Six things I learned about business in 2010

Just when you think you know, have seen or done it all in business – blam! The humble frying pan from the sky clocks you one. Of course, holding Canada’s first PhD in entrepreneurship helps me suffer from this situation more than most. The “But, dammit Jim, I’m a doctor” excuse doesn’t mean much in the small business world.  “So you’re a Doctor in business – which likely makes you more of an idiot in business than most.”

With each frying pan to the side of the head came new understanding, new approaches, new strategies and more humility. Babies and businesses are particularly adept at teaching us who rules. So, this retrospective rant highlights my favourite frying pan moments of 2010.

If we build it, they will come. (They didn’t.)

We spent two years and over $600,000 researching, developing, testing and perfecting our online education for entrepreneurs. We launched. Nobody noticed. Nobody bought. Change of plan.

There is no one right strategy for a small business.

If something doesn’t work, it’s not throw in the towel time – it’s dig in and dig deep time. Try something else. Figure out what works. Do more of that and less of what sucks. Entrepreneurship is for winners, not quitters. If you’re going to run home to mamma every time there’s a setback, don’t leave home (easy for me to say – I wanted to run home many times this past year but I’m glad I didn’t – success was just around the corner).

Starting a business will cost three times the money and take three times longer than you think.

Okay, maybe four times. Or more. The reality is that entrepreneurship and starting a new venture is full of uncertainty and unknowns. Plan for the worst, expect little – you may be pleasantly surprised.

If entrepreneurship were easy, everyone would do it.

Most dream of being their own boss but very few actually take the plunge. It took me 15 years to rationalize the choice. Only about one person in every 1,000 aspiring entrepreneurs actually does something about it. Good for us!

I’d be a better professor now than before.

Classrooms can be magical, particularly if the teacher knows what they’re talking about. How many business profs have run a company? Not many. I’d throw away the textbooks and teach from experience and the lines on my face. Way more valuable than following the bouncing ball of a strategic planning chapter.

Eureka! We have found it. (Didn’t know we lost it.)

Perseverance, determination, true grit – that’s what it takes to build a great company. It’s not easy, not even close.  I’m humbled by the help and advice I got from some of the “greats” – the men and women who laid it down long before me and built multi-million dollar businesses – who helped me through some rough GoForth patches.  They are my heroes.  I, too, will give back and help others cross the chasm when the time comes.

It’s January 1, 2011 now and so far, no frying pans. I’m getting better at ducking. To all you entrepreneurs, aspiring or otherwise, hats off.  Wishing you mind-blowing success this year!

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