Gini Dietrich

20 Secrets I Wish Someone Had Told Me BEFORE I Started a Business

By: Gini Dietrich | June 11, 2009 | 
37

So you want to start a business? Well, here are a few things no one tells you, but you should know!

1. We all think we want to manage people. It has the perception of hitting the pinnacle of your career when you FINALLY get to manage people. It sucks. No one tells you that. It’s not fun at all. It’s way more fun to have peers you can laugh and cry with. It truly is lonely at the top.

2. Lots of people are going to want your product or service. But a majority of them won’t be willing to pay for it. Choose very wisely who you spend your time with.

3. When you build your business and it begins to sustain itself, you no longer will do what you started the business to do: Your craft and, probably, your love and passion. Find ways that growing a business will excite you and make you passionate.

4. As a business leader, your job will turn into setting the strategy, constantly communicating the vision, managing the culture, protecting the brand, training, developing, coaching, and mentoring your team, making rain, and networking every day.

5. There is no such thing as work/life balance. Your life is the business and your business is your life.

6. Entrepreneurs think they are kings of the hill and set unrealistic goals…because they truly believe they can achieve them. Most companies only grow 10-15 percent (and that is A LOT less this year) per year. Don’t set 30-40 percent revenue growth goals in one year.

7. Start with the end in mind: What is your succession plan?

8. Find an organization where YOU can get professional development. I belong to Vistage. Without it, I would never take time to sharpen the axe or think about things differently.

9. Read as many business books as you can handle. You’ll find you’re really energized by them.

10. You’re going to spend more time than you like, or could imagine, on financials. Even if you hire someone to do them for you, you still need a really good understanding of them, what they mean, and how they can change.

11. Debt is not a bad thing if it’s managed well and used for growth. Learn as much as you can about access to capital, lines of credit, term loans, mezzanine loans, private equity, and venture capital. Make friends with a banker. Treat your bank as a silent partner; always be open and honest with them.

12. It’s going to be nearly impossible to separate business from personal, but you absolutely have to do it.

13. Figure out what the highest going rate is in your industry and start there. It’s impossible to raise rates on clients who have been with you since the beginning. They’ll always want your start-up fees.

14. I love that Bill Gates goes to his house in Montana for a week every year…by himself. No television. No Internet. Just him, some books, orange soda, and nature. This is when he does his most innovative thinking every year. If you can’t/don’t want to do that, try taking a “thought” walk once a week. Find ways to clear your mind and just think.

15. You will make mistakes. You will fail. If you don’t, you won’t learn and you won’t grow. Confucius says, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.”

16. Learn to lose sleep over things you never thought possible…if it makes you stronger. People who say you shouldn’t get up in the middle of the night, if something is bothering you, and do something about it, aren’t business owners.

17. Don’t just trust your gut, OBEY it!

18. One of the hardest things you’ll go through is hiring people your own age, people you really like and want to hang out with after work. You can’t do it. Ever. The line between business and pleasure cannot be blurred with staff.

19. Aim high. As high as you can, while still being realistic.

20. You are now in the business of developing and growing future CEOs.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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37 Comments on "20 Secrets I Wish Someone Had Told Me BEFORE I Started a Business"

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Brad Farris
7 years 1 month ago
Wow, Gini this is a GEM. I have to echo your call for starting with a higher rate than you are comfortable with. The sadness of how lonely it is hits me almost every day. Can I add a few? 21. Communicate a lot more than you think. When you are sick of saying it, say it 5 – 10 more times. For your key messages (What value we bring, what our values are, how we will treat one another) you can’t say it too much. 22. Everything takes longer and costs more than you think it will. Be conservative… Read more »
Luis Serpa
7 years 1 month ago

Great post, Gini. Right to the point.

I’ve been in this position twice already in my life (and probably for the third time right now) and I know from experience that everything you wrote there is true.

Particularly number 17. I always lived by that one and recommend everyone (even non-business owners) to do the same!

Thanks!

Louise
7 years 1 month ago

Great post Gini. Few entrepreneurs are prepared for the realities of running a business, especially one that’s in high-growth mode. When I was an employee, I was really adept at criticizing from the sidelines, thinking that I could do much better in the top job. Now, as an employer who tries to be fair and compassionate I know that, while decisions might seem arbitrary, many are talked about, even agonized over, long before they’re made. I love point 17. I can track most of my business mistakes back to not following my gut.

Gini Dietrich
7 years 1 month ago

Thanks for the additions, Brad!

Where is Tim Nagle? He disagrees with me. I want him to post his list! Tim!! Where are you??

tim
tim
7 years 1 month ago

Gini, you know my stance. I think instead of the 20 things people never told me….I was focusing more on the 20 solutions. So many mistakes are avoidable. I wouldn’t say I disagree, since it is YOUR list and I love you:)

Kevin
7 years 1 month ago
Gini, These are spot on. I ran a consulting business in the 90s and would have LOVED to have this list in front of me. Every single point you made, I could think of an example in my business. The one I would add, although it probably fits in with number 10, is to stay clean and update with IRS responsibilities. I am, sadly, still dealing with that lesson hopefully learned. Would I attempt to run a business again some day? “Yes”, but I would do things much differently and would probably refer back to lists like you’ve created here.… Read more »
Kat
7 years 1 month ago
Great post, Gini. Agree wholeheartedly with #1,2,3.6, 13, 14, 15. #4 is why I prefer to subcontract vs. have employees. #5 is why I also became a life coach…get to practice what I preach. #13: Long ago I was told about “The Blink Factor.” If they don’t blink when you tell them the cost, it was too low. #12: I do work with friends all the time. Tried to avoid it, but would rather work with those I trust and can laugh with. #18… that’s the difference between people you collaborate with vs. staff. So I agree. #17 Most of… Read more »
Martin Waxman
7 years 1 month ago

Thanks for being so smart, honest and passionate about your approach to your agency and business, Gini. And for sharing your insights. I’m going to file this one under ‘I wish I thought of that’!

Kelley
7 years 1 month ago
Great list, Gini! As Kevin says, SPOT ON! To speak to point 15 on failure, oh boy will you ever fail, but what a gift failure truly is. By failing we most often learn what NOT to do. I also fully endorse Brad’s additional points, especially the ‘over-communicate’ bit. Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, then tell ’em, then tell ’em what you just told ’em–again and again. I’d like to add that it is every leader’s duty to know themselves and what they are *really* capable of and to TAKE CARE OF THEIR OWN…take care of your staff… Read more »
Ces
7 years 1 month ago
Spot on Gini! Yes, running your own business, sole proprietorship, franchise, small business, or start-up requires your undivided 24/7 focus! In terms of managing people, the most critical decision you will make will be the hiring decision. Hire slowly! I do believe we still have a system in place that rewards the best and brightest, so the incentive is still there to do it. My concern is that the recent trend at the highest levels will permeate the smaller businesses. The reward of creating something big, a legacy if you will is worth it all, right? #8 “sharpen the axe”… Read more »
Mike Fleming
7 years 1 month ago
Wonderfully put, Gini! While I agree with Tim that most problems in business are avoidable or at least able to be mitigated, I think starting with an accurate definition of failure up front is a lot easier than success sometimes. Some of us need to know where the pot-holes are as we steam forward full bore and having reminders like these make all the difference. I give you a LOT of credit and admire you all the more for being a smallbiz owner willing to not only take the time to put this list together, but also publishing it for… Read more »
Len
7 years 1 month ago

How timely! Just today someone asked me why I don’t go and start my own thing. Well…there’s a lot to learn and know before jumping into it. Amazing List. Thanks

Len

Brigite
Brigite
7 years 1 month ago

I love this list, Gini. I’d be really interested to see you do a series on entrepreneurship. I think there’s a large market out there (now more than ever) that would love some straight talk about lessons learned in starting your own business.

Brad Back
Brad Back
7 years 1 month ago

Gini–well put. This should be published in Success magazine. I mean it—really strong. Plus…I didn’t know you had an axe…

Brad

Thomas F. Reaoch
7 years 1 month ago

True everywhere in the world! Thanks for the great reminder,
Thomas

Gini Dietrich
7 years 1 month ago

Brigitte, you spelled your name wrong here! LOL! A series on entrepreneurship. I will give that some thought!

Brad, you are alive?? Want to be my agent? Get me published in Success?

Thomas, great to see you here…all the way from Brazil!

Maria Marsala, Strategic Business Advisor

Great list. I plan to link to it!

FranchiseCoach
7 years 1 month ago

Wonderful article! And yes, I wish I knew what it took long before I put everything on-the-line thinking that I was an Entrepreneur. I wasn’t…but necessity has forced me to become one. Oh well, no use crying over spilled mild (and wasted time).

Ed Troxell
7 years 1 month ago

This was a great article and right on point. I have learned some of these as I have come along in the business and some I found out about ahead of time. Try to do as much research as possible and keep adapting to change.

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Lisa Hickey
7 years 1 month ago
Great list, thanks! As a former entrepreneur who just might be doing it a second time, this was invaluable. When you’re immersed in the day to day, it’s so easy to lose sight of some of these principles. What I found most interesting though, was that 5 and 12 contradicted themselves in some ways, and I do believe it’s the way the world is going. One things I have been learning to do is flow easily *between* the business and personal, and not worry so much when they overlap. Think about this for a minute: Can you act professionally with… Read more »
Jamie Sandford
Jamie Sandford
7 years 1 month ago
Gini, This is a good start for a great set of entrepreneurial mantras. I think most of your points here are solid, but I do have to take issue with point #18, as some others have commented on as well. It seems that maybe what strikes people the most about the statement is the binary implication of the concept of being “friends” with your employees. Your comment would lead one to believe that you either are, or are not, friends with your employees, but I’d like to challenge you to consider a vague gray area the @LisaHickey alluded to in… Read more »
Gini Dietrich
7 years 1 month ago
I have some additional comments: 1. A few people have pointed out that #5 and #12 are contradictory. What I mean in #12 is that you can’t take things personally, such as when a high-performing employee leaves. I spent the first years of the business getting my feelings hurt every time someone left. I took it personally. Last year, I realized it had nothing to do with ME. It had everything to do with what that person wanted from life and a career (or, in some cases, not a career). 2. I love the people I work with. I love… Read more »
Juli Barcelona
7 years 1 month ago
Great post Gini. It’s especially helpful for me as I get more and more involved each day in helping my Dad run Barcelona Creative, instead of just being an employee. I see some of our roles intertwining and changing and it’s a bit scary sometimes that he puts so much faith in my. If someone would have asked me years ago when I went to work for my father’s business what involvement I’ve have a few years down the road, I would not have guessed it’s where I’m at today. But it’s been an incredible learning experience and now I… Read more »
Watch Year One
7 years 1 month ago

Hey, nice tips. Perhaps I’ll buy a glass of beer to the person from that chat who told me to go to your blog 🙂
p.s. Year One is already on the Internet and you can watch it for free.

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[…] and smiles. 20 Secrets I Wish Someone Had Told Me BEFORE I Started a Business By Gini Dietrich http://spinsucks.com/spin/20-secrets-i-wish-someone-had-told-me-before-i-started-a-business/ Using Outlook More Productively. I love having the knowledge of using this productivity tool for […]

Frugalista
6 years 8 days ago

You just won a fan!

Gini Dietrich
6 years 8 days ago

DITTO!

Laura Scholz
6 years 8 days ago
So many truths in here, Gini. Especially about balance. It’s not so much about balance as setting boundaries and priorities. There’s never enough time for anything. And trusting your gut–can’t beat it. I kick myself every time I don’t follow it. I think the other advice I’d give is to be selective about who you do business with, even in the beginning. You’ll be excited about anyone and everyone who wants to work with you–trust your gut, pay attention to red flags and really think about your brand. And contracts. Everything in writing, even with friends. The other thing about… Read more »
Gini Dietrich
6 years 8 days ago

I really like the point you make about being “on” all the time. It’s sooooo true. And, if you tend to be introverted, it takes a lot out of you!

Laura Scholz
6 years 8 days ago

Yes! I mistakenly planned two days of back-to-back meetings yesterday and Monday, and I was just physically exhausted and completely overstimulated.

Laura Scholz
6 years 8 days ago

And another one that applies in every aspect of business–be kind to the little people. Remember their names and keep in touch. They may turn into future clients, collaborators or business partners.

Andy
6 years 8 days ago

I usually hate these posts and totally disagree with at least a couple of points, but this list is pretty well spot-on with my experience (and since I agree with you, you must be right…).

Seriously good points. Thanks.

Gini Dietrich
6 years 8 days ago

Clearly we ARE right!

Deryck Harlick
6 years 8 days ago

I’m just ‘restarting’ a business and this post has reminded me what to do and not to do plus a couple of extra tips. Thank you, great work.

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[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Taryn Pisaneschi ★, Megha Rodriguez. Megha Rodriguez said: RT @TarynP: Good stuff by @ginidietrich: 20 Secrets I Wish Someone Had Told Me BEFORE I Started a Business | Spin Sucks http://t.co/XZc4wLJ […]

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[…] now come to a point where I think I’ve figured out how these minds work.  Yes, they say it’s lonely at the top for this select group of individuals, but because they move too fast for the rest of us to keep up, […]

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4 years 28 days ago

[…] 20 Secrets I Wish Someone Had Told Me BEFORE I Started a Business By Gini Dietrich http://www.spinsucks.com/spin/20-secrets-i-wish-someone-had-told-me-before-i-started-a-business/ […]

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