Being an entrepreneur is similar to being a newlywed: Everyone has a piece of advice to "gift" you with. Some are helpful—hire people who have a proven track record. Some aren't—don't be an entrepreneur because you'll never have a life! Some advice will be just plain weird, such as "spray your business cards with perfume to make yourself more memorable" (huh?). Among the mixed bag of advice you'll hear throughout your career, here are three best pieces of advice I ever received and will always treasure.
- It's more important to ship passion than wait on perfection. It's terrifying to put your ideas out into the world; you could be laughed at, ridiculed, slammed, and so much more. It's easier to keep chipping away at a project until you are absolutely sure of its perfection than to reveal a work in progress. But, today, every piece of a work has to be a work in progress. It's the only way to stay relevant. Embrace the editor within which allows you to put out a beta version, and then tweak it to perfection 2.0. People will respect your passion, and if they don't, it doesn't matter. One of my favorite quotes is by Theodore Roosevelt: "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
- Beware of the ugly baby syndrome. While getting my graduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin, I took one of the most challenging and useful classes of my educational career—one that taught how to evaluate a business idea. We went through countless case studies, trying to determine if they would succeed or fail based on the facts given. During these discussions, our professor often referred to "the ugly baby syndrome"—similar to the tendency for every parent to think their bundle of joy is the cutest baby in the world, he said some people love their ideas so much that they refuse to see that it actually isn't very pretty. He was trying to stress the importance of objectivity in business. Don't love your idea because you created it. Be open to objectively analyzing, changing, and—if necessary—moving on from a bad idea.
- Differentiate or die. I miss the early days of the Internet, where you could find yourself a "niche" and suddenly own the marketplace. Today, you should expect stiff competition in almost every industry and it is more important than ever to differentiate yourself. When I started an online marketing company almost three years ago, there were tons of agencies out there, but no one seemed to truly understand the pain of the client. Our clients wanted us to do more than consult; they wanted a company who could customize a turn-key Web marketing solution for them that would result in greater leads and visibility for their business. When we beganto offer to take over Web marketing for our clients, revenues skyrocketed. We found a differentiator within the industry. No matter what business you are in, find a way to stand out.
Shama Kabani is the award winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, a full service online marketing firm in Dallas. She is also the author of the bestseller The Zen of Social Media Marketing, and an international speaker. @shama