The American fairy tale of entrepreneurialism
We love a good success story just like the next guy. We love tales of triumph, of someone winning against all odds, and today, the American fairy tale of entrepreneurialism is one that has captured the minds of screenwriters, musicians, and Instagrammers alike. We worship the Zuckerbergs of the world who went from no one to bajillionaire in a short period of time as their lines of code changed how the entire world communicates.
But in that idol worship, we focus on that moment of success and don’t see the tales of failures hovering just below the surface. Every entrepreneur can tell you about the overwhelming nature of those struggles and failed moments, and they can all tell you about the crushing pressure that exists before the dawn of success.
So what should every hopeful, budding, or veteran entrepreneur keep in mind? We asked Victorio Pellicano, Founder and CEO of Verenia for his thoughts on the topic, on overcoming the difficulties of entrepreneurship. He earned his BS in Computer Science from the University of St. Francis, which he followed up with a law degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. He worked as a software engineer and soon founded Verenia which is a popular CPQ company (“Configure, Price, Quote” is software that accurately prices goods as endless variables change constantly).
Although there were already huge CPQ companies in existence (Salesforce, SAP), Pellicano has been able make his company meaningfully competitive and skyrocket revenue, all without outside funding. Talk about a high pressure scenario.
Below are Pellicano’s words of guidance for entrepreneurs when things look bad:
Starting a business from the ground up is tough
A lot of things need to go right to be successful. Too bad human existence has a funny way of doing exactly the opposite of smooth. Things change, people get into fights, or maybe the overall vision of the business isn’t what it once was. When you’re in business for yourself, the term “bootstraps” can mean a lot of things.
It isn’t easy, but if you do find that mythical “magic quadrant,” the payoff is incredible. You’ve built something you believed in, and you put in the work to achieve awesomeness. There are few feelings as gratifying as being the boss and taking a long lunch whenever you damn well please.
But, it ain’t all roses. Stuff will suck a lot of times. It will be hard. That’s just inherent to the culture of being self-made. I mean hey, busting your ass, coming up from nothing is basically, like – 80% of rap music, right?
As new entrepreneurs set off into the business world, there are some things they should know, what to expect and what to do when things don’t go as planned.
Check out these four things to keep in mind when it feels like the sky is falling.
1. Build a support system stronger than the Great Wall
When in business, stuff goes sideways. Anyone who’s ever held a job knows stuff changes and can go bad quickly – that’s just inherent to the DNA of work. But, when you’re in charge, and it’s your business, you’ll be pulled in a lot of directions. Many times, those directions are uncomfortable whether it be about the staff, progress, earnings, whatever. Because of this, you gotta assemble the All-Star team behind you, the folks who’ll always keep your head in the game and won’t let you get too big for your britches.
As an entrepreneur, you’re inherently optimistic. You had the guts to go it alone and do your own thing. That optimism is what makes you, you. Because of this bold attitude of work-related sunshine, you’ll probably not likely pay attention to that bad stuff, until it’s like, crazy bad.
By keeping a group of advisors, friends, and family close who you can talk to, you’ll have voices who offer advice from a place that isn’t about anything but helping you succeed. Success is a long process, rarely do businesses go from red to black overnight. You need some reliable people to keep you sane when all is quiet.
2. Don’t lose sight
When you had the idea to start your business, it was about more than just making money. You had goals, you had a vision, and you wanted to make an impact on the world. After a while, those emotional price points evolve. When you suffer a setback, or something goes way better than planned, it’s important to stick to your guns.
Keep a list visible near your workspace. You got into this game because you wanted to do better for your family, or maybe your last boss was a jerk and this is your way of paying the universe back. Either way, a little motivation never hurt anyone. You wanted to be the boss of yourself, don’t lose sight of that through the rough patches.
Set small goals to nail, and then work your way toward the bigger rocks. Motivation is hard, just ask anyone who wants to hit the gym, but still has a gut. Business is no different. You need to focus on the stretch goals and fight your way through the murk of self-doubt.
3. Rome wasn’t built in a day
You know why this old cliche sticks around? Because it’s true. Nothing worth doing happens overnight. If being self-made was easy, everyone would be doing it, too. (Just ask Biggie Smalls.)
Read any bio of successful folks who built an empire, or just a solid place to grab a burger in the neighborhood – success took time. For many of these folks, that time was spent worried the dream would go under from lack of early adopters.
But they persisted. They invested their money back into the business, they promoted, they made smart choices instead of the easy ones. Building brand equity will take smart moves and a lot of patience. Can’t be selling that charbroiled cheeseburger when no one’s coming in the door, right?
4. Accept your plan isn’t perfect
Just because you dream it down to the final note on paper, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work out that way.
If you’re a business-type CEO, you’ve spent a lot of time planning, writing business plans and Go-To-Market plans – that’s business 101.
If you’re a technical CEO, you’ve spent a lot of time coding, researching, and watching trends.
Both CEOs have done the homework, they’ve planned, prepared, and are committed to taking on the world, helmet strapped on and mouth guard in place.
But then the world doesn’t give a shit. Doesn’t even kind of care. No leads come in, there is no money to spend to bring in new customers, and no foreseeable change.
All the planning in the world won’t prepare you for the harsh realities of the free market. As you roll out and talk to people about your business, invite criticism and learn from what other people tell you. It doesn’t mean you have to change course every time someone’s opinion is different than yours, but their thoughts and critiques could offer a nugget of truth you may have not considered.
Final word of encouragement
I’m from Chicago, and if there’s one thing we love more than The Blues Brothers, it’s His Airness, Michael Jordan. I rely on one of his quotes to get me through the bad times:
“I’ve missed 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
If that ain’t some #realtalk, I don’t know what is. See you out on the court, folks.
If you are prone to a ton of meetings and calls, you need Aloe
(ENTREPRENEUR) Aloe is a productivity tool for business people who spend incredible amounts of time in meetings or on calls.
people who spend tons of time in meetings or on calls
If your average day is packed with calls and meetings, you’ve probably noticed that keeping all those conversations organized is tough, even for a pro like you.
If you manage to take detailed notes, it’s almost impossible to navigate them days or weeks later when you need to find a key point.
With all the time you spend in meetings, there’s not much left to actually prepare for any of them. And when critical customers or stakeholders are on the line, you can’t afford to slip up.
That’s where Aloe comes in, a work assistant that specializes in notes and tasks to make calls and meetings run smoother/
While you’re great at what you do, you are just human. Aloe isn’t, it has perfect recall: simply search for a person or company, and the assistant will offer up relevant notes or tasks, provide briefing materials, and locate any related plans confirmed by you or to you.
How it works
Aloe integrates with your Google, Office 365, or Microsoft exchange account and syncs with your email and calendar to learn who you who interact with and track the meetings you attend. When you start a call, just select it from your Aloe diary and start taking notes.
Since sometimes words alone can’t capture key information, Aloe lets you use a camera, microphone, or stylus.
Maybe you want to take photos of whiteboards, projected slides, or paper documents during the call or meeting. You can jump between media types with the click of a button to add richness and context to your notes.
You can then add follow-up tasks such as send a slide deck, setup a free demo account, or provide a price quote, so you don’t miss out on any opportunities. Notes can be sent to both Aloe users and non users straight from your dashboard.
Yeah, creating folders within folders within folders might make you feel like you have your life together, but most of the time you’re just building yourself a labyrinth of labels that even Command F won’t be able to find. With Aloe, there’s no need for hundreds of different folders and file names.
Aloe automatically labels each note using the event invitee’s name from your calendar, then lets you edit the labels whenever you want.
As for those pesky unplanned calls, taking ad-hoc notes is easy–just be sure to include all relevant names in your new note label to make it as easy as possible for Aloe to find.
Aloe helps you stay connected to your network by finding people or companies you’ve previously interacted with, and providing information about new people you meet by scouring various data sources.
Aloe soothes your work schedule
Whether you’re struggling to manage all your meetings and calls or you’re still pretending you aren’t, Aloe can make your work day more chill and more productive.
The tool works on phones, tablets and desktops, because well, so do you.
With Aloe, you won’t spend mornings in the office scrambling to prepare before meetings — you’ll spend them in the kitchen, scrambling eggs and singing show tunes, knowing Aloe’s got your back.
7 Facebook groups that all entrepreneurs should join
(ENTREPRENEUR) Building a business is hard to do, especially alone. Check out these seven Facebook communities to keep you encouraged and active.
Entrepreneur-ing ain’t easy
Being entrepreneurs of any kind if hard. I don’t care if you are running your own esty shop or a start up that will soon take over the world. The only real way to make your little seed of a business grow is to network, ask questions, fail, try again and market the hell out of whatever you are trying to do.
These are the groups that I found the most valuable with all of the key ingredients for being an entrepreneur. I’ve let you know what they say about their own groups and then I’ve added my thoughts as well.
Coffee With Dan
Theirs: “The nutshell version is that [Coffee With Dan] is a place for entrepreneurs who want to get shit done, have more fun, make more profit all while simply BEING THEMSELVES — without being pitched to left/right/centre, being fed crap about ‘the universe’ and understand the value of DOING THE WORK to GET SHIT DONE”
Mine: Coffee with Dan has been mentioned on multiple sites for many years as one of the top groups to join if you are an entrepreneur. As you can see in their mission statement “The nutshell version is its a place for entrepreneurs who want to get shit done.” That the hustle is real and places are needed where entrepreneurs can share ideas, get social and get shit done!
Freedom Hackers Mastermind
Theirs: “I created [Freedom Hackers Mastermind] so like-minded entrepreneurs can help and support each other, ask questions, build relationships and celebrate each other’s win in business. Let’s help each other reach freedom!”
Mine: Being a entrepreneur requires so much of one person that sometimes being one person is not enough. At Freedom Hackers Mastermind, you can tell building relationships is king!
Mastermind of Empowered Entrepreneurs
Theirs: “Join this elite Mastermind of Empowered Entrepreneurs. Together we can:
1. Share success strategies
3. Create Joint alliances
4. Share marketing tips
5. Give referrals
It is often said that you only need an alliance of 4-6 people to create the synergy needed that will take your business to new levels. What can we do with focus, intention and a commitment to helping each other succeed? Please join if you want to help others create the life and business of their dreams.”
Mine: Sharing is caring right? Damn Straight! At Mastermind of Empowered Entrepreneurs, you share, you care, you become a billionaire (hopefully).
Straight Up Entrepreneurs
Theirs: “[Straight Up Entrepreneurs] is a community of like-minded entrepreneurs minus the fluff. Where real-talking, straight-shooting, no-bsing, tell- it-like-it-is, anti-flowery hustlers share insights, tips and strategy to go straight up^.”
Mine: No one likes bs. Especially when you’re an entrepreneur and time is money. Here you get straight answers to hard questions. No fuss, no muss.
Theirs: “Welcome to our little corner of the internet. Entrepreneurial Exchange is a group founded by Mark Burginger, who appeared on ABC Shark Tank in 2010 with Qubits. He created this FB space for entrepreneurs who own and operate their own business. As a group you can share business tips, comments and advice with each other in a professional and polite manner. Joining the group is easy and it is open to the public. Click to request membership and we will review your profile. Not every application is approved. We are interested in Entrepreneurs, Investors, Reporters, Bloggers and anyone with a passion for building a business from the ground up. Read the Rules of the forum as written by Julie Stortz Busha who appeared on Shark Tank with Slawsa.”
Mine: Everyone knows Shark Tank, but not everyone knows a VC or gets to be grilled by one. In Shark Tank Entrepreneurs, the group is filled with Shark Tank alum and others who are happy to answer questions for those who have yet to hit a VC.
Theirs: “This [creativescorner] community is all about providing creative support and guidance for the modern digital small business owner. Here, you can ask questions, get suggestions, make special announcements, reach out for guidance and meet new incredible people just like you making lists and taking names in the digital world of business and design.”
Mine: Being creative is imperative to the success of any entrepreneur. You can’t just throw your hands up in the air when something doesn’t work, you gotta use all of those creative juices and find a new way. At Creatives Corner you can ask for guidance and get different perspectives that will get you back on track.
The Millennial Entrepreneur Community
Theirs: “The Millennial Entrepreneur Community is a place for aspiring, established, and rookie entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate, and share strategies and projects.
The group is brought to you by Arne Giske, host of The Millennial Entrepreneur Podcast. You can listen to the podcast at themillennialentrepreneur.com”
Mine: Mixing OG entrepreneurs and rookies is like mixing rum and coke. It’s a good mix for everyone involved. At Millennial Entrepreneur Community, noobs can ask the vets for help and foster a sense of community.
How to avoid the sting of loneliness while solopreneuring
(ENTREPRENEUR) If you haven’t yet given up on humanity, check out these tips for avoiding loneliness while freelancing / solopreneuring.
For all the aspects of freelancing that people romanticize, there’s one that they always leave out: the crushing existential loneliness of working by oneself.
If you’re tired of staring into the abyss (alone) every night as you wait for the 30 coffee cups’ worth of caffeine to exit your system, we’ve got your covered—here are a few ways to alleviate your loneliness (and couple of those voices in your head) throughout the day.
1. Stay in contact throughout the day
Simple, yet powerful. Plenty of freelancers I know put a block on their own Facebook and Twitter pages and turn off their phones for hours at a time. Not only does doing this shut out potential clients throughout the day, it also cuts you off from the one medium of conversation you can (kind of) passively pursue: instant messaging.
Keeping up an IM or text (hell, even Snapchat) conversation with friends and family throughout the day is an easy, perfectly acceptable way to ensure that your cats and your keyboard aren’t the only recipients of your one-liners.
The downside here is that you run the risk of killing your own productivity in favor of socializing. While this method may take some finessing, you’ll feel loads better after a day of semi-constant low-level communication than you do after none at all.
If this is absolutely out of the question for you, try listening to a podcast. Throw yourself a bone, here.
2. Arrange meetings over Skype instead of emailing
The convenience of email is pretty damn unbeatable, but staring at black words on a white background isn’t the most comforting of gestures.
Instead of communicating with your clients through a written medium, set up a video call—or, at the very least, a voice call.
In addition to helping you combat your building cabin fever, Skyping or calling your clients will help strengthen your relationship with them as well as make you stand out from the hundreds of emails they send and receive every day. It’s a twofer!
3. Phone a friend
What do the two previous tips look like when you combine them? Virtual co-working. This is a tough maneuver to pull off if you’re the only freelancer you know, but if you can finagle a work session with a friend or colleague even one or two times a week, it’ll pay dividends.
Co-working is a bit of a tired concept when it comes to staving off invariable pangs of loneliness, but in this case, it may actually be the solution to your problem.
4. Take a mid-day break to run errands
Taking an hour in the middle of your work day to go be around other people is remarkably refreshing, even if it’s just a trip to the local Fred Meyer (or, y’know, McDonalds).
You’ll also end up feeling better about the back half of your work day if you give yourself some time to decompress in the middle of it.
If this isn’t possible for you (I work a standard 9-5 rotation remotely), get up earlier than you need to and make your rounds or grab a cup of coffee then. Especially if you’re an introvert, you’ll get your fill of interaction by the time you clock in.
5. Learn to inherently loathe other people and adopt a hamster.
Shhhhh. Embrace the darkness. JK, ignore number five… even if it’s tempting…
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