by Mehron Price
“Experience is a hard teacher. It gives the exam first, and then the lesson.”
I don’t know whose quote that is – is it yours? If so, go you! – but whoever said that is the wisest person I’ve never met. I’ve been running Grants on a Mission for 6 months now, and here are 8 lessons starting my first business has taught me along the way.
1. Don’t Try To Be Everything To Everyone
Knowing who you are is just as important as knowing who you are not. Trying to be everything to everyone is the quickest way to confuse not just your client or customer base, but yourself. It’s much better to be known for doing one thing well than for doing 10 things sort of well.
2. Work On The Business As Much As You Work In The Business
This should go without saying, but just in case it doesn’t, I’m saying it. Work on developing the business as much as you work on delivering your goods and services. I believe that anything good can always get better. Constant self-improvement will keep you and your business on your toes.
3. Find Support Early
The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is 100% true for starting a business as well. Grants on a Mission would never have gotten to where it is now without the people I am lucky enough to count in my “village” of supporters. As an entrepreneur, especially if you’re a solopreneur, you will absolutely need support from wherever you can find it. Just make sure to invest back in your tribe as much as they invest in supporting you.
4. Start Before You Can Critique Yourself Too Much
This one is huge for the perfectionists out there – I’m one too! Waiting to hit on the perfect process before you get started? Don’t. Believe me, your customers will teach you more than you ever wanted to know about the quality of your goods or services. Sometimes they will teach you more than you ever wanted to know, but that’s okay. Business is an unlimited learning opportunity. Learn from your mistakes, get better, and keep moving forward.
5. Help Comes From Unlikely Places
A huge temptation of the entrepreneurship life is to hoard all your secrets. I’m not saying go public everything, but I am saying that the best help sometimes comes from the least likely places. Sharing my work with friends whose work falls totally outside my field has generated some truly great synergy, synergy that probably wouldn’t exist if I only talked to other grant writers about what I do. Talk to as wide and diverse of a group as possible to make use of others’ perspectives.
6. Everyone Is Not On Your Team
This one is tough. When I first launched Grants on a Mission, I thought that everyone in my life would be as excited about my business as I was. That’s a tall order! Part of the entrepreneurship life is making peace with the fact that sometimes – okay, often – you will be the one who cares the most about what you do. Not everyone in my circle is as passionate about grantwriting as I am, and that’s totally fine. Learn to be your own team.
7. Strike A Balance Between Talk And Work
One of the toughest aspects of entrepreneurship for me is self-promotion. This dates back to my reluctance to raise my hand in class if I didn’t know exactly what I was going to say – why draw attention to what you don’t know? Entrepreneurship demands that you find the right balance between talking about what you do and doing what you do. You can’t be all talk and no action but you also can’t be all action and no talk, either. It’s all about finding the right mix.
8. Believe In Yourself Harder Than Anyone Else
Being an entrepreneur requires you to believe in your vision harder than anyone else will. That means that you get to be your own cheerleader. But that’s okay! Having a vision of where you want to go will make pursuing that vision even sweeter. You’re going to get there!
What lessons has running your own business taught you? Share your wisdom in the comments below!
Mehron Price is the Founder of Grants on a Mission, a DC based grant writing consultancy. Grants on a Mission provides nonprofits with high-quality support in developing exceptional fundraising strategies. Our vision is to see (and help bring about) a well-resourced nonprofit sector that is able to make strategic decisions based on their missions, not on the next funding cycle. For more information, visit www.grantsonamission.org.