Every time I turn around--especially in Seattle--I hear someone say, “I’m an entrepreneur.”
It’s an overused label, and it drives me a little crazy. It seems anyone can call themselves an entrepreneur in 2016.
Personally, I like to lead with my company-- i.e., “I’m with Blue Danube Productions.” What I’ve learned over the past nine years of growing Blue Danube Productions is that it’s more effective to show your entrepreneurial spirit rather than say it.
Whether you're a current business owner, or aspiring, here is my advice on showing it:
1. Build Your Company From Your Passion
Having an entrepreneurial spirit means that even before you start a company of any kind, you are absolutely sure that it is a passion of yours. Because in the days, weeks, months where it sucks (re: my December article all about crisis management), if it’s not a passion, you’re going to bail on it. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but many people start companies for the wrong reasons. (And it’s maybe why 90 percent of startups fail.)
2. Know Your Why
You know your passion and have a vision for your company. Now what? Make sure you can verbalize this to others. The biggest piece of advice I have for business owners is to stay true to who you are, which means totally understanding your markets and submarkets.
Ultimately, your ideas have to be sellable to your market. How is your company giving what people need or want? Who is already doing what you do and how are you going to do it differently? Be succinct. Be unique. Know your story.
3. Don’t Be All Things to All People
All along the way, from the moment I started my company, I had people help me. They gave me advice. They introduced me. And they taught me to know where my expertise starts and where it ends.
Know what you don’t know, and then find someone who does. Hire them, pay them, borrow, whatever you have to do. I know I’m not a CPA; I don’t try to be one. Marketing, for example, I knew I could take it to a point, but also I knew there was a time it needed to be taken over, so I hired someone to do that.
Even from within the company, I rely on my team and trust them with things I know I could not accomplish as one person. I don’t give them the recipe, just the ingredients. I trust their expertise and that they know what they’re doing.
4. Plan for What’s Down the Road
Many people spend a lot of time creating the business, without creating an exit strategy. Ask yourself:
- Is this permanent?
- Is this temporary?
- Who will I pass this on to?
- Am I going to do this to get through my kids college and then retire?
- Am I going to sell it?
- Am I going to shut it down?
Most importantly, how big do I want to grow my company? I know of event companies who turn business away because they “have all they need.” I know this is not me--you put a carrot in front of me, and I say, “Oohh, let’s go get that!” Everyone is different, but as long as you know your end-goal, you can develop the path to get there.
Whether you’re five months or five decades into owning a business, make sure you have a good plan, rely on others for their expertise, and never lose your entrepreneurial spirit. Never lose sight of why you first began. Stay nimble with change but stay true to who you once were, too.
I love to share my experience, but I’d also love to hear your biggest pieces of advice! I challenge you to draft your own list. You never know who might be wanting to hear it.
Niki McKay is owner of Blue Danube Productions, based in Seattle. Photo by Mike Nakamura Photography.
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