The beginning of December marks my fourth month in business as an entrepreneur. While I've been dreaming about this for a while, my official incorporation began late summer when the news broke about the little project I was working on under wraps.
Long gone are the days of corporate life. I remember vividly wondering how my work would be so much simpler without useless processes, meetings and 50-slider PowerPoint presentations. HA!
(I officially miss having a help desk I can call when my email is down, my Herman Miller chair, and the break room coffee.)
The President gets 100 days, I've had 90. Here are my top 5 learnings so far.
1. CEO is the best job, ever.
People think the title is glam, but it's nothing short of fast paced, self-service and lots of elbow grease. In the corporate world a CEO has the luxury of a crew to run the ship. When you're business for yourself, CEO stands for Chief Everything Officer. As CEO of a startup, you're in the thick of it all: strategy, operations, customer service, legal, finance, technology, marketing, procurement, and human resources. It's a whirlwind and some days it seems you have no time to do anything because you're busy doing everything! That brings me to #2...
2. Outsource the stuff that keeps you out of trouble.
A good start-up CEO, though, knows there are just some things you outsource. Having a great lawyer and accountant keeps you out of trouble. Intellectual property, contracts, bank accounts and all things money are important things to validate through a professional. There's a reason I didn't become a lawyer or bean counter and I'm grateful I have good ones on my extended leadership team!
My new business venture is to launch an industry social site for women in energy. And, truthfully, I've underestimated everything. I didn't think we'd have the demand we have, yet we reached our beta cap in 90 days. I thought we could launch pretty quickly, but have found there's a science to testing and the technology. (Who knew?)
Setting up a website is so easy, right? You just click a few buttons and it's magic. While it doesn't take the time it used to, it does take time, effort, capital and a focus on quality and scale. So my learning is to double up! When you play the game of uncertainty you must plan for the uncertain (cost and time) factor. As much as you think you can move mountains it all takes time and money and in the beginning, those things are in fixed supply.
4. Find 'wantrepreneurs' and partner up with those who share your passion.
Passion turns the word "entrepreneur" into "wantrepreuneur". There is a big difference between the two. We all want to see our investments grow but when you have passion and drive to see the longer term gain, it's a much easier road to success. I met an energy CEO recently. The guy is brilliant, but make no mistake, his exit strategy is to grow quick, turn, and sell. I cannot think of selling anything right now when I'm still building it. Building the foundation for a longer more sustainable path with mutually passionate people with the same values for success is a recipe for winning. Being okay with pacing the growth by matching it with quality means you might slow down in the beginning in order to speed up to scale...which brings me to my last learning.
5. Q2M: Quality and quick to market.
This is a tough one. When I look at cars, I tend to shop for the best value long-term. So when presented with the opportunity to buy a Yugo, Chevy, Caddy or Audi, I tend to choose the Audi. (Oh but Audi's are so expensive!) However, they are known for their service, reliability, design, customer focus, etc. Yugos don't run. They didn't when they were in production and have ceased to exist, yet they carried a cheaper initial sticker price. The key in any business is to balance quality, cost, and speed to the market. Pace and quality are everything. When you have a hungry customer, it's good to meet the need and prove the concept, but be sure you deliver without big flaws, else you'll send them out the door so fast to the next dealership that you'll lose an opportunity to scale.
I'm optimistic about the future.
While I reinvest everything I earn and have back into my business, I know I'm gaining experience and learning I simply wouldn't have had if I had stayed in my Herman Miller chair. Yes, there are days I wish I were on the top floor of a high rise building in a corner office earning a comfortable salary.
And then...I'm reminded that I'm the CEO, now.
Chief Everything Officer.
And for now there's nothing more exciting, crazy, exhilarating, scary and worthwhile than giving it that a real shot.
Note: There are so many of you, my readers, friends and supporters whom I owe a debt of gratitude for the support you've given me, It's an honor you read, comment and stay connected. Your emails, text messages, and pick-me-ups are inspiring and appreciated.