5 Lessons for Early-Stage Entrepreneurs I Wish I'd Known Sooner
From educational opportunities to meaningful mentorship, entrepreneurship and workforce success is made up of a myriad of lessons.
Building a career involves a series of moments, meaningful experiences, connections and decisions. It's more than just one specific story that brings a professional to where they are in their chosen field. From educational opportunities to meaningful mentorship, entrepreneurship and workforce success is made up of a myriad of lessons.
Here are five things I've learned along the way, and that I wish I'd known sooner.
1. Dream bigger
One of my favorite quotes from Bill Gates says, "People overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in ten."
While I had hoped to be making an influence within the art and business sectors, I never imagined that in just over a decade, NINE dot ARTS would have impacted the success of nearly 1,000 real estate developments and over 10,000 artists around the world. Many of us stop short of dreaming bigger because we are afraid of what we don't know. We worry about aiming so high that we'll fail instead of having the courage to radically reimagine how we can make meaningful change.
But setting ambitious goals and maintaining a limitless imagination are critical, especially in the early stages of your career and your business' lifespan. For me, this meant thinking big about the transformative role art can have on people, businesses, and society at large.
So consider, what would happen if you dream bigger? What could you accomplish in the next 10 years? Aspiring to your highest goals may be just the key to ensuring they become reality.
2. Hone your vision
Establishing clear values and holding fast to them despite challenges are crucial elements for success. Prosperous professionals and entrepreneurs not only understand their core beliefs, but live them every day.
If you're a business owner or leader, ensure your team understands your value system from day one. Often as an organization grows, values are manipulated and tested. That's why having a firm foundation is essential. From hiring to scaling to implementing new systems, returning to your values can both ground you and guide you in the face of change. Plus, remembering why you started can help energize you as you grow!
So always remind yourself, "What's my why?" and let those values guide your work. Write them down. Share them with your team. No matter your business model, purpose-driven leadership can have a tremendous impact on employee engagement and business success.
3. Hire for your deficits to challenge your assumptions
Even the best leaders have blind spots. That's why it's critical to have people on your side who may see the things you don't - from anticipating unexpected challenges to leveraging overlooked opportunities. Hiring for your deficits demonstrates that you both recognize and account for your shortcomings, meanwhile trusting the expertise of those with different knowledge and strengths.
These are the people that will help you challenge your assumptions and constantly explore, evaluate, and embrace new approaches. Plus, they'll provide honest feedback that will support your growth in the long term.
For example, if your company is in the tech space, that shouldn't require that all your employees have a tech background. Embracing a range of professional experiences — from marketing to finance to DEIB leadership — can foster continuous innovation and optimization, as teams can learn from one another while honing their unique skills.
By welcoming diverse experiences — from identity to expertise — we challenge our assumptions and benefit as individuals and as a company, creating a more resilient business that is primed for growth and success.
4. Align with great people
One of the most significant lessons I've learned is to surround yourself with the right people. Sustaining relationships with those who believe in you and support your growth is essential to achieving your professional objectives.
There are countless people who have helped me become the CEO I am today, and those mentors, advisors and friends have been instrumental in helping me scale my business ventures. Their guidance has made a profound impact on the type of leader I strive to be.
Because of them, I have learned the value of integrity, authenticity and trust. These mentors taught me to care for my team and create a culture that sees each person as a human being. Creating space for those I work with to be their full, authentic selves has resulted in an environment of trust, support and motivation to succeed. And this makes our business stronger as a whole.
5. Stay grateful
Each day, find something and someone to be thankful for. Gratitude helps shift your mindset, allowing you to reflect on both your setbacks and accomplishments with renewed clarity and appreciation. Leading with gratitude also fosters humility and maintains your sense of strength in moments of challenge. And such leadership undoubtedly impacts your team.
Try practicing gratitude by celebrating staff birthdays, work anniversaries and other personal milestones, as well as regularly acknowledging those who demonstrate hard work, collaboration or another one of your company values.
Altogether, practicing gratitude will further solidify your entrepreneurial lessons learned. From dreaming big to partnering with supportive people, maintaining a grateful mindset will deepen your purpose and help you stay humble and authentic in pursuit of success.
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