Lessons from year one of SocialNorth
Some people are born entrepreneurs and others fall into it through circumstance. And some, like me, come into their true calling when they finally and truly realize that their square peg is just never going to fit into that round hole.
SocialNorth celebrated a first birthday last month. It sped past faster than expected (being busy with clients will do that) but marking the event is important. While a big, beautiful cake would be welcome, looking back at lessons learned might be more helpful – especially for other accidental entrepreneurs thinking of making the leap.
Your voice is stronger than you think
It took me a long time to move from wanting to leave my former job to having a solid plan mapped out. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to replicate my success, that I’d underwhelm my clients or that I wouldn’t be able to find clients.
Instead of letting fear debilitate me, I surrounded myself with smart, strong people who were generous with their time. I called on friends from Twitter who already managed successful businesses in the field I wanted to hang my shingle in. John Lusher and Suzie Kummins-Poirier generously shared insights that would have taken me years to learn on my own. From WithIt, I found my lawyer (Jerry Cohen) and a mentor, Kathy Wall (President of the Media Matters) who reminded me to mind the details.
Being in the lead is not the same thing as being a leader
To help develop my leadership skills, I accepted a number of roles outside of my core business focus of social media. Taking on those roles also helped me give back to the communities I live and work in.
- Canada’s first 140 Conference – Co-founder, speaker, curator and emcee
- Canadian Women in Technology – Founding marketing and PR lead
- WithIt – President elect for 2012
- She’s Connected – digital advisor
Working with so many different leaders was like taking a five-year college course crammed into one. Each leader brings a different sizzle – and with that sizzle comes a lot snap, crackle and pop to the groups they lead. The best are excellent listeners – and most of them are not the person in charge. They motivate others to excellence through quiet, thoughtful mentoring. Stephanie Lowder, Tricia Mumby, Jason Dykstra and Leigh Mitchell are a few of the leaders I’ve been lucky enough to work with this year.
Smart people ask a lot questions
I’ve never shied away from asking questions when I don’t know the right answer, but I never saw that as something an entrepreneur would wear well. Through the clients I’ve worked with and organizations I’ve served, I’ve learned that you don’t become someone’s role model because you’re smart enough to have all the right answers. You become someone’s role model because you’re smart enough to keep asking the right questions.
Everyone stumbles but it’s what we do after we stumble that defines success – or failure.
I’ve stumbled plenty this year, just as much I’ve seen dizzying success. And when I tally up the results, my best answer is that SocialNorth is a work in progress. I’m a work in progress. And in the end, as long as I’m still moving forward, still delivering excellence, that’s a good year.
Thinking of starting your own business? The toolkit below is a culmination of advice from my many mentors and lessons learned this past year. It’s my birthday gift to you.
Starting Your Own Business Toolkit
Map out your plan and figure out what makes YOU different
Know your competition inside out with a SWOT analysis
- S – Strengths
- W – Weaknesses
- O – Opportunities
- T – Threats
Build your business plan
Surround yourself with people who can help you. Not sure if you need a lawyer, accountant, PR? Get advice from other entrepreneurs. Then, get your collateral in place:
- Professionally designed business cards, website, Facebook & Twitter page
- Press release in trade publications
- Tools for your trade
- If your business is local, put a sign on your car door, advertise in the yellow pages, community flyers
- Do volunteer work – it’s the BEST form of advertising
Grow your community
- Let word of mouth be your PR Team
- Join associations comprised of like-minded people….like WithIt!
- Network online – the world is a big place
- Network face to face – don’t forget the power in a handshake
Share and protect your ideas
Learn how much to share when quoting for projects – giving enough to get the contract but not enough for potential clients to take your ideas elsewhere.
Deliver – do what you say you’re going to do
- Follow up EVERYTHING – never assume projects move along on their own
- Take ownership when things go wrong
- Manage expectations and constantly check in with clients
- Start a blog and share your success stories – get permission first!
- Take pictures – with permission
- Ask for referrals – just ask
Post a comment below and let’s start talking.