By Shelley Rogers, EO Brisbane
When it comes to my entrepreneurial journey, I compare it to running my first triathlon. While I did train heavily for the race, I had no idea what to expect. It brought with it plenty of sweat, scratches, a few tears and, admittedly, a few swear words thrown in here and there. When I finally crossed that finished line, I felt a sense of accomplishment, pride and success. To my surprise, I had finished sixth in my age category. It was just another example of how through hard work and heart, you can achieve anything.
Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I had several “a-ha” moments and quite a few failures, each one honing my focus. Looking back, I found it was the failures that provided the biggest lessons learned. Those were the moments that left me with bruises, scraped knees and quite a few scares— battle scars that reminded me fighting for a vision can get treacherous, but it’s wholly worth it. The most important thing to remember is to learn as you go.
After going public in my first business, we had hit a successful rhythm. We acquired a company in Silicon Valley, expanded to three locations in Canada, opened a facility in Mexico City and completed a joint venture in Chile. One year later, revenue had escalated; however, bumps in the road followed. Despite an increase in revenue, our company was dismal at the integration and implementation of our business strategy. My defining “a-ha” moment happened late one night when my 6-year-old son asked me, “Mommy, did you get the money today?” I replied, “No, son, I didn’t.” My once-successful company had become yesterday’s news.
Before long, valued employees were leaving for greener and more dependable pastures. We had run out of cash and our investors were scared. It was an incredibly stressful time, to say the least. My energy was drained, my marriage was over and my two young children were being raised by a nanny. Beneath the daily “game face” I put on for employees and customers, my emotional and physical health were shot. I was devastated. When I was young, my father would tell me, “Nothing comes easy; you have to work hard for it.” But in that moment, it didn’t matter how hard I worked. I just couldn’t fix things. With no more options remaining, we closed our doors.
After a well-needed respite, I came to understand that it’s not how hard you fall— it’s about how quickly you get back up! I realized that my losses—both financial and emotional—were worthless unless I understood my “why.” Sometimes failure can be a gift, providing lessons that prove invaluable for the future. With that in mind, I ventured out into the entrepreneurial waters once again. I started a small, private company with low overhead and an experienced team that granted me flexibility and a balanced lifestyle. I went on to sell the business to my biggest client, leasing one of the largest independent leasing companies in the world eight years later. Here are five lessons I learned along the way that helped me succeed:
- Discover Your Passion – Find your passion. I was passionate about refurbishing and recycling electronics because it was making a positive footprint in the environment.
- Set Your Goals – I wrote a cheque to myself for US$1,000,000 and dated it 18 months into the future. I signed it and then placed it in my safety-deposit box. I believe in the subconscious mind. I had the money in my account to cash that cheque three months after my target date.
- Trust Yourself – When I was 25, I was scared and had a lot of doubt. Back then, I had less to lose and more time to give. Now that I’m in my forties, I’m a bit more cautious. I still have fear and self-limiting beliefs, but I have learned to trust my intuition and make the best decisions I can with the information I have.
- Set a Strategy – The first decade of being in business, we had little competition, positive cash flow and long-term clients under contract. Then, as the competition expanded, our strategy became even more important. Yearly off-site strategy sessions, followed by quarterly accountability meetings, monthly updates and weekly huddles, proved crucial.
- Hone Your Focus – In the beginning, I was focused on making money. Then a very successful businessman said to me, “Focus on taking care of your customers and employees first, and when they are successful, you will be successful.” Stay focused on what matters!
I’ve embarked on a journey of growth and, along the way, was able to reconnect to my purpose. Reflecting on two decades as an entrepreneur, I realize that my time is limited. You are where you are in life thanks to the decisions you make every day. Maximize every day as best you can and make decisions as if you only have a limited time to be great!
Shelley Rogers is a successful serial entrepreneur, an EO Brisbane member and the founder of Maxum Corporation, a firm that empowers entrepreneurs to reach their maximum capability.