Four Lessons Learned From My Entrepreneurial Journey
A personal reflection after leaving my corporate gig 7 years ago
This post was written by Nevin Bansal, President and CEO of Outreach Promotional Solutions.
As I sit here thinking about 2019 and some of the goals I have personally and professionally, I can’t help but think about the last seven years since I left my corporate job and started my own business.
Since starting my business in 2012, there have been so many ups and downs. Wins and losses. Stress and enjoyment.
Running a business is not easy and not for everyone. Although I came in with a relatively strong business background, I’ve learned a lot about business and what it takes to run a successful company.
I’ve definitely not hit the mark on all it takes to be successful but I am okay with acknowledging that I am a work in progress.
I thought it would be helpful to share some of the lessons I’ve learned with those who might be thinking about starting a business or those who are struggling to run a business.
These are not all of the lessons that are out there but these are the ones that have made the most impact on how I run my business and how I aspire to run my business in the future.
Lesson #1: Learn how to be a “salesperson.”
It’s safe to assume that most people who start businesses do not consider themselves to be salespeople. However, the skill of selling is needed in all facets of running a business.
It’s not just about selling your specific products and services to your customers. It can be about selling yourself and your capabilities to prospects and potential partners. It can also be about selling your company and your leadership to potential employees.
When I talk about selling, it shouldn’t be about closing a deal necessarily. It is about building relationships, establishing trust and creating experiences that lead to better results – whether it’s more customers, stronger partnerships or happier employees.
Lesson #2: There is never enough cash.
One of the biggest things I struggle with is cash flow. Having enough cash on hand to invest for growth or make improvements can be challenging in a business where, in many cases, suppliers are paid in advance of receiving payments from customers.
It is important for all business owners to understand how cash flow works and have different levers to pull on in case cash is needed. It is also important to understand the pros and cons of different sources of cash which can include credit cards, loans, lines of credits, equity investments, receivables factoring, and others. This is still a challenge for me. My goal is to take control of my cash flow in 2019.
Lesson #3: Build your team to run without you.
Business owners have enough to think about – strategy, finances, operations, etc…Imagine also running projects and doing day-to-day servicing. It is nearly impossible to scale a business if you are working “in” the business too much.
To build a team that can handle your business effectively, you have to hire smart people, align their job roles with their skills and interests and then empower them to make decisions and take care of the client.
One of the best tests you have for if you’ve built your team effectively is if you leave for a few days and your team has things covered. I’m fortunate to now have a capable team who can work independently and carry the same values I have for our clients. It has allowed me to step away from many day-to-day projects, but this is a continual struggle. It’s especially difficult when we have a higher workload that requires me to get involved.
Lesson #4: Figure out what keeps you motivated.
Running a business can be lonely, discouraging and stressful. It can be the greatest time and challenge of your life if you have the right mindset. Almost every entrepreneur is going to go through rejection, employee turnover, business challenges and times where everything seems impossible. If you can figure out why you are doing this and establish goals for business and personal growth, you can stay motivated to push through the tough times.
I’ve historically taken the safe and stable path. Coming out of college, I worked as a Certified Public Accountant for a regional firm in Cleveland. After four years, I earned my MBA at OSU’s Fisher College of Business and worked at Nationwide here in Columbus after graduation. I was part of their leadership development program, which lead to working in Corporate Strategy and Finance.
Ultimately, I worked for Nationwide as a Director supporting their IT and project spend. I thought that I’d just stay in the corporate world, move up, and that would that be it. But I wanted more from my career. In order for me to move forward in my own development and happiness, I had to take a different path.
I love meeting new people and building relationships.
I love being creative and providing value to our customers.
I love the flexibility I have to make my own path.
And I especially love that I have the opportunity to make an impact in my community.
Small business owners and entrepreneurs can learn a lot from each other. I’m happy to learn from other business owners and share more of my own experiences. From one business owner to another, I hope this was valuable for you and wish you nothing but success this year.