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Anyone who has made the plunge into the murky waters of entrepreneurship knows that starting a business is not easy. In the limited time I’ve been in this field I already know that it is actually quite difficult. Building a startup from the ground up is like pioneering a foreign territory. There is no precedent for what you are doing – no exact model, or map telling you where to go.
In that sense, entrepreneurs are like the modern day Marco Polo’s, Magellan’s, and Christopher Columbus’s of the world. We are explorers delving into the unknown, seeking newness, originality; we are curious, creative, and maybe a little insane.
As in life: sometimes you win, sometimes you fail. But no matter the outcome, there is at least one positive gain. Of course we’d like to avoid failure, loss, and the disappointment that comes with it, but here’s the silver lining: you will always come out of it having learned something.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum of success in your start up, I can guarantee that you will have acquired new insights, understandings, and skills along the way that you would not otherwise have.
Since May I have worked for GladlyDo, an odd job startup in Boston, primarily in the marketing and public relations sector, with next to no previous experience. Three months and 200 twitter followers later: here I am. Maybe I am not a social media wiz (yet) or a marketing queen, but I have learned a great deal nonetheless. These are some of the major lessons I have taken out of my experience so far:
1. It’s ok to be wrong, and it’s best to acknowledge when it happens!
If you’re at all stubborn or proud like I am, this one’s for you. I like to think I am right 99.9% of the time, but working with GladlyDo has humbled me to believe the percentage may be closer to 98%. Just kidding. I am wrong a lot of the time, and I will be the first to admit it, though this has not always been the case.
In the beginning phases of GladlyDo it was my way or the highway, “my idea is better than yours get over it”, or “I know this is going to work” (and turns out it doesn’t). Shockingly, this approach resulted in unhappy, frustrated co-workers. Luckily, I have changed my attitude for the better.
When you are working with a team odds are you will be wrong about something at some point. If and when that happens, don’t try to cover it up or make excuses. Swallow your pride. Accept it. Forgive yourself. And openly acknowledge that it happened. The goal is to be able to say, “Sorry guys, I was wrong,” without cringing. Your team will thank you for it.
2. Negotiation is a team’s greatest tool, but first you must know how to compromise!
Say you are on a team of smart, creative, and entrepreneurial people. You’re working on a project and your brain is flooding with ideas and opinions. The problem is, so is everybody else’s. Chances are you won’t always agree.
My opinion is that the most fabulous final products, more often than not, can only be achieved through a collective effort. So how do you build upon one another’s’ contradictory ideas and opinions to create this ‘most fabulous final product’? The answer: negotiation.
Negotiation is the pinnacle of successful teamwork. Through negotiation, ideas are discussed – bounced back and forth, challenged, twisted, and expanded – to achieve at a level of greatness that no one mind could conjure on its own.
So there you have it: negotiation is vital to group work, but what if you don’t all land in the same place? What happens when the conversation ends in disagreement? The answer: you must compromise.
How to compromise: rank your values, maintain integrity, strategize (pick your battles to win the war), and accept. Accept that you can’t get your way all the time and find a middle ground. No one is thrilled; No one is upset; it’s a happy medium. And if it doesn’t work? I’ll let you figure that one out. (hint: starts with ‘N’ ends in ‘egotiate’)
3. Communicate more. Misunderstand less!
To eliminate all misunderstandings is to achieve world peace; At least I think so. For example, misunderstandings have accounted for almost all of the negativity we’ve faced at GladlyDo, and these misunderstandings are simply a result of poor communication. Effective communication entails organized, clear, direct interactions and explanations between individuals. Got it? Good.
In other words: Be transparent with each other about what you are thinking and doing, and why it is worth sharing, and you will happily remain on the same page as one another. Oh, and be respectful – that’s important too!
Inherent to the act of starting a business is the process of learning, because that’s really what it’s all about. You learn what works; you learn what doesn’t; you adjust accordingly and see what happens next. To be in this continuous state of learning is a prerequisite for success. Learning isn’t everything though; it’s how you take what you’ve learned and apply it that really counts.