We work with amazing small business and middle market companies founded by passionate, smart entrepreneurs. Our value we bring to these customers not only is in our ability to provide excellent marketing strategy and content services, but in being able to approach these strategies from an entrepreneurial mindset.
We understand how hard, how rewarding and how ever-changing it is to run a successful business.
A few years ago I wrote a post, “10 things they never tell you about starting a business,” in celebration of Allee Creative’s 10-year anniversary. Five years after that, I reminisced with posts that included 15 fun facts about how we came to be and some of our most memorable marketing campaigns.
Articles like these are easy and fun to write because they encompass the components of what makes our company tick; the memories and experiences I have as not only a marketing executive and strategist, but as founder of the company.
Each year in business brings new learnings and ‘ah-ha’ moments. Some of these moments are shared with clients and with team members. Others are kept close to the chest as other entrepreneurs can attest.
What I’ve found along the way is that when I talk openly with other entrepreneurs and business owners, I feel connected. In good times, in busy times, in stressful times, it’s helpful to hear that others have experienced the same things. This is one of my favorite parts of meeting with our clients; the conversations we have that extend beyond marketing and into the inner workings of our businesses–supportive conversations that help us all grow.
In that vein, I’ve updated my list from 2016 of tips for entrepreneurs in celebration of National Entrepreneurs Day. It’s a great reminder for those who have been in business for years and for those who are just starting out that we are all in this together.
15 things every entrepreneur should know
1. Separate personal from business. If you’re anything like me, you will take things personally. It’s hard not to; your business is your baby. Try and shake it off. Do your best to think of things through a business lens and not through a personal lens. It is not always easy, but it helps make clear decisions.
2. Ask for help. As they say, teamwork makes the dream work. Ask for help from those around you when you’re in a bind or when you need an outside view of things. As entrepreneurs we put pressure on ourselves to do it all–to be all–and that can come at a cost to our business and sometimes, the quality of our work. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others. You’ll find that more times than not they are happy to help.
3. Don’t be a DIYer. Could you do it yourself? Probably. Should you do it yourself? Probably not. Own what you’re good at and outsource or hire professionals to do the rest. This includes, but is not limited to: design, websites, accounting, legal contracts, writing, marketing, taxes. They are a time suck for those who are not well-versed in these areas and take you out of your true element. Investing in experts will save you money in the long run.
4. Crying is normal. You’ll succeed. You’ll fail. You’ll stress out and be frustrated. You’ll cry because you’re happy and you’ll cry because you can’t figure out how to get out of a mess that was dropped on your desk at the last minute. Cry it out, have your moment but don’t wallow in it. The moments feel infinite when it’s your business but eventually the tide turns. What is meant to be will be.
5. Say no. Set boundaries and be truthful with yourself about how much you can handle. We want to be ‘yes’ people and do everything; it’s rarely feasible and it’s certainly not healthy. Be OK with saying no. Truthfully? It’s something I still struggle with but I always feel better when I’ve stood my ground and pushed back or said no when I knew saying yes would push me over the limit. We’re human. We all need the break once in awhile.
6. It can be lonely. It doesn’t matter if you work in a home office or in a building together with your team. Entrepreneurship can be lonely. No one will love your business more than you; no one will understand the sacrifices, the stress and the joy it brings. That said, you will make friends in unexpected places. You will build a skill set unlike anywhere (and anyone) else. You may need to put yourself out there more to make connections–to feel connected. Take time to do that; it’s important.
7. Women and BIPOC entrepreneurs will need to fight harder. Do it. Find your supporters. Fight for what you know you can do and bring to the table. Believe in yourself and others around you. Stick to your intuition. You are worth it.
8. It’s not always as sexy as it sounds. We can’t all be Silicon Valley startups with venture capital backings. You will ugly cry (see point #4), you will take conference calls in your sweats, you will work in bed with sore throats and fevers, and you will be counting your pennies to buy Ramen Noodles for dinner during the first year or two (think college, but without the hangovers). Sexy is overrated. It’s still all worth it.
9. Be true to your values. Stick to what you know, what you believe in and why you started your business in the first place. Don’t let others take advantage of you and don’t lose sight of why you’re in this game.
10. Say thank you. What comes around goes around and our connections run deep (and can show up again years later). Be cognizant of those who help you along the way, who give their time, resources and expertise to support your growth. Appreciate those who support you in big and small ways; a simple thank you goes a long way.
11. Have a plan. You’ve heard it before–only a third of businesses have formalized business plans and only half of businesses have marketing plans. The numbers aren’t great; entrepreneurs can do better. I can say without a doubt that having a roadmap each year for my business has helped me grow (and learn to shift, when needed). Sure, plans can change, but having something to start with and prioritizing the items on that plan will help immensely. If you haven’t been one to plan, the time is now.
12. Take time to observe. Your business. Your accomplishments. Sit back and reflect on what you have achieved. Celebrate those achievements. Oftentimes we rush into the next big thing or task without truly reflecting on how far we’ve come. I know I am guilty of that; let’s do better to lift ourselves up and give ourselves a pat on the back every once in awhile.
13. Continue to learn. We start companies because we have something to share with the world; something we are good at that we can help others with. When we become too ingrained in the day-to-day of these businesses, we lose our momentum, our magic and the innovative solutions we started with. Make time to learn, to keep up with trends and to expand your knowledge in the industry you love.
14. Find your people. This can take time. You may find that networking helps; and sometimes even then it can be a bit of trial and error until you find a group with whom you can truly connect. When you find those connections, hold on to them. Relationship building is a huge part of what sets great businesses (and entrepreneurs) apart.
15. Just keep swimming. I’ve now been through two recessions during my time as an entrepreneur and they were each completely different from one another. What I experienced in 2006-2008 was extremely different than what I experienced as a business owner during a global pandemic that began in 2020. Priorities may change, but rarely does our passion for what we do. Keep at it. Push the envelope. Keep reinventing yourself. It’s worth it.