8 Years, 8 Lessons: What Every Entrepreneur Should Know (According to Me)

In September 2010, I started Lynchpin Ideas. My hope: do what I love, and don’t go broke. I had a business plan, but … it was not a good one. Let’s just say the first six months proved to be a failure — and lesson in humility. So I promptly hit “reset” and got busy networking, and quickly had an “aha” moment thanks to insight from someone unexpected. I changed my plan and got to work. Fast forward eight years, and we’re still growing strong. What lessons have I learned along the way? So many. But as this is a digital forum, and brevity is Queen, here are eight that might help you on your own journey into entrepreneurdom.

Set your intentions. Intentions are powerful things. When you define them, and tell even one person (for me, it was a close friend), they quickly become real. Mine were big picture, like working directly with “deciders,” doing work that would make a difference, and doing work that I love.

Define a business plan. Mine was vague, but clear enough that it enabled me to define the type of work I wanted to do, and for whom I wanted to do it.

Work your network. Your network is your ticket to referrals — the very best sources of new business. Have lunch. Do drinks. Often. Get your elevator speech down. You’ll need it.

Lean on your mentors. My mentors have been, and remain, my lifeline. I could not have launched or sustained my company (or my work/life balance) without them. I rely on them for advice about hiring, office space, business stuff in general, clients, haircuts, and more.

Be open to offering new services. Your clients are your lifeblood, so if they want you to provide something slightly outside your wheelhouse but well within something you are able to do, consider it. Could you do it well? Is it something you can market to another client down the road?

Be grateful, but selective. Tell your clients how much you appreciate them. Lift their burden when you can. But don’t forget there is only so much of you, or your team, to go around. It’s easy for large companies to scale up but harder fiscally for a small firm to do the same. So serve carefully, and only accept new projects or clients that align with what you do best.

Embrace growth when you’re ready. Growth is wonderful. And really, really scary. When you find yourself at the crossroads of Growth and Fear, head for growth. Proceed with confidence (you’re here for a reason, right?) and caution (do your forecasting, know your numbers, hire someone smarter than you) so you don’t lose sleep at night. OK, you’ll lose sleep for a while, but this too shall pass. Trust me.