5 Never-ending Lessons of EntrepreneurshipBy Chanel Hampton on August 15th, 2017 /
This month, LinkedIn so conveniently reminded me of my 2-year anniversary of launching my company, Hampton Consulting—thank you to everyone who sent encouragement, support, and love! I am not sure if this is a symptom of getting older or simply loving the work I do each day, yet this past 24 months has flown by! As I reflect on this wonderful whirlwind of missions, impact, and entrepreneurship, I can certainly say I have learned a lot.
Own who you are in all of your glory (and non-glory). I have something to offer the world, my community, and mission-driven organizations. While I am humble and truly believe I am simply doing what I am called and obligated to do, I also owe it to myself and everyone who has poured into me to own who I am, what I bring to the table, and all I have done…and not feel arrogant or self-conscious in doing so. Simultaneously, I have grown extremely comfortable owning what I am not great at. As soon as I could (also) own this and acknowledge that no human is perfect at everything (me being no exception), I quickly realized how much of an asset this was. I was able to more quickly delegate the areas of my company and work that I wasn’t uniquely or strongly positioned to lead—or, frankly, the work I wasn’t too fond of doing or simply shouldn’t be using my time to do.
You must get out of your comfort zone. Sure, you might feel awkward, ridiculous, or simply scared (of rejection or a number of other things). Yet, let me let you in on a little secret: The worst thing that can happen is the answer is no, you are rejected, and/or you fail at something. Think about a time 5, 10, 13 years ago when you felt like whatever that instance was, was the end of your world. Now, come back to you today. Was it that bad? Furthermore, what did you learn from it? In the moment, we can exacerbate issues. Stop thinking about all of the worst-case scenarios and instead of asking yourself what will happen if you fail, ask yourself, “What will happen if I succeed?” You will never know unless you get out of your comfort zone.
Yes, there’s a second part to this particular piece of advice. Oftentimes, I feel like people use significant scenarios immediately. Scale your way up. Start getting out of your comfort zone with smaller things. Personally, when I feel success with multiple smaller things, it builds me up to a larger win. Maybe this will work for you. Maybe it won’t. Yet know that you don’t have to bet the $1M or $500K immediately. Maybe you venture out with a pilot that is $250K or take a risk by collaborating with someone new on a project you admire and respect.
Say no. I used to feel bad about saying no or giving definitive parameters. The bottom-line is that, while Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes is my anthem and mindset for this entire year, you must also say no (Shonda talks about this, as well). If you know that something should not happen, someone should not take a certain angle on a project, time is being wasted and it must stop, someone is being enabled…whatever it is, you must say no. I don’t have much to say here, because we all know that thing, person, instance, etc. we need to say no to. Frankly, we can all think of a few things we need to say no to. SAY IT. Your company will be stronger because of it, you will be a better leader for it, and, ironically, by saying no, I guarantee you will gain something of value (new headway on a project, productivity outcomes, profit, and the list goes on).
Take care of yourself. I wrote a piece last month entitled “The Crazy Oxymoron We Tell Ourselves That Is Killing Us in Mission-Driven Work”. I encourage you to read this—whether you are in mission-driven work or simply know you aren’t prioritizing yourself in the way you prioritize your company and others. The bottom-line: Especially for us Founding Entrepreneurs, if you are not at 100%, your company cannot give 100%. If you are not at your best, your company will not see the next level. If you are too sleep-deprived, stressed, taxed in some way that you are operating on fumes—let me let you in on one more secret: Everyone around you can tell. You are the one who controls what you do next. Are you going to stop and take care of yourself or are you going to continue to give 50% hoping that the longer you do it, your efforts will somehow rise back to 100% (or beyond)? If you are a qualitative data-type person, read my article linked in this section. If you are a quantitative data-type person, Newton’s Laws of Motion (amongst countless theories and laws that I am sure could be applicable here) tell us that an object at rest or in motion will remain as such unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. That external force, my entrepreneur-friend, is self-care. As your body slows down, as productivity on a project slows down, you must insert some self-care…otherwise, you are going to stay at that 50% productivity or, frankly, continue to decrease. The third law tells us that for every action in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As you are pouring your all into your company, your body and mind are taking blows. What are you doing to tend to yourself and rejuvenate your mind and body—not as Tracey the CEO or Jonathan the President, but as you, an individual?
Commit to being a lifelong learner. Personally, I am a lifelong learner. I own being a nerd and I have never really stopped going to school. From my triple major in undergrad to my two Master’s Degrees to my current candidacy as a Doctor of Education, I genuinely love learning. While my example is a bit extreme, we, as entrepreneurs must commit to being lifelong learners. While my clients are a priority, the professional development of my team and my ongoing development are equally as important (if not more). Never fool yourself into believing that because you have made it as far as starting a company, as far as running a successful company…that you know everything. The second you do that, you are failing yourself and your company…and your company will fail in one way or another, sooner or later. Articles, workshops, conferences, reading books, executive coaching…I have dedicated time in my calendar each week to reflect and learn, time set aside explicitly for my own development. I intentionally send my team opportunities for development that align with what they are passionate about, working on, and so forth. Hampton Consulting has a dedicated professional development fund for each employee. I have established professional development cadences and I engage in meetings that solely focus on development and reflecting with my team. While Hampton Consulting serves mission-driven organizations and takes our commitments to our clients very seriously, I also know that the team members of Hampton Consulting, the people, make our company what it is. After all, that’s how I was able to launch my company—from my work and reputation as a mission-driven executive.
Entrepreneurs, take professional development very seriously. Do not fall victim to the “work until you drop” start-up mentality…or your company will be just that, a churn and burn. I believe professional development and self-care go hand-in-hand in a way we need to think more critically and intentionally about.