A Note to the Owner, Part I

The launch phase of a business is a critical time in a company’s formation. It’s not just about survival. It also sets the foundation for the company’s ultimate success as well as the experience everyone who’s involved with the company will have along the way.

Starting a business is an exhilarating time in an entrepreneur’s life, consuming countless hours and taking focused effort. Your thoughts and mental bandwidth are immersed in the business. Your conversations center on the daily events. Your moods can swing wildly based on a conversation you had, your level of exhaustion, or a sale—won or lost. If you’re not careful, it can be easy to start thinking that everything revolves around you and your company.

To those around you, your singular focus can be a mild irritation or it can cause relationships to dissolve. Don’t let it.

As your business grows and succeeds, it’s easy to let the same thing happen with your ego. Get over it. No matter how good you are or how much money you make, you’re probably not as good as you think you are and you probably didn’t have as much influence over the success of your company as you’d like to believe. Never underestimate the role that the people surrounding you played in your accomplishments. Sometimes your success may have been influenced by people you’ve never even met, or timing, or just dumb luck.

From one always-learning entrepreneur to another, here’s a list of suggestions to help keep you grounded as you navigate successfully growing your company.

Keep your priorities straight. Your business will dominate your waking hours and consume you if you let it. Don’t. Instead, follow the advice of financial maven, Suze Orman: “People first, then money, then things.” The people she’s referring to are your family, your loved ones, your employees, and your customers. This is the right order when it comes to personal finances and when it comes to business.

Manage your ego. When you decided to own a business, you automatically placed yourself in a high-risk category for having an inflated ego. Your employees aren’t going to tell you about it—they want to keep their jobs. Your suppliers aren’t going to tell you—they want your business. Your customers might tell you—but they don’t want to offend you. The only ones who gain from your inflated ego are your competitors. They recognize it as the weakness it is and they’ll take advantage of it with abandon.

Cultivate meaningful relationships. So much of business today is conducted on a transactional level and it’s easy for the human side to get lost. Businesses come and go. Money flows in and out. But relationships endure. They are a vital support system you’ll need today and tomorrow. It’s surprising how often people you’ll meet early in your career have a way of circling back and reappearing later. So nurture your relationships so you’ll always be thought of as a welcome guest should a familiar door open later on.

You’ll discover that much of what you need to know to grow a successful business are things you already learned early in life. In Part II of this short series, I’ll discuss a few more of them.  

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