My mom was a successful entrepreneur at a time and place when that was a foreign concept. In addition to building a million-dollar business in early 2004 in Eastern Europe, she also dedicated her energy to culture and regional development projects.
This drive, however, caught up with her, and 4 years ago she passed away from cancer. It’s my family’s belief that she could have survived if she had focused on getting treatment sooner. I’m not sharing this with you for sympathy. I’m sharing it with you because prioritizing your health over work is the greatest lesson she taught me. I learned the hard way that there will always be work the next day, and the day after.
That being said, my mom was my greatest teacher. In our time together she left me with a lifetime worth of business wisdom. We’d often discuss strategies and projects in her car, in between her meetings, and it’s through her advice that I later managed to advance in a career I love.
I believe our conversations can help you too, which is why I’ve collected the essence of her wisdom below.
Me: How do you know which project will succeed and which one won’t?
My mom: You don’t.
Some things you need to do with the clear conscious they won’t be profitable. In fact, they may even cost you money. As long as they hold the potential to open doors to places, projects, and people, you’re bound to do it. It’s like a step back before you leap forward.
I took on projects that cost me a lot of money in the beginning. But they got me noticed. They got me clients who recognized the risks I took and my ability to make things happen in the long run. Smart clients (who typically have the most money to give) look at the big picture. A momentary success on your part won’t be enough to convince them to do business with you. Short-term profit thinking won’t get your foot in the door. Consistency and strategy will.
Me: What would you say is the biggest hurdle for new businesses?
My mom: Letting their enthusiasm dictate their business plan.
I’m all for being passionate about your projects, but when that emotion begins to cloud your judgment, you should slam the brakes. Intuition and passion aren’t the same thing. Gut feelings are real, but so is the danger of winging your business plan.
My business partner and I, we spent months planning our goals and resources before we even thought about starting a business. We knew what we wanted to sell, to whom, and how. Networking like crazy is crucial, especially for service-based industries.
Me: What are your thoughts on business failure?
My mom: I think many new entrepreneurs fall into the same mind trap.
They think that just because they had one good idea and it failed, that they won’t have another. They also think they should be the ones to come up with a winning idea in the first place. You can always invest in someone else’s and build a business from there.
I believe being an individual player in business is a narrow-minded approach. Sometimes you lack certain strengths and that halts your success. There’s nothing wrong with joining forces with other entrepreneurs now and then. Even if that fails, it’s experience.
Me: What’s your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur?
My mom: Delegating.
When you’re a perfectionist like me, it can be easy to become your greatest enemy. My manic need to oversee and do everything myself has rarely contributed to the final product. It has contributed to my burnout though (smiles).
In all seriousness, I think that reluctance to delegate ultimately means you don’t trust the people on your team. You either doubt your choice to hire them or their ability to perform. Either way, there’s only one way to test which one is it. Just delegate.
Me: What would you change if you had to do it all over again?
My mom: I’d drop some projects sooner.
I don’t believe in quitting, but I’ve come to understand the difference between that and leaving when it’s time to go.
If it feels like you’re quitting, like you can do more, and your heart is still in it, then you’re likely afraid and it is quitting. If you feel relief at the thought of dropping a project, it’s probably a good idea to do it. Sometimes, a project can keep on bringing high profit, but there are other costs you’re no longer willing to pay. I say, don’t just think about the money, add the intangible costs to the equation too.
Know your priorities and accept that they can change. Your time’s too precious to chase yesterday’s dreams. Focus on the ones you have today. Sorry, did I get too inspirational? (chuckles)
“The trick is to do it for you with a clear benefit for others. It’s where passion meets money.” Mom
In building your business and working toward your dreams, don’t forget to take care of yourself too. The profit you’ll get from that can’t be measured in money, but a currency much greater than that. You got this.
Thank you for reading!