I usually wait until the end of the year to publish something like this. But frankly, 2017 has been one hell of a schooling – all for good. It’s already been a record year from many business perspectives, and I’ve met and made deals with several of the sharpest entrepreneurs I’ve ever met. Like any entrepreneur with aggressive growth goals, I made a few mistakes too, some very costly.
Through meeting and working with great entrepreneurs, engineers and investors from across the continent, and having traveled to dozens of cities to see how other like-minded industrious people operate and calculate risk, I’ve learned a ton. So before any of these entrepreneurial lessons from 2017 fade, I want to get them on paper and share with you. They’re valuable.
17 Life & Business Lessons Learned in the Last 300 Days
People remember images, not words: Something to consider when crafting your next public speaking presentation… the brain processes an image 60,000 times faster than text. The BBC reported that video and images are anticipated to be 80% of all web traffic by 2019, according to technology giant Cisco.
Keep text to a minimal in any pitch deck, speak to the images and video and keep your audience engaged.
Values don’t disappear overnight; they erode over time: Even good people sometimes justify to themselves immoral behavior. And a shortcut here leads to a skipped lap there. I saw one successful entrepreneur build a hell of a company over the last several years. This year, he started another venture in the middle of a boom time for the first business he worked so hard to build. He was burning the candle at both ends and, as I understand it, started taking shortcuts. The quality of his product for his successful first venture nosedived, and he is now in a lawsuit with a buyer… I’ll leave it at that.
Two years ago, this entrepreneur would never have cut a corner. But he was strapped for time and began to cut corners here and there. Soon it turned into a daily occurrence, and his business and reputation are now in trouble for it.
It’s not the hours worked; it’s the work in the hours: Direct rip off from a quote credited to Abe Lincoln, “It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” It means a lot in this day. I’ve learned by necessity in 2017 — because my schedule has become rather insane — that utilizing technologies which boost productivity and minimize time on projects without compromising performance, and relying more on your team, is how the real players get shit done.
A dramatic boost in profit can lead to a lot of wasted money: When you’re busy and making a lot of money, it’s tempting to throw cash at business related problems/challenges to free up time, leverage your success and so forth. Be cognizant that, as Robin Sharma stated, “nothing fails like success.”
During boom times entrepreneurs get sloppy and make costly mistakes. Burn rates can get out of control when you’re not paying close attention. Your traditional investment philosophy is often overlooked when times are good, and your staff can become disenfranchised if you’re not nurturing those relationships (which is the most costly mistake of all).
Stay true to your core values and entrepreneurial philosophy when things are booming. Don’t let yourself get carried away.
Keep track of your ‘ins’ and ‘outs.’ What money is coming in from where, and how much is going out and to whom? When things are booming, it’s easy to lose track and throw money around.
A support team is not a nice to have; it’s a must-have: Taking the lone wolf approach to business is a mistake. If you want to be a lone wolf, expect to eat like one.
Can’t scale up staff when things are booming: I took note of this before but learned a hard lesson about it this year. When it comes to building a squad — a productive and talented team for your company — you have to be proactive and forward-looking. Take the risk when you see momentum building in your favor and hire talent. The staff that rises with you up the ranks will be more loyal and bleed your company’s colors. It’s hard to expect someone to understand and appreciate the struggles and DNA of your business when they’ve only been there for the good times.
Shadow the best, and never stop: It’s critical to observe and learn from talented entrepreneurs. Even if you’re hugely successful, every great entrepreneur approaches business uniquely, and you can learn from them, often finding ways to make your weaknesses strengths. Or you might just notice something they do which you’ve overlooked. Either way, it could be a transformative experience…
I learned a ton from a venture capitalist this year which I am in talks with about starting a new business together. We were once competitors. He showed me what it means to maximize the day, and also explained ways to improve my due diligence process. And he’s a fun guy to hang out with. Knowing him will make me a wealthier man – figuratively and literally.
Happiness and overall success starts with being around great people: Be inspired by those in your inner circle. Energy is contagious.
Diverse personalities make a dream team: Build a team with diverse personalities, upbringing, ages and beliefs. It will give your company an edge.
The economy is global now, and to crack into new markets, you need diverse perspectives and products. Hire millennials, 55-year olds, athletes, nerds, men and women and veterans. And give all of them a voice at the table. Your company will blossom because of it. The only thing they should all have in common is a great work ethic.
You have to show up: It’s sometimes inconvenient, but the more face time you give people in your industry, the better. It can be uncomfortable, but it must be done. Great opportunities come, often unexpectedly, after great meetings.
Family and friends keep you grounded: It’s easy to get carried away in your work. Family and friends will keep you firmly on planet earth and cognizant of your true self. Give them your undivided attention when you’re in their company.
Don’t get too high, and never get low: Keep your emotions stable. Although it’s necessary to celebrate victories, don’t buy into your own hype. Don’t let failure get you down. And monitor your consumption of chemicals (liquor, drugs, caffeine). Excess of any of the things above can alter your thoughts and emotions (vanity, greed, sadness, angst, etc.).
Live YOUR life: People will try and make you live life for them. The more successful you become, the more aggressive and demanding people outside your inner circle will be in trying to consume your time and energy. Keep your inner circle and life goals number one.
There’s no better time than right now: That goes for everything… entrepreneurial goals, family, love, health, and fun. Success, half the time, comes down to taking the initial risk or first step. And none of us know how much time we have left…
A friend of mine from high school, the father of a beautiful daughter, slipped back into a toxic lifestyle recently and overdosed on fentanyl a couple of months ago. 34 years old. Tragic. Last week, my uncle was in the woods hiking up the northern coast of British Columbia. A storm started, and a tree fell on him, crushing his foot and part of his leg. He was medevaced out of the woods and immediately operated on. He’s been on morphine all week, and by the grace of God, it looks like his foot won’t be amputated. But his road to recovery will be long and painful. Your clock is ticking. Act accordingly.
If people don’t have skin in the game, they won’t work hard enough: People, especially aspiring entrepreneurs, need to be risking one of two things at a minimum to succeed: Money or reputation. Risk and fear are great motivators. Don’t partner with someone not willing to put at least one of those on the line.
Everyone has their own standard of excellence: Have you ever worked with someone and wondered why the hell they don’t try harder or make more sacrifices? Wonder no more. Everyone is programmed differently, and it stems from their upbringing, so you’ll never be able to change them. Standards vary from person to person. Work with people whose standard of excellence, whose quality of work and effort, meet, or ideally exceed, your own.
I’ll never forget these invaluable life and entrepreneurial lessons taught in the first 300 days of 2017. They serve as a compass for the rest of both my personal and professional life, and I think every entrepreneur should keep them close to the heart as they navigate their way through the world. Whether you’re already successful and rolling in it or just starting it up, they apply.
P.S. Being an entrepreneur is a wild journey, but if you’re like me I bet you wouldn’t want it any other way… subscribe to my newsletter below and let’s crush it together. Only my best content will land in your inbox.