As originally published on May 12, 2015 at Forbes.com
Whether you’re starting a company from nothing or deciding to expand to your fourth or fifth location, as an entrepreneur, you’ll encounter more than your fair share of challenges and pitfalls. A lot of things might hold you back as a business owner: you’ll recruit the wrong people, or you’ll have a hard time branding appropriately to your target market. Because the world and the media tend to highlight companies that have been sold for hundreds of millions or billions with one wonderful idea, making them the standard of success, it’s normal to want to give up when things don’t come easily. All in all, though, the challenges faced as an entrepreneur pale in comparison to how rewarding it is to be your own boss.
The outlandish success stories out there—look anywhere, there are no shortage of them—can be hard to ignore. Google’s offer to buy Whatsapp for $10 billion and that college kid who is now one of the richest people in the world make for great headlines, but they shouldn’t be the only stories of success after which we model our business strategies. They are outliers. There are so many successful entrepreneurs who’ve built lasting businesses for themselves with hard work, sustainable growth and perseverance without the strokes of luck these buzzworthy companies undoubtedly depended on.
I own and run a company called Local Marketing, Inc. LMi is a full service digital marketing firm based in Atlanta, and we’ve recently expanded to New York City. It’s a mid-sized company that thrives on providing services to other mid-size companies.
The hardest part of starting a business is finding your niche and what differentiates you. It’s a long and hard process to get to a point where you can sustain customers long-term while always taking on new clients. It’s particularly difficult when our collective unconscious believes that anyone venturing to form a startup in the digital age must be aiming to be the Next Big Thing. As a mid-size business owner, I wish there were more content being generated devoted to the smaller—though by no means small—more accessible accomplishments of entrepreneurs. That’s what I aim to do with my blog posts: to illustrate how to achieve success as a business owner through my own stories, the hardships I’ve encountered and the strategies I learned along the way.
I think the specific issues I’ve had to deal with are universal to entrepreneurs, whether or not they aspire to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. How do I differentiate my business from my competitors? Who are the right mentors, and how important is it to constantly update your networking circles? What are the most important things to look for when I hire new people, and what are some creative ways to find the right people? These are some of the questions I had to answer for myself and aim to expand upon in the articles to come.
I’ll be writing about other topics as well. For instance, I believe in the importance of taking an occasional “thinking day” to brainstorm. I’ll illustrate the importance of constantly testing new strategies. I’ll write about how no matter how perfect your team is, you should always be in the process of interviewing. I’ll write about what we can learn from salespeople who try to sell to us. As the face of my company, I’ve learned to always be selling something, whether it be the results, dream, or vision, and I’ll share that journey here. And I’ll showcase how important it is to generate revenue from your existing client base before seeking outside funding.
My main goal with this series is to showcase the hard work and persistence it takes to start and run a company. It would give me the greatest sense of pride to learn that any aspect of my shared story played a part in influencing a future business owner.