It’s true what they say — time flies when you’re having fun — especially when on an entrepreneurial journey.
It was Friday afternoon in April 1997 — following three margaritas — when Synnovatia officially peaked its head over the horizon.
Sprawled on the living room floor among laptops, dictionaries, magic markers, and reams of paper sat my web designer, marketing director, and a creative muse. What happened next was legendary!
The coaching industry was in its infancy. There were 5,000 professionally trained coaches internationally. (Today, that number has swelled to more than 53,000 professionally trained coaches worldwide — not counting those “coaching since birth.”)
Since our launch, we survived a significant move (Washington state to Los Angeles), a husband’s short-lived retirement (an event any women-owned business with an in-home office can appreciate), an extensive home remodel, the devastation of 09/11, the stock market crash of 2008, menopause, Guillain-Barre, a pandemic, and we’re still standing.
In 1997, launching a website was worthy of a press release; Microsoft was the world’s most valuable company, and Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t yet born.
Lead generation took place the old-fashioned way — face-to-face.
A lot has changed in business — mainly how business is conducted. And, a lot has remained the same.
After growing a business for 25 years, here is the advice I would share with my younger entrepreneurial self (in no particular order):
1. Don’t select a company name that is easy to pronounce to make others feel comfortable. With a name like “Synnovatia,” the naysayers crawled out of the woodwork to share their well-meaning opinions. Point taken! Yet, no other option in all our iterations truly captured our philosophy and approach to business development and growth.
a. the process that one uses to create a new or different result
b. mashup of synergy + innovation
c. when two or more people collaborate to create something new and different
2. Stay your course. With the vast amount of information to sift through to find answers to your questions, it’s easy to get caught up in conventional business wisdom. But you’re an entrepreneur. That, in and of itself, says you’re unconventional. Believe in your dream even when conventional business wisdom says you’ve lost your mind.
3. Push yourself away from your desk. Entrepreneurship is exciting. It’s also stressful. Don’t wait for weekends or vacations. Be good to yourself every day.
4. Work with clients you love. No! You don’t have to take on every ill-fitting client to succeed. However, working with clients who aren’t a good fit with your values, beliefs, desires, and skills will show up in your performance in ways visible and invisible.
5. Don’t work with struggling clients. If your clients are struggling financially, so will you. Enough said!
6. Control your calendar. You have much more control over your schedule than you would like to believe. Take charge. Set up your work schedule to make it work for you or suffer the consequences of being held prisoner of your own business.
7. Don’t compare yourself to others. The entrepreneurial path is different for each of us. We each have a journey to take. Walk your journey with confidence, not questioning your course (unless you’ve wandered.)
8. Take the path less traveled. Most days, you’ll feel like a salmon — swimming upstream and going against the grain. Resist the temptation to conform. Rest, if you must, but carry on.
9. Remain relevant. The saying goes, “you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” You’ll have to make some seemingly risky moves if you’re going to keep one step ahead of being obsolete.
10. Trust your gut. Did you know there are more brain cells in your gut than exist within your skull? Fact! Don’t underestimate the power of your gut to guide your decisions.
11. Never stop learning. The moment you’re sure you know what you know, you cease to be competitive.
12. Treat people as you want to be treated. You’ll likely cross paths which others who play loose with simple business protocol. Don’t let it jade or compromise you. Be courteous. Return phone calls, respond to emails promptly and send handwritten thank-you notes regularly. Doing so speaks volumes about who you are.
13. Develop the art of listening to others. Don’t just listen for your turn to speak. Instead, tune in, be present, and hear what the other person is saying and what they’re not saying.
14. Don’t make it about you. No one likes a know-it-all or braggart. It’s one of the quickest ways to tarnish your reputation. Instead, demonstrate your interest in others by keeping the focus on them.
15. Finish what you start. Sometimes, you’ll want to disconnect from a vital initiative to move on to other, more exciting, shiny objects. That is the entrepreneurial path, right? Unless data shows you’re moving in the wrong direction, learn to complete what you start.
16. Don’t give up. Change is hard. It’s uncomfortable and ugly. So even though a job at Starbucks is tempting, persist during these anxiety-producing times. It’s these times that hone your most tremendous success.
17. Make time to think and plan strategically. Although this seems like common sense, it’s challenging to apply when people, places, and things are vying for your attention. Yet, it’s in these quiet moments that dreams hatch.
18. Execute. Again, seemingly a no-brainer, but a word of caution — don’t fall in love with strategic thinking and planning without learning to embrace the strategic execution of your well-thought-out goals and plans. Executing strategic plans is the difference between success and struggle.
19. Surround yourself with good people. Armed with the precious resources of a small business entrepreneur, align yourself with vendors, contractors, and partners who are in your corner, pulling for your success.
20. Lead with your strengths. It’s tempting to save money and run a DIY business. Resist the seduction. It comes at a considerable cost. However, engaging others to fill the gaps is one of the quickest paths to success.
21. Hold yourself accountable to your commitments. This means doing what you said you’re going to do long after the mood in which you said it has passed. Holding yourself accountable to your commitments enhances your formula for success.
22. Listen to the expert within. The marketplace is exploding with self-appointed experts. Trust that you know what’s best for you and your business.
23. Upgrade your assets to grow. The skills, talent, beliefs, and mindset that developed your business to its current level will unlikely take you to the next. So advance your resources to expand your business.
24. You’re more resilient than you think. Although headwinds might be substantial, they pale in comparison to your tenacity. Never underestimate your ability to rise above any challenges you face.
25. Believe in yourself, your dreams, and your capability. Don’t confuse capability with capacity. And, remember, you’re not limited to one dream.
Knowing that you know now, what advice would you give your younger entrepreneurial self?