It has officially been one year since I started my company, Sylvia Perez Productions. Wow! Have I learned a lot and Wow! I have so much more to learn.
One thing I know for sure is the business world is definitely different from the broadcast world. As a journalist we are given tight deadlines. Typically you would get an assignment in the morning and have to be done in time for the 11, 4, 5, or 6pm news.
But that’s not how the real world works. The deadlines aren’t nearly as tight. It feels like it takes people forever to make decisions. But that’s not always a bad thing. I’ve just had to learn patience and to pace myself.
I was recently asked to do a workshop on lessons I’ve learned in becoming an entrepreneur.
It’s forced me to look back at where I started and where I am today. Combine that with the wisdom of some of my closest friends who have become successful female entrepreneurs and here’s what I now know.
- Love what you do. Unless you have passion, you are going to run out of fuel. Just saying I have a great idea isn’t enough. You have to believe in it, enjoy it and really want to make it a success.
- Take it seriously! Learn the business aspect. Passion is not enough. You have to learn to do the hiring, strategizing, bookkeeping and invoicing. Not as much fun but this is what really makes you the “businessperson.” And take your work seriously. If you don’t, no one else will. I like to look at it as I’m starting a fortune 500 company.
- Be prepared to carry the burden. Everyone agrees being the boss is the best but it can also be the worst. It’s all your responsibility. You get to pick what you want to do but this is no 9-5 job. You are often working on weekends and evenings to make sure things get done. After all, it’s your reputation and you want to make sure everything is done right. You’ll have your ups and downs and become discouraged and rejuvenated over and over again. It’s part of the process.
- Network. A lot. “Find someone you admire who has been there before you and listen to them. It’s good to be quiet, listen and just be a sponge. There are teachers all around you if you pay attention,”
says Kathleen Henson of HC consulting, a successful boutique PR firm in Chicago. Kathleen says she’s a big talker but becoming a better listener has paid off.
- Set up a business plan but don’t be too rigid. “Bottom line,” says Rita Dragonette of Dragonette Career Strategies, “…don’t get too invested in a direction too soon. You know what you want to do, the market will tell you what it wants from you and you’ll need to reconcile.” Rita is a career coach who helped me get started.
- Create a board of advisors. I got this advice from Joyce Marter the CEO and Founder of Urban Balance, a counseling service with more than 70 therapists in the Chicagoland area. “This (board) doesn’t have to be a formal group, it can be an assortment of mentors, colleagues, other professionals or friends.” Joyce’s advice is a technique I’ve also been using. One of the hardest things about starting your own company is that you are often on your own. There’s not always someone in the next office that you respect and can bounce ideas off. That’s where these people can really help.
- Learn how to promote your brand. These days, that usually means social media. I have someone who helps me with that. It can be a full time job that can take away from other things you need to be focused on. But it’s a great way for a small business to get the word out. I always post first thing in the morning and then again late afternoon. I’ve had clients reach out to me just because they have seen my postings.
- Create a website ASAP! Today, a business card is not enough. People want to go on-line and look at your companies product or learn more about you. I found once I launched my website, it legitimized my business and people started contacting me.
- Don’t let fear stop you. My mantra, “Embrace Your Fear.” Just do it. Once you’ve figured out you can afford it financially don’t let your fear stop you. “I had to muster as much courage as possible to walk out on a limb financially,” says Carol Fowler, CEO of KloboMedia, a social media management and strategy firm, and co-founder of TheSocReports, a social media growth tool for personal brands. Carol adds, “There are many unknowns, the largest thing being how am I going to pay the bills.”
- Which brings me to learn how to price appropriately and set goals. Find out what similar companies in your market are charging. This will give you a good idea as to what you should charge. A good barometer if you’re not sure is to find out what the high end and the low companies are charging then, start somewhere in the middle. Once you’ve done that set your financial goals and write them down.
Finally, if you are contemplating starting your own company and have been doing so for a while, just do it. I know it’s scary. Beware of detractors, keep a positive attitude and above all have fun. If you’re not enjoying yourself then maybe it’s not right for you. The goal is to start something that enables you to be in charge, have a family/life balance and enjoy what you are doing. I hope to be doing this for a long time to come.