I'm drawn to the fact that entrepreneurship isn’t defined. Each person is free to make it into the job title, industry or revenue structure that they define as success. But this freedom also makes it easy to get swallowed up by ideas and opportunities without accomplishing much.
I spend my time working on entrepreneurial ventures in the marketing industry because I’m passionate about the field and want to see things actually happen. And that takes hard work, an open mind, and some good advice from several people -- because making an idea into a reality isn’t formulaic.
Based on my experience, here are a few bits of perspective I can offer you:
- Data can be interpreted to mean anything you want it to mean. Quantified return on investment is sexy, but it’s also dangerous. Whether considering entering a market or judging a launch's success, it’s easy to convince ourselves (or be convinced by someone else) that a poor performance statistic or market gap is actually positive. Doing so can cause us to miss warning signs or make poor resource investment decisions. It’s important to step back, admit what you can’t track and what assumptions are being made with what is being tracked before making decisions based on the reported data.
- Advice is just one person’s opinion -- and it isn't always worth adhering to. As I mentioned before, there’s no perfect formula -- especially in marketing and publishing (where I focus). If it were as simple as listening to someone’s advice and applying it to any situation, there would be far less failure in the marketplace. A friend told me a long time ago to solicit as many opinions as possible, but to remember that there are at least a few disparities between your situations. Keep others' "lessons learned" in the back of your head, but don’t let them keep you from trying something.
- Time is money, but more time doesn't always equate to more money. Early on in my career, I would easily work 100-plus hour weeks. I was excited. I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to find the opportunity. Many people told me I’d "burn out," but I couldn’t even comprehend that concept because I loved every minute of my work. However, when you’re working too hard, you lose sight of the big picture and of your health. I ended up getting sick a few times; each time, I’d have at least a small epiphany about something we should have been doing differently. So I forced myself to take a step back and spend less time working -- not to conserve energy or establish a work-life balance, but to gain perspective and be more thoughtful in my approach. So far, it’s paid off.
So much of starting up is about how you approach the day-to-day activities and who helps you through them. No one is truly self-made, but it’s up to you to be conscious of your own actions, inactions and needs to ensure that you’re making the best possible contributions to your own venture(s).
Emily Holdman is an entrepreneurial executive and adviser, specializing in strategic planning and market launches. Her portfolio includes advising Book'd, the clever online scheduling engine, being co-Founder of The Agency Post, and also leading other entrepreneurial endeavors in the strategic communications and technology industries.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.