20 Things I Learned After 20 Years in Business
Today we celebrate the founding of brandRUSSO on February 1, 2001. Did I know then that we would still be around two decades later – nope. Did I know that it would be a good idea to quit my full-time, well-paid, in-house marketing job – nope. Did I think it was smart to go off on my own while 9 months pregnant and with a toddler at home – nope. Has it all worked for the best – yep.
I’ve been very reflective with the arrival of this momentous occasion and created a list of the 20 things I’ve learned in 20 years in business. I don’t know that any of these are particularly original, in thought but I do know that I’ve personally lived each one of them and believe they are cliché because they are true.
- Hard work will always outweigh talent. This is true in school, sports, and business. There are always going to be those phenoms out there, but for the mere mortals among us, the harder you work, the smarter you get. This doesn’t mean you should spend all of your time working instead with family, but it does mean that you can’t expect to get where you want to go without putting in the effort. By my count, most ‘overnight successes’ seem to take about ten years of really hard work.
- Don’t be afraid to start small. It’s actually better to start small. This will give you the time and space to figure it all out before you invite everyone in. Being “big” and looking “successful” are all part of your ego, not your effort. Start small and humble, and the success will follow.
- Be confident enough to accept your faults. We all make mistakes – that’s not the problem. The problem is not being able to recognize the mistakes and apologize for them. Own your faults, fix it, and move on.
- Fail fast. You don’t want to invest too much time and money into something before realizing that it isn’t right. Instead, start small and fix fast to figure out quickly if it needs to be changed.
- Win or Learn – you never lose. When it doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to, don’t deem it as a failure. Look for the lesson and learn how you can do it better next time. Sometimes that is way more valuable than if it had actually worked out the first time.
- Be a lifelong learner. When an athlete goes pro in their sport, they don’t stop training, so why is that people think that when they go pro in their career their learning can stop? If anything, learning has to increase. Read more. Take more classes. Learn more. As technology changes our businesses, we have to continue to learn and grow. Never stop looking for ways to continue your learning.
- Time is your most valuable resource. Practice good time management habits so you can accomplish as much as possible during your day while still making time for your family, community, and yourself.
- Communication can prevent or fix almost any problem. It is incredible how poorly some people communicate. And by some people, I mean me. What I am saying makes perfect sense to me, but I realize it’s about as clear as mud to everyone else. Remember to slow down and make sure that everyone understands, because it’s better to explain it right the first time.
- Listen twice as much as you talk. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. It’s so we can listen twice as much as we talk. For someone who loves the sound of their own voice as much as I do – this is still a work in progress.
- Hire people that know things you don’t know. I often hear that we should “never be the smartest person in the room”. I think it’s more about acknowledging different abilities and skillsets. I look for people with talents and skills that I don’t have. I still may be the “smartest” in the room, but I’m only smart about the things I know, and I know there is a lot that I don’t know.
- Learn to say “no”. In the early years, I said yes to everything. Every client. Every project. Every committee. And then I realized I was overcommitted and didn’t have enough time. My fear of saying “no” to a one client or project that wouldn’t be a great fit meant that I couldn’t say “yes” to the bigger clients and projects that were. Learning to say “no” didn’t prevent an opportunity. Quite the opposite. Once I learned to say “no”, I created the space for where I wanted to say “yes”.
- Find ways to have fun. We spend way too much time together at work to not enjoy it. We have to find ways to make it fun and enjoyable. If you want to attract the best talent to your company, then you have to make sure you are providing an atmosphere where they want to work.
- Not everyone feels rewarded the same way. Early in my career, I mistakenly thought everyone worked to make as much money as possible. Although money is important, and we need it to pay our bills, most employees need to feel rewarded in other ways. Understanding what motivates them and how to properly acknowledge them is important to ensure they feel invested.
- Recruiting great talent never stops. Don’t wait until you have an open position to start looking for someone to fill it. If you are always on the lookout for great talent, then you will have a pipeline of great people to fill any position when it becomes available.
- Delegate more. Following the E-Myth principle and learning to work “on” the business rather than “in” the business was only possible once I was able to delegate more.
- Process and procedure is key to ensuring positive outcomes. As we grew and expanded, I wasn’t able to continue to do everything myself, so we had to create specific processes and procedures to ensure the work would be done the “RUSSO Way”.
- It will always work out for the best. It might not work out the way you wanted it to, and it might not be the outcome that you thought would be best, but work with what you’ve got.
- Your knowledge and experience is unlike any other. No one else in the world has the knowledge and experience that you have. You are a genius in a world of geniuses, but your particular genius is unique.
- Have Faith. There were a number of times when I didn’t know if we were going to be able to stay in business; times when I wasn’t sure if we would be able to make payroll. I believed it would be okay, but I wasn’t sure. Have to have faith.
- Investing time, talent, & treasure to build your brand is vital. Reputation, word of mouth marketing, and advocacy are more important now than ever before. Building a brand is a never-ending journey that must be constantly nurtured.
I am honored to have had the opportunity to helm this company for the past 20 years, and I’m looking forward to what’s next.
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