The Top 4 Lessons I've Learned from 2+ Years as an Entrepreneur
About 2 years and 3 months ago, I was looking for a change.
I wanted a different job, my wife wanted to be in a different city, and so we started searching for opportunities.
A great friend of mine (and a few other people) had just launched a tech startup, though it was really still in beta (if not alpha).
"Kenneth," my friend said. "You can email a business, and you can call a business. Wouldn't it make sense if you could just text any business? That's what we're trying to make happen."
I was hooked.
And in January of 2015, I joined Text Request in it's beginning stages.
The company has grown and adapted over these 2+ years, as has my role in it. In that time, I've also started my own business (Kenneth Burke Media), and learned far more than I imagined I would 2 years ago.
If I could go back and have a cup of coffee with 2 Years Ago Kenneth, these are the 4 most important lessons I would share with him.
1. You can't do it alone.
I'm relatively smart, highly motivated, and always wiling to keep trying. Guess how far that gets me?
There's a lot that I can learn and do myself, but it is almost always helpful to listen to others' points of view, and to hear from people who've been there before you.
In entrepreneurship, "fail fast, fail often" is canon. But it's really better to listen to friends and advisors, and skip as much of the failing as possible.
No matter who you are, other people will always be a crucial aspect of you achieving your goals and finding success - however you might define it.
2. Read everything.
Read reputable blogs. Read books. Read everything you can get your hands on!
In my experience, the single largest hurdle is the learning curve. When you're starting out, you know next to nothing. And every day brings new things to figure out.
When you read from a reputable blog or a published book, you know you're getting the best available. After all, that information had to go through several layers of editing and approval before it even got to you!
How wonderful is it that you could take one expert's lifetime of learning, and soak it all up in a mere 300 pages? That's the world's most overlooked lifehack!
As Warren Buffet famously said, "Read 500 pages every day. That's how knowledge works. It builds up like compound interest."
So true, Mr. Buffett.
If you want to be better and better, you've got to spend intentional time reading. That's how you'll learn and develop without making needless mistakes.
3. You don't need much of a budget.
I used to think that with enough funding, you could do anything!
Just look at Snapchat (or almost any other internet company). Their 26 y.o. CEO is about to take a $4+ billion cut of an IPO when they've almost maxed out their market, have incredible competition, and bring in revenue 1/30 of their valuation.
None of that makes sense! But apparently anything can happen when you get billions of dollars in funding.
That's what I used to think, but I've learned better.
Sustainable, scalable businesses are inherently efficient, especially when it comes to cash flow. And as an entrepreneur on the internet, most of your growth can come from and time and sweat alone.
There's a friend of mine at another tech startup that scaled from $1M to $10M in annual revenue within a year. His marketing budget?
Less than $100 a month.
You don't necessarily need money to make money. In fact, if you have it, you'll probably just waste it.
You do need to be creative, work really hard, and try to get the most out of every dollar, even after you've messed up a thousand times.
4. It's going to take some time.
It's a bit of a cliché that great things take time, but it should be considered a classic. After all, "an overnight success is usually 20 years in the making," right?
Patience becomes your best friend and biggest opponent.
The average time for a startup to make it big (that is, of the 10% that don't fail within the first 4 years) is 7 years.
Being an entrepreneur is (clearly) not a get rich quick scheme.
It takes a lot of time. It takes a painful amount of patience. And it takes a lot of focused effort day-in and day-out.
But you know what, 2 Years Ago Kenneth? I wouldn't trade it for anything.