pictures of new homes, of your weddings, of your new baby girls and boys. I read your blogs on the travels you took, and the awesome weekend adventures you tackled. 2009 has taught me that perhaps I want more of that in my life, and a little less of being an entrepreneur. It’s a strange place to find when you are one year deep into a new company, but I also believe that if you work hard enough and smart enough, you can find the balance in life. Todd Mintz once reminded me that not sleeping is actually a bad thing. I’m not 100% sold on this idea, but 2010 is certainly going to be my year to explore that idea :) This year I am going to go after my goals, but remembering…that I am more than my job.

Okay that was a lot of writing for a top 5 list, but hey I’m a rambler. I hope you all found a little something in there you could relate with. I also hope you all had an amazing 2009. So many of you changed jobs, changed locations…it was crazy! I loved it. You are all such an inspiration to keep pushing forward until we are all loving our days and nights, and sharing it with each other. I think there will be a whole lot of that in 2010 my friends, I really do. Happy Holidays.

10 Comments
  • http://www.brian-hancock.com Brian Hancock

    Wow, it’s weird to hear you talk about work-life balance! :)

    Seriously though, it sounds like you’ve had an adventurous year and entrepreneurship can definitely give people that. It’s a crash course that educates in areas one would never expect…

    Seems you’ve learned a lot about running a business, but most of all, you’ve learned a lot about yourself and what you really want in life. It’s an exciting time, enjoy it, and best of luck this year!

  • http://searchmarketingwisdom.com Alan Bleiweiss

    Joanna,

    You truly have earned some serious “enlightenment” points this year. Of course, as Morpheus would say, knowing the path and living the path are still two different things. There will be times in the coming days, weeks, months and years where you forget. That’s just part of the nature of re-learning life and turning new awareness into habit. Be gentle with yourself when those moments happen and soon enough you’ll remember, and get back on track.

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  • http://facebook.com/ryanleecox Ryan L. Cox

    I had never came to your blog until today. I will now never leave. However I hate coffee, so can I consume Sugar Free Red Bull? And have we thought about moving everything to the first ever mobile ‘tree house’ office?

    Love,
    1/2 kidding 1/2 not kidding

  • http://www.WeKnowWhereToStart.com Laurie Lamoureux

    Joanna,

    Great post; great insights! I was JUST thinking the same thing as your #1. Coming down off my 4th cold/virus this year–I NEVER get sick!-I realized I have forgotten what the inside of my gym looks like, my bicycle and skis are dusty/rusty and I have not actually DONE the two hobbies listed on my bio in three years.

    I love helping people in my business, but as the flight attendants always say, “put on your own oxygen mask first.” Hello 2010–time to find the balance!

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  • http://blogpestcontrol.com Thos003

    Loved this … “Asking For Help Isn’t A Sign of Weakness, It’s a Sign of Strength.”

    Anybody that has matured to the point that they realize that they can and should ask for help and that having areas of weakness are natural and okay is moving in the right direction. Understanding your weaknesses and your strengths is huge.

    But to add to that the above thought, asking for help is different then asking someone else to do it all for you. As a scoutmaster I frequently come across the challenge of allowing young boys to learn and grow on their own… which it sooo time consuming when I could just do it myself. But that is getting more into management and development.

    Great post! Would love to finish that conversation we started on branding in Vegas.

  • http://www.fashionablymarketing.me Macala Wright

    #2: AMEN
    #4: It’s about balance. AMEN – again.