Although I find I am still pinching myself in disbelief, 2011 marks ten years since I first founded thinkit creative and took a bold step into this business as a writer, speaker and marketer. It’s been the best decade of my life so far and I’m really looking forward to what’s in store for the next ten years working with clients, friends and colleagues.
To mark this occasion, I’m sharing with you this list of things I’ve learned along the way…
You do have to be a little crazy to start a business.
The thing that keeps people from taking a risk in life is the same thing that fuels those who do take that risk: fear.
Fear is fire. Use it right and you can stay warm, eat well and find your way in the dark. Just manage it with great care.
If you’re not doing at least one thing that scares you once in a while, you’re not trying anywhere near hard enough.
You’ll be amazed at how generous people are in sharing with you what they know. All you have to do is ask.
It takes a long time to be great at what you do. More than just putting in the hours, you must practice your craft.
Only do what you like to do and what you are good at doing. For everything else, find someone else to do the job.
It’s not hard to spend too much time working, but you can’t ever spend too much time with your family.
Even when you’re new, it’s surprising how many people you know.
Use fewer words.
My best ideas come to me when I’m doing something other than work. This is why it’s important to have a hobby.
There’s a big difference between work and a job. Work is hard, but it’s also that way because you care a lot about it. A job is just a place you have to go to do something you have to do.
The fundamentals that go into making a business successful are time-honoured and time-intensive. Don’t be fooled by anyone who promises you a fast-track to fortune.
Build a great product or service, think always about how you can make things better for your customers, and put in the hours. Do these things and you’ll weather any economy.
Some people are just difficult. No matter what you do, they’ll just keep pushing the bar further. They’re not interested in anything other than making demands of others. Stop wasting your time on people like that.
Analogous to what Louis Armstrong once said about music, there’s only two kinds of writing: good and bad.
People often say you need to write every day to be a successful writer. I disagree. What you do need to exercise daily is your own sense of good taste.
Memories are faulty. Get it in writing.
Time is money, but don’t be stingy. It’s good to be helpful. It costs very little and the difference it can make can be substantial.
Always remember birthdays.
Networking is the oxygen of your business. Learn to do it so that it’s like an involuntary muscle that flexes on its own.
Good people with a positive outlook aren’t all that hard to find. Surround yourself with them.
There will be bad times. No matter how hard you work or how hard you plan.
No matter how deserving you might think you are of success as a direct result of how hard you work, be humble and acknowledge the role that luck has played in getting you where you are and in giving you what you have.
Forgive people personally, but don’t ever forget dishonesty in business.
No matter who is paying, your client is the reader, listener or audience.
Give an audience only as much as they need to understand what you have to say. Leave room for them to see themselves in your idea.
Keep a box of thank you cards on your desk at all times.
It’s not about the money.
Writing is a lonely job, but as Margaret Atwood reminds, “nobody is making you do this.”
You can learn almost everything you need to know about how to be successful in business and in sales by studying the habits of a great restaurant and a professional server.
If all you do is spend time listening to those who call themselves thought leaders, you’ll be nothing but a follower.
Don’t go cheap on things that have your name and phone number on them…business cards in particular.
Hire a great accountant.
Know a mean lawyer.
Don’t waste time with difficult people.
A cheap office chair might save you a few bucks, but it won’t save your back from misery.
No matter who you are, there’s always someone else out there who is smarter than you who can build a better product. So be good to people, always.
If you’re not worrying about looking after the little things, big things will get you.
Almost anyone can talk about how complicated something is. But only a few can teach how simple it can be.
If what you do matters to you, communicate with passion. Otherwise, what’s the point?
If you’re satisfying everyone, you’re not doing it right.
Don’t use so many semi-colons. Like Kurt Vonnegut once said, “all they do is show you’ve been to college.”
You can’t teach someone how to write. That’s a hustle. However, you can always learn how to be a better writer.
Be choosy about metrics. Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s relevant.
Know the difference behind the motivations of someone who wants you to work for spec and someone who asks you for your professional advice.
If you haven’t heard from a client in a while, call and ask why.
Get over yourself. Others think about you far less than you realize.
Give a damn when no else is looking. Especially then.
Worrying about things is just something that business owners do. Accept that, and don’t let it consume you.
The more you listen and ask questions, the more you will be valued as someone who is great to talk to.
You only own the first draft. After that, it becomes a team effort. So put everything you can into that draft.
There’s something to be said about just showing up. I’ve found a lot of new business just by being somewhere at the right time and being approachable.
The things you worry about the most are the things that tend to be the least likely to come true. It’s the unexpected that jumps up and bites you the hardest.
It will piss you off how often you have to learn from your mistakes.
Don’t swear unless you really, really need to.
Spend far less time talking about you. Show how you can help others.
Have goals, but don’t be one of those people who sticks rigidly to a five-year or ten-year plan. You’ll be amazed by how much there is to be gained by just letting things happen.
Don’t spend too much time alone, no matter how solitary you think your work is supposed to be.
If it’s a business tool that makes money for your or is mission-critical to your operation, buy the best.
Free comes with a price.
Even writers and editors have an editor. And you can’t pay a great one enough for what they can do for you.
Be generous with everyone. Make an extra effort for those who don’t have the resources or opportunities that you have had.
Always speak well of others. Even about those who have done you wrong.
Even if you live in a sprawling metropolis, everywhere is a small town when it comes to your personal reputation and that of your business.
You are what you post.
If your client is fun to work with, pays on time and values your advice, no job is too small or favour too great.
To launch a business and make it grow year after year is a bit like losing weight and keeping it off: there’s no magic pill that’s going to make it happen, but there are always plenty who will try to sell you otherwise.
When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work, but it’s still hard. The difference is that you don’t care how hard it is. You just want to do something great that you can be proud of.
Everyone underestimates how much luck there is in a recipe for success.
You know you love what you do when you willingly give up a lot to protect it.
In the service industry and in any economy, good people are always in demand.
Ten years goes by really quickly when you do what you love.