It's hard to believe that 10 years ago today I opened the doors to my company, MultiFunding LLC, and started an exhilarating journey that continues to amaze and educate me every day.
I've learned lots of things along the way. Here are the 10 most important lessons I have taken from my business's first decade, that every entrepreneur should know:
1. Join a peer group.
Entrepreneurs too often think they have to go it alone -- but you don't. No matter how smart you are, you probably aren't reinventing the wheel. Learn from fellow entrepreneurs about their own experiences with what works and what doesn't. Almost two years ago, I joined Entrepreneurs' Organization, and have found this support system invaluable, both on a personal and business level.
2. Don't be a jerk.
Sure, history is full of stories about ruthless people who took no prisoners and walked over people every step of the way. That can be a path to success, but you're going to run into rough patches and might need help from somebody now and again. So don't burn bridges or make enemies. You don't have to believe in karma, but doing the right thing ultimately pays benefits.
3. Embrace the ups and downs.
Few, if any, entrepreneurs enjoy a straight upward path to success. You'll be facing roadblocks at some point and, while they can be frustrating, they can be beneficial as well because they help you grow and learn as an entrepreneur. It's also a bit of a cliché, but it's true that hard-fought success is sweeter because you've earned it. There have been several points over the past 10 years when something "bad" happened and I felt a sense of despair. And if you manage to breathe through it, a new opportunity and path forward will invariably show up soon after.
4. Pace yourself.
A common trap for entrepreneurs is moving too quickly. Yes, you need to be decisive and take risks sometimes. But success generally takes time. By moving at a slower pace, you can prevent burnout, react appropriately to developing problems, and gain a better perspective about what you're trying to accomplish. Several years ago I wrote about the difference between tortoise and hare entrprepreneurs; I am a proud tortoise.
5. Remain focused but curious.
In other words, mind the carefully designed path you're following while keeping in mind that there may be other paths (or tweaks to your path) that might work better.
6. Live your values -- and build a team that shares them.
Healthy debate and opposing viewpoints can be beneficial, but your key team members must share your core beliefs and vision. I joke about it, but everyone in our office is a dog lover, which I think says something about the kinds of people we attract.
7. Love what you do -- or it's not worth it.
If you dread coming to work, you need to find a different gig. Passion is a crucial element to success, not to mention believing in yourself. This might sound a bit like a self-help book, but successful people in every walk of life tend to enjoy what they're doing.
8. Keep mentors close.
If you have someone who can consistently offer you practical advice and encouragement, don't let them go. They're just as key to your team as your best employees and provide a sounding board during both good and bad times. My mentors have been invaluable to me along the way, both with sound counsel and emotional support.
9. Celebrate victories along the way.
Don't be too critical of yourself. Enjoy the progress you've made, even if you aren't meeting all your expectations. Being an entrepreneur is hard, so lighten up on occasion and take time to breathe.
10. Transparency wins the day.
This lesson is somewhat similar to the second one on this list, but honesty and fairness are qualities of the utmost importance. In a society that's too often "every person for themselves," being a good person is worth the extra time and effort. The so-called Golden Rule has made sense for hundreds of years and will continue to do so until the end of time.