• Lessons Learned from 10 Years of Entrepreneurship (and Why I’ll Never Return to Corporate America)

    Lessons Learned from 10 Years of Entrepreneurship (and Why I’ll Never Return to Corporate America)Big thanks to Visa for sponsoring this post!

    It was ten years ago this month that I left my Silicon Valley job behind to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams. I’ll never forget the last time I drove away from the big, sterile building where I collected a paycheck. It was a warm summer evening; I put the top down on my convertible and sped away with an uncontrollable smile on my face thinking, “I’m free!”

    The journey since then has been a twisty, curvy road with detours I didn’t anticipate. Not all have been easy, but every single one has led me to something even better. Following are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned along the way.

    Take the Road Less Traveled – I am a meticulous planner, though not one of my entrepreneurial plans has been executed without some surprises. I have entered into some plans with great conviction, only to discover that I was totally off course and I needed to adjust. As a business owner, you have to be willing to take a road that veers off the map because it almost always leads to an even better route.

    Keep Moving Forward – My brother owns a commercial flooring business and when he was getting started, he handed out flyers at apartment complexes because he knew they needed to replace carpet often. He landed his first job, and then his second, and eventually branched out from apartments. Almost by accident he carved out a niche in flooring for fitness centers. He has since installed flooring in Olympic stadiums, major sporting arenas, celebrity home gyms, and fitness franchises around the world. In under a decade he has built a multi-million dollar flooring business, and it all started with some inexpensive flyers. Wherever you are in the journey, keep forging ahead because perseverance eventually pays off.

    Celebrate the Wins – There are people who see the glass as half empty and those of us who see it as half full. You can focus on what isn’t working and make yourself crazy, because there will always be something that isn’t working, or you can focus on what worked and celebrate the victory. Those small wins add up over time and become the building blocks to great companies.

    Lean on Your Community – One of my favorite things about being an entrepreneur is the camaraderie we share as fellow business owners. It is a warm and welcoming community, which you need when you don’t have cubicle mates to chat with over lukewarm cups of break room coffee. Getting to know my community, in my own backyard and around the world thanks to the internet, removed the isolation. And the smartest move I ever made was to form a mastermind group that meets once each month. Every entrepreneur should be so lucky as to build a board of directors you trust and rely on for advice and the occasional push when you need it.

    Hire Help – The hardest place to be is a party of one in a business. You cannot grow if you wear all of the hats. You have to free up your time to focus on what you do best. Where would Apple be if Steve Jobs was busy answering the phones and inputting receipts into QuickBooks?

    Define Priorities – I started my business when I was unencumbered and I worked around the clock. But priorities changed when my son entered the world seven years ago. I didn’t want to miss out on being a mom and decided that I could in fact do it all: build a business and a family at once. In ten years I built a brick and mortar business and sold it, launched another business, wrote and published nine books, spoke at several hundred events, built a substantial social media following, launched and grew a group in my community with over 1,000 members, built five websites, cultivated several online communities, and grew my business despite a lousy economy and a million excuses why that shouldn’t have been possible. Oh, and I typically work just 7 hours per day, which forces me to hand off tasks others can handle. I have grown my business while still being a mom. Is it all perfect? Heck no! But it’s working because I got clear about my priorities.

    Push Through Fear – Becoming an entrepreneur is scary. Landing your first client is scary. Having all of the decisions rest on your shoulders is scary. Fear comes with the territory and the best way I know to deal with it is to stare it down and bust through. What other choice do you have but to get over yourself?

    Expect Failure – Michael Jordan summed it up best: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” I don’t know a single entrepreneur who hasn’t fallen down and had to get up again. It’s part of the job description.

    Embrace the Journey – Some people are uncomfortable with the risks of business ownership, but I’m more uncomfortable with the risks of having a job. I figured out long ago that there is a false sense of security in corporate America. I was in the heart of the Silicon Valley during the Dot Com Bust, and I watched many friends lose jobs they thought were secure. Of course your business will endure some rough roads, but at least the person in charge of your fate is you. I no longer work for bosses I don’t like or respect. I don’t have to ask for time off or justify how I spend my day. I don’t commute or endure meaningless company meetings. As an entrepreneur, I chart my own course, set my own rules, and I am fully responsible for steering myself toward the intended destination.

    I no longer drive a convertible, but just the other day I was cruising along in my soccer-mom SUV with the sunroof open, the windows rolled down, and the radio cranking out some of my favorite classic rock tunes. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I sped down the road thinking, “Yep, I’m free!”

    Here’s an infographic from Visa on the spirit of entrepreneurship:

    Visa Business_September Infographic_090513b

    I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business

    Filed Under: Small Business

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    About the Author: Stephanie Chandler is an author of nine books including Own Your Niche: Hype-Free Internet Marketing Tactics to Establish Authority in Your Field and Promote Your Service-Based Business and The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan: Simple Strategies to Build Your Audience and Sell More Books. She is also founder and CEO of Authority Publishing, specializing in custom book publishing and social media marketing services, BusinessInfoGuide.com, a directory of resources for entrepreneurs, and the Nonfiction Authors Association, a marketing community for authors. She has been featured in Entrepreneur magazine, BusinessWeek, Inc.com, and Wired magazine, and she is a contributing blogger for Forbes. For author and speaker details, visit http://StephanieChandler.com. Subscribe to Stephanie Chandler's blog feed here.

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    1. Stephanie, you are an inspiration to so many for your decision to leave corporate America behind via the Silicon Valley and forge ahead on your own entrepreneurial path. You do so much for so many. You are deeply appreciated for your devotion to others and their endeavors.

    2. […] this page to read on the many advices given by an entrepreneur based on his personal […]

    3. Liz JansenNo Gravatar says:

      10 years ago – August 1, 2003, I left my corporate job and haven’t looked back. It’s been quite a journey. The perceived security I once saw in working for someone else was really chains, holding me back. It’s been challenging – and yes I’ve had fears. Still do. But I wouldn’t change a thing. Not for a second. Except to have done it sooner. Thankyou.

    4. The biggest benefit I found from leaving corporate America is that I no longer let my value be defined by external gradings. My value isn’t related to my pay, my grade level, or how many people I supervise. (To be honest, I bought into that more than I should have.)

      For me the fear would lie in going back to being a cog. Besides, “writer” has a better ring to it than “cog.”

      • I hear you, Laura! I remember the weird and unexpected identity crisis I went through after leaving. It’s definitely a wake-up call. Hooray to you as well for making it out to the other side!

    5. Hi Stephanie, Bumped into your site while I was searching for entrepreneurship. I fully agree with you on your views.

      I wish we were educated to start our own business instead of the modern day slavery.

      Bullying in my previous employment and then PTSD and clinical depression and later on a car accident has forced me into entrepreneurship.

      I am launching my stock photo website by end of this year which will have 200 categories of pictures but limited content as I am building content on my own.

      I am hoping just to earn enough to look after my family.

      Wish me luck as I do not want to even think of going back to the corporate world.

      I would like inputs from you for e-books and self publishing. I wish to write tutorials on project management, photography and mainly chocolate and food photography.

      Hope to hear from you soon !

    6. Kim CNo Gravatar says:

      Stephanie, what great information!

      I’m in the process of pursuing my passion as well. Your tips have indeed inspired me to go forward … Also, I’m in the process of starting a blog and I would like to know from your expertise is it suitable to use my name or a catchy name?

      I’m a novice at this:)

      • sueNo Gravatar says:

        Hi Kim,

        I’m filling in for Stephanie since she’s off due to a family emergency. Starting a blog using your name for the domain name is great. Stephanie has her domain name at http://www.StephanieChandler.com. She also has her two blogs titled Small Business Growth Strategies Blog (that’s this one we’re on) and Nonfiction Book Publishing and Marketing Blog.

        Hope that helps! Let us know if you have any other questions.

        Sue, Project Manager for Stephanie

    7. You know what? I ‘ve been working for myself for over a decade. I can not even imagine working for someone else. Your article actually made me re-appreciate what and how I do my work. Inspirational tone to this article is what I got. Thanks for making helping me realize what I already believe and that is my value is not based on what others perceive but it is what I have learned through growth and motivation and a solid belief system, never take things for granted, be thankful for the simple things. Thanks!!

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