There's No Substitute for Experience
My white-collar career in a somewhat of a modern classic. After realizing I couldn't find a place where I could do what I loved, I just set out on my own. A few years later I was lucky to find two partners who felt exactly the same. I didn't start a business to scratch an entrepreneurial itch, but rather to create an environment where I could practice my craft.
We spent the better part of a decade figuring out how to run a business. All through trail and error. The vast majority of those decisions ended up being the right ones, but it certainly wasn’t efficient. Last week I spoke to an industry vet who built a business about thrice our size. In an hour he was able to refute or affirm every single strategic decision we’re facing. All based on his 15+ years of experience in our specific industry.
On the way home the only thing I could think about is the amount of time and frustration we could have saved if I had reached out to someone with this type of experience sooner.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing. We needed time to understand what type of businesses we wanted to build. But once you do, there are much faster ways of getting where you want to be without figuring out everything on your own.
Hitting the Fast-Forward Button
The cheat code for getting things right the first time is experience. Sadly that's exactly what you’re lacking if you're new to the game. Some of your prior experience might translate to the challenges you’re currently facing, but this is only a subset. Your best bet is getting help from someone who has done it before. This help can come in various shapes and sizes:
Books, blog posts, podcasts and social media. These types of media allow you to get familiar with specific topics, but often lack depth, specificity or don't apply to your specific situation to be effective immediately.
Franchises or Business in a Box. Don’t want to reinvent the wheel and leverage the experience of those who’ve come before you? Buy a proven system and skip all the trail and error. (Some of you might be familiar with my friend Peter Lohmann's Property Management Business in a Box)
Entrepreneurial support groups. Having an (informal) group of business owners you can ask for advice or just to blow off steam can be huge. I don't have any personal experience as I never found my people.
Mentors. Finding a true mentor is incredibly hard and I like John Wilson’s take on "micro-mentors". I reach out to 2 individuals with these types of questions, but only very sparsely because I know they are incredibly busy and I don't want to impose.
Business coaches/advisor. We had a long-time wish to engage a business coach/advisor who had industry experience and a proven track record, but it took quite some time to find one that aligned with our values.
While 1) and 2) have their time and place, the latter three options (and particularly 5)) really allow you to grow professionally and personally. Books and systems are quite passive, while one-on-one conversations make it possible to ask the tough questions and consider a wider context when giving advice.
I'm very bad at asking for help and never prioritized creating a support system, but I’m trying to do better. Don’t sabotage your professional development and allow yourself to stand on the shoulders of giants!