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What’s one thing that has really surprised you during your entrepreneurial endeavors? That thing no one really told you about, but you’d like to give others a heads up on it?

Thinking about taking the leap to start your own business?  Wondering what might come your way when you do? Are you a fan of gaining insight from those that went before?  Yes? So are we! Checkout what this great group of entrepreneurs and coaches have to say on the topic.

This sponsored roundup was made possible by:

Buy the right domain for your business! Make it easy for customers to find you online by purchasing a memorable domain.
breaking even on a sale or giving away free product is not always a bad thing!
CEO

My biggest surprise about my entrepreneurial endeavor is that breaking even on a sale or giving away free product is not always a bad thing! When I first started off, I was not a fan of giving product or samples away for free. But when you have a quality product, giving away samples could be the best thing you ever do. Once a customer uses your product and realizes that it is better than everything else they have used in the past, then they start to organically spread the word about your product. One free sample might lead into 10 friends or family members that purchase the product who then in turn tell their friends and family about the product as well. We now host giveaways all the time on our social media pages and at events.

it’s actually not as hard as what many people will tell you.
Founder

I think one thing that has surprised me about running a successful business is that it’s actually not as hard as what many people will tell you. Of course, being an entrepreneur is a lot of work, and it means dealing with many challenging situations and tons of failures and learning opportunities, but I feel like that part was expected, and the way you handle it mostly has to do with keeping a positive attitude. I have read horror stories of people who completely burn out trying to build a business and that’s not been my experience.

For me it’s been about creating a business I love and that hopefully other people love being a part of as well - and focusing on setting clear goals and objectives that are realistic. Surprisingly it’s meant that this intention of goodwill has carried us through a pleasant ride! I've always tried to put the happiness of our clients and team above our bottom line, and really just found the latter depends on the former.

Getting your URL and a website up and running is key.
Founder and CEO

There are so many things I have learned along the way! For starters, I recommend NOT spending money on things like fancy brochures, letterhead, business cards, etc. Until you know your business is launched I would say to put your budget into things that help fill your pipeline with customers. Getting your URL and a website up and running is key. I created online stationery for proposals and invoices, ordered my cards online and made downloadable materials as leave behinds for people looking for more information to help me find clients more quickly. I know other business owners who spent thousands of dollars on these things and found it was a waste of money. Your story will evolve as you find your market, you need to look professional and have a web site to be taken seriously but embossed paper with watermarks and heavy card stock is not going to accelerate your sales cycle. Find those reference customers quickly, use them to get testimonials and referrals. There is plenty of time later to dress things up!

To fit it all in and save time I try to find creative ways to multi task that incorporates work and exercise. Instead of meeting up with your local colleagues at a coffee shop, over a meal or chatting with them on the phone, meet them for a walk so you can catch up while you are getting some exercise too. You'll feel great after, the time will fly & it will be a fun activity to share. It works with customers too, I have clients who play golf so sometimes we meet at a driving range instead of the office to discuss things especially when you are trying to think outside the box. I also always have a pad, pen, trade journals and articles with me so if my meeting is running late and I have some time to kill before they show up I can get caught up on the latest happenings or write a blog post or article while I am waiting.

Finally, most of my business comes from networking which is a great way to build a business. I think what makes someone effective at networking happens to coincide with things that just come more naturally to them. I am an extrovert and have been told I am good at networking. I grew up in the South so maybe it is both nature and nurture in my case. The traits that work in my favor include: being naturally curious so you ask a lot of question, people love talking about themselves; being a good listener so you can ask them more as follow up; being warm and friendly, smile, be the first to introduce yourself; sending a hand written thank you note or e-mail referencing something you discussed or including an article you think they might enjoy right after you first meet; and making an introduction for them to meet someone in your network who they would find interesting. When you stop trying to sell and just share what you know and love networking is fun! People put too much emphasis on trying to be interesting instead of being interested in the other person. To make networking work based on my experience it does not need to be a chore.

finding the right partners, not the convenient ones
Exporting Advisor to American Express

International business success relies on finding the right partners, not the convenient ones. It's critically important to find partners who share common business philosophies and aspirations. Mutual business objectives create the framework on which you hang cultural finesse and market adaptation. Localization is also critical to international marketing and sales success...and it's about far more than simple translation. Embedded in the business buying journey are fundamental cultural truisms which mean that decision criteria, important outcomes, and business value may be perceived in very different contexts in different countries. Companies need to adapt not only language and messaging, but also the basic value proposition and even localize product and service in certain cases.

everything surprised me!
Founder/Creative Director

There is really not one thing that surprised me. I can honestly say that everything surprised me! From the initial shock over the lack of resources, to the surprise at how quickly one can scale a business by being scrappy, creative, flexible, and authentic. What amazes me most today is the incredible array of resources available to early stage entrepreneurs. A lot has changed in just a few years.

This sponsored roundup was made possible by:

Buy the right domain for your business! Make it easy for customers to find you online by purchasing a memorable domain.
how important it is to be flexible and allow yourself to adjust.
Co-Founders

One essential gem we've collected since the inception of Chris Gramer is just how important it is to be flexible and allow yourself to adjust. It's about constantly plugging in and learning to listen to the experiences and obstacles that others' face, no matter what industry they are in. It somehow always circles back to the core of all companies and the goal here is to soak up the right information, then learn to integrate it into our own company's growth.

so many places in the business world where woman-owned companies were and continue to be underrepresented
President of Government Business Solutions and American Express Advisor on Government Contracting

I was surprised to see so many places in the business world where woman-owned companies were and continue to be underrepresented, and for that reason, I wish I would have tapped into certain opportunities earlier in my career. For instance, I have been able to grow my company immensely by diversifying to serve both the private and public sectors. I believe it is very important for other businesses—especially those owned/run by women and other underrepresented groups—to look for ways to take their companies to the next level and help make the U.S. business environment more representative of the population as a whole.

understanding the difference between two things: on the business vs. in the business.
CEO and Chief Culture Officer

Early in my career as a CEO I realized the importance of understanding the difference between two things: on the business vs. in the business. To put it simply, you can’t work on your business while you’re working in it, and vice versa. Early on I’d spend so much time working “in” my business on ideating and content creation that we wouldn’t focus nearly as much “on” the business. That includes things like optimizing our cash flow and having a great on-boarding process for new hires. We realized that we needed to make more time to do both, and now we have processes in place that work concurrently to keep both up to our standards. Prioritize your “on” the business and “in” the business time equally and your profit will soar.

I was surprised that working for myself actually worked!
Senior Partner

I was surprised that working for myself actually worked! It's not so much that I thought I couldn't do it - it's more that the statistics show that so many businesses fail, and so many people tell you that it's 80-hr weeks, never a day off, just scraping by. On one hand, I wish I would have tried it much sooner - but on the other hand, I am using all the skills I learned from 2 decades working in big, high-science and high-tech projects. I'm changing the world for the better, having fun, and enjoying financial success.

realizing how much you actually make an impact on others and how much it makes an impact on you.
Senior Partner

The major ‘aha’ moment was realizing how much you actually make an impact on others and how much it makes an impact on you. Your effort is a one for one – you’re not working for “the company”, you do what is important to you and you get a fulfilling return on the whole deal. The personal reward you get from being an entrepreneur and impacting others is even more rewarding than I imagined. I guess the heads up would be, you have the opportunity now to make a large impact on others and it’s very powerful.

the only difference between Wall Street and Main Street is the number of zeros.
Chairman and CEO

One thing I’ve come to realize over the years is that the only difference between Wall Street and Main Street is the number of zeros. Other than that, businesses have to be run the same way: make sure conditions of satisfaction are met, exceed customer expectations, value employees and increase the bottom line in order to turn a profit.

The path to success is never straight
Founder and Project Manager

The path to success is never straight, and the end result will likely look different than the original picture. It's important to get outside perspective, adjust, adapt while still holding onto the core.

the discovery of psychopaths in business and how they work.
Entrepreneur

The big thing that really surprised me through my many years of business - and the thing I have paid dearly for the education - was the discovery of psychopaths in business and how they work.
In fact, I buy the book “Snakes in Suits" by Dr. Paul Babiak by the case now just to give them all away and tell people to learn to recognize the psychopathic traits, how to distinguish them from strong leadership, and to ALWAYS have your guard up.

Even after many years of learning about the effect of this type of 'business person', I still find myself encountering them regularly - in fact one case has happened really recently and before I knew it I was being set up as a mark. Some things to look out for: They are charming and easy to be friends with. They have absolutely no conscious or value system like most people do. They lie and are very good at it. Most bullies are sociopaths.

You don't have to do it all alone
Founder and Project Manager

There are resources out there to help and it's worth looking for them. Don’t suffer in silence. You don't have to do it all alone.

understanding when and where to ask for help.
Founder

One thing that has become increasingly important as I grow my brand has been understanding when and where to ask for help. Growing to understand my own strengths and weaknesses has allowed me to hire smart, selecting partners and employees who can enhance aspects of the business that I’m not an expert in. It can be difficult to relinquish control in the early stages, but without my team around me, I would not be able to maintain focus or make the strongest decisions. Building a strong team has been at the core of our brand’s efficiency and success.

success becomes a catalyst for attention... both positive and negative.
Founder and CEO

The biggest surprise for me was how success becomes a catalyst for attention; both positive and negative. When you’re doing something truly impactful you will naturally attract the best of the best, but it’s also crucial to be selective because you’ll be the subject of ever increasing scrutiny. At the end of the day, you need to be able to stand behind not just what you do, but also how you do it and who you do it with.

Stubborn passion will push through all barriers.
Owner

You have to stay passionately connected to the core of your brand and "WHY" you do it in order to face the onslaught of nay sayers and negative Nancy's that are experts on everything they know nothing about. Have a thick skin and if your product or service lights you up, then focus on that. Stubborn passion will push through all barriers.

figuring out how to manage your time
Founder and Designer

I would say the one thing that you really have to get used to when working for yourself is figuring out how to manage your time. People often think that when you are working for yourself you will have more time because you create your own schedule but when you are working for yourself it's harder to shut your work off. You no longer have weekends or a standard work week so you have to actually schedule time to allow yourself some time or activities to recharge and step away for a minute.

Being an entrepreneur often means creating something from nothing.
CEO and Designer

Being an entrepreneur often means creating something from nothing. It can be lonely and confusing at times, but at the end of the day it’s the ultimate satisfaction.

There is a natural dip in profitability as you grow when you get to the point you’re too big to be small and too small to be big.
CEO

There is a natural dip in profitability as you grow, when you get to the point you’re too big to be small and too small to be big. This is the point where you have more overhead than you really need, but if you’re going to grow you have to go through this period to get to the other side of growth and greater profitability.

The one thing that matters most in determining whether your business succeeds or fails miserably is sales.
President

From Darren Hardy’s The entrepreneur roller coaster: “When it comes to the entrepreneur roller coaster, there is one critical thing that will keep your ride from coming to a screeching, flaming halt. Like it or not, the one thing that matters most in determining whether your business succeeds or fails miserably is sales.”