Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It takes vision, tenacity, understanding calculated risks and strong partnerships.
As a young person growing up in Chicago, I was immersed with small business owners everywhere. My dad began a charter bus company in his 50s. My part-time jobs during high school were at the neighborhood ice cream parlor and sandwich shop — for families who worked daily in their businesses and served as an incubator for this budding entrepreneur.
My first job after graduate school was as a commission-only investment sales representative. I didn’t realize at the time, but that was the start of my entrepreneurial pursuits. Commission sales teaches tenacity or how to “eat what you kill.” These early years were highly instructional and served as the foundation of my professional life as a business owner.
Here are a few of my entrepreneurial nuggets for those choosing this path.
Know your vision
You’ve heard the adage, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Write the vision. This is commonly called your business plan and your life plan, which will include personal and professional goals.
Always know what you want to do and be, and how to effectively articulate them. All your activities and projects should be driven by the achievement of your vision.
Stay financially lean
Minimizing expenses and eliminating personal debt will help you when cash flow is tight and will improve financing opportunities as the business grows. Cash flow is king and establishing solid financial management habits early is critical to your success.
Build your brand
Excellence is the word of the day. Work to establish credibility and excellence throughout your business as your brand; it should permeate throughout your company’s culture, values and work ethic. This means the right people, doing the right job with the right protocols. It’s truly your calling card and your reputation.
Establish a power team
You cannot reach success alone. Surrounding yourself with others who share your same interest, values and goals not only builds camaraderie, but also creates an environment of support that can stretch and support you through the entrepreneurial journey. You’ll need an accountant, attorney, insurance professional and, now, IT professional in your network.
The Bible states, Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.
Keep the faith
As an entrepreneur, some days all you may have is your faith or belief that you can succeed in business. There will be times when the financing doesn’t come through, you weren’t the successful bidder or you don’t know how you will make payroll.
You will have to alter strategies, experience detours and delays, and question your decisions — but trust that your perseverance will pay off.
Sandra Moody Gresham, LUTCF, CLTC, CPIA, is the Principal at Dehan Enterprises Insurance & Financial Services LLC. Since 1981, Sandra has worked as a professional insurance and financial services representative marketing a variety of products from mutual funds to bonding. In 1998, she established Dehan Enterprises Insurance & Financial Services Agency.