I’m an entrepreneur with about 15 years of experience doing business on my own. I’ve run a home-based consulting practice answering to clients and hiring vendors. While I spent many years in traditional advertising and marketing, it was another whole matter creating and running a business for myself. Organization, bookkeeping and other disciplines were the tasks of others in an organizational umbrella. Mostly, the day was task driven and even goal driven but most of the time the schedule was set with meetings and follow-ups plus return phone calling and memo writing. Most of the time, all that was required beyond basic writing and speaking skills was format.
The most striking change to my own enterprise, with only myself to answer to, was to continually seek new ways to conduct and grow my business. Basically, I’ve been training since I’ve been working. When I was in the advertising business, I was on the film production side, and the amount of new information was endless. When I got into Internet technology, I had a lot of learning to do. Everything was new to everybody so I was in great company. When I became a journalist, I was writing for some major business marketing publications whose Chief Editors were ripping my work apart all the time, certain to improve it. As a consultant, I had to learn to pitch and present effectively – both my work and myself. This required enormous schooling in speech and delivery techniques. As a realtor, I had to go back to school for a license and then train in my office. I’ve also done a lot of sales training as sales itself is not intuitive for me.
In all these incarnations, the key for success was remaining open to new information from often unexpected sources. Sometimes free, sometimes for a fee. While I pride myself in the mentoring/role-modeling I’ve done for, mostly women I’ve trained, it’s been my experience that often, the information source is not just more expericenced, but increasingly, they are younger than I am. I must admit, that’s sometimes more uncomfortable for them than for me but that’s the subject of another post. 🙂
Key to all this is the availability of an open mind. Theirs and mostly, mine. What I sometimes have to learn is something I think I already know. Leading not following, I often anticipate, and thereby cut off, the flow of helpful stuff. I believe in myself and am rightly, self-focused, so as an independent, I like to get at the heart of the thing. I have little patience for formality and red tape. Sometimes, that impatience blocks information from someone with an entirely different personal style or manner of speaking than mine – after all, I’m a New Yorker.
I find that different professional disciplines, such as lawyering, focus on detail at a very granular level. I am an idea person and operate from the 30,000 feetl most of the time. I become impatient and lose interest if the granularity of the conversation obscures what holds my attention. The point, then, is that style can obscure value in some cases and it’s often my loss.
An extremely accomplished gentleman, whom I’ve recently had the pleasure to work with, said that on an occasion when he worked with a group of smart and talented individuals on some new business ideas, he was open to suggestion as soon as, much to his credit, he admitted he didn’t know everything and was able to check his ego at the door.