by Wadih Haddad, an EO U.A.E. member and founder and CEO of The Box Self Storage Services, LLC
Back in 2005, I began my entrepreneurial adventure by storing a few boxes in my bedroom. What I couldn’t have known at the time was how this simple chore would lead to my self-storage business, which now operates 24 facilities in the region. As my journey unfolded, I found myself stumbling many times over, making the kind of mistakes that make you want to give up entirely. But those errors, while painful, taught me some valuable lessons learned. Here are four that kept me going:
Burn the Boats
There’s a point in the beginning of business development when you reach a crossroads and have to make a choice— do you go left or right? Most people help themselves to a third option by staring at the crossroads, never taking action. One thing that’s helped me move forward is learning to accept the reality of situations and never look back. It’s like that movie, “Troy.” The first thing the Greeks did when they arrived on the island was “burn the boats.” When I decided to quit my high-paying (and secure) job to pursue my business idea, I used my nervous thoughts, fears and anxious feelings as points of clarity, leveraging them to propel me out of my comfort zone. I never looked back.
Follow in the Footsteps of Nike
Nike has a slogan that I think sums up the essence of entrepreneurship— “Just do it.” It’s so simple, yet so powerful. Early on, I discovered that it is much quicker to make a mistake, learn from it and move in the right direction, than to stay idle. Mistakes are proof positive that you’re trying, learning and growing. We recently rolled out an internal campaign called “Celebrate Mistakes,” which encouraged staff to share their experiences with failure—and document them—in an open knowledgebase. This method of experiential learning not only crafted a competent team free from the fear of errors, but it has kept us up-to-speed in the markets we operate within; we can now take our lessons learned in one market and execute it in another.
Share Your Dreams Early and Often
If you have a dream, it will always stay a dream until you put it on paper and bring it to fruition through a plan. To ensure I was held accountable to my own dreams, I shared them with my staff. I was open and honest and vulnerable. And I risked being humiliated if I said something and didn’t achieve it. I discovered along the way that when I shared something socially, I was able to set a commitment I could more easily stick to. Whenever I do this, I imagine I’m on a football field where a 100,000 people are observing my actions. I don’t want to screw up so publically, which keeps me moving through any “defenders” that get in my way. Most people don’t share their dreams due to the inherent risk of failure, but I’ve learned that risk is what pushes you to get things done.
Take the Stick Out of the Wheel
Just as pressure produces diamonds, creativity sparks when you’re in a stressful situation. One of the biggest turning points for me was going through a management buy-out after only four years into the company’s existence … and still managing to grow the company while committing cash flow to finance the transaction. This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but it was a necessary one to continue our growth, create jobs and expand our reach. To keep things moving, I made sure that all of the stakeholders, team members and vendors focused on one dream, vision, plan and target. If I didn’t have everyone on the same page, there would’ve been a stick in the wheel, impeding movement. Thankfully, my logistics paid off. With the right team in place, sharing the right values and understanding the objectives, we were able to accelerate our business growth exponentially.
Wadih Haddad is an EO U.A.E member who loves the sun, the sea, speed and delivering amazing customer experiences. Contact Wadih at firstname.lastname@example.org.