By Shelley Rogers
How would I describe my entrepreneurial start? It was a lot like running my first triathlon. Although I trained heavily, I had no idea what to expect. The result: plenty of sweat, scratches, tears and a few curse words. And yet, when I crossed that finish line for the first time, I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride. Above all, I was motivated to keep moving forward at all costs. The same went for building my first business, though it wasn’t easy.
Like many of my peers, my entrepreneurial sprint brought with it several “a-ha” moments and quite a few failures. After going public with my business, we found ourselves growing exponentially. Before long, we had 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. We had hit a wildly successful rhythm … and then came the obstacles in the road.
Despite an increase in revenue, we were dismal at integrating and implementing our strategies. As a result, my company had become yesterday’s news. Valued employees were leaving, we ran out of cash and our investors were scared. Before long, my energy was drained, my marriage was crumbling and my two children were being raised by a nanny. Beneath the daily “game face” I put on for my remaining staff and customers, my emotional and physical health were shot. Growing up, my father would always tell me, “Nothing comes easy, Shelley. You have to work hard for it.” But in that moment, it didn’t matter how hard I worked. I simply couldn’t fix things. We were forced to close our doors.
After a respite, I realized that it’s not how hard you fall but how you pick yourself back up. In this case, my business’s failure was a gift, directing me toward my real “why.” After sifting through the detritus, I ventured back onto the entrepreneurial path. I launched a small, private company with low overhead and an experienced team that granted me flexibility and a balanced lifestyle (things I never knew I needed to thrive). While I went on to sell that business, I discovered a few lessons learned along the way that have since shaped my entrepreneurial efforts:
Discover Your Passion: Don’t be afraid to dive deep and find your passion. When my first business failed, I waded through the anxiety to uncover a new passion, one that defined me as an entrepreneur.
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 placed it in a 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 started my entrepreneurial journey at 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 more cautious. I still have fear and self-limiting beliefs, but I’ve learned to trust my intuition and make the best decisions I can with the information I have.
Build a Strategy: In our 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. Annual off-site strategy sessions, followed by quarterly accountability meetings, monthly updates and weekly huddles, proved crucial.
Hone Your Focus: In the beginning, I was only 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!
Shelley Rogers is an EO Brisbane member, serial entrepreneur and founder of Maxum Corporation, a firm that empowers entrepreneurs to reach their maximum capability.