8 Lessons For Entrepreneurs (That I May Have Learned the Hard Way)

Happy Anniversary to me. Yep, eight years and two months ago  (May 1, 2010) I re-entered the world of entrepreneurship by starting Converse Digital with a mere two weeks notice, no money in the bank, no investors, no credit line, a wife, four kids, a big mortgage payment and lots of private school tuitions. I’ve learned a lot along the way and today I wanted to share some of those lessons for entrepreneurs with you. 1) You Need an Entrepreneurship Runway The common rule of thumb for starting a business is to have at least a few months income in your bank. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that. I didn’t have the luxury so many of my fellow entrepreneurs have, where they don’t take a salary out of the company for months or years, instead reinvesting all profits to quickly grow the business. Nope, Converse Digital had to be cash flow positive from day one. But this lack of runway has been a blessing and a curse. It’s been a curse because I’ve never really had the chance to strategically grow the company. Sure, here and there we launch little initiatives like our Social Reconnaissance Products…or our CIBER product (that I don’t even have a full webpage live for yet – just a quick landing page), usually after they’ve been on the drawing board for months or more. But on the flip side, that lack of runway makes you scared. Every day you wake up expecting the other shoe to drop — for a client to fire you or cut their budget, or for that big project you were counting on to NOT come through, or my "favorite" — a client falls way behind [...]

Four Questions To Ask Before You Think About Adding A Minority Partner

Agency owners want to reward their best employees and prevent them from leaving. Obviously, the best way to do both is to offer equity or to become a minority partner in the agency, right? Not so fast. Crafting a pair of golden handcuffs for a model employee sounds like a great idea, but when those handcuffs are forged from the company’s own foundation, the proposition gets dicey. A model employee might be vital to the agency’s success, but initiating the transition from worker to owner can have far-reaching consequences. In fact, the world watched it happen two years ago: Former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson stepped down after the company saw its worst U.S. sales slump in more than 10 years. Not surprisingly, Thompson happened to be the poster child of an employee-turned-owner. Starting in 1990, he worked his way up the fast food chain’s echelons from project manager to staff director to regional manager and, eventually, to CEO. As an agency owner who’s searched for a successor myself, I’ve seen the pitfalls. Before taking the leap to take on a minority partner, ask yourself the following: 1. What is a minority partner, really? Minority partners are a myth. If you offer someone part of your business, that person will act like a fellow owner — and not a minority one. He won’t think in terms of percentage of ownership, but in terms of haves and have-nots. In his mind, even a sliver of ownership puts him in the “haves” camp, and he carries all honors and benefits thereof. In some cases, that means the minority partner brings great ideas that drive the agency to new heights. In others, he slows down operations and starts fights [...]

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