Dear 15-year-old Tim,
You’ve probably locked yourself in your room again to play Roller Coaster Tycoon until 3:00 AM. Take heart! You have purpose. Someday you’ll start your own business and discover a passion that will be the perfect combination of technology, sociology, and education. On your way there, please remember a few things:
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail: Just because you didn’t make it past level three of swimming lessons doesn’t mean that you can’t become a good swimmer. Many will tell you that starting your own business is a mistake. They’ll tell you that you’re taking the wrong route, doing things in the wrong order, and being unrealistic. Ignore them. Do it anyway. Don’t be afraid to fail at the things you love.
Never Stop Learning: The best part about your future career is that it will never cease to evolve. Marketing moves at the speed of light, so make sure you keep up. Stay hungry. Read books and articles, listen to podcasts. Learn from your peers and predecessors. Talk to people who are smarter than you and don’t be afraid to say “I’m not sure” out loud. There’s joy in the discovery.
Make It Personal: There are those who will say, “It’s business, not personal.” They are wrong. As a small business owner, you’ll wake up every morning earlier than you want to because you believe that what you do is a gift. You’ll work sometimes while on vacation because you consider your clients to be part of your extended family. Your passion is what fuels you, so it’s natural to be heartbroken when you let your team down, just as it’s important to celebrate when the team succeeds. Knowing when it’s time to move on is essential, but don’t be afraid make your work personal. It is.
Be Honest at All Costs: There are those in the advertising and marketing world who believe that lying is acceptable, that stretching the truth is unavoidable. Don’t be one of them. Clients would rather hear “I’m not sure” or “that was my fault,” than stories and fairy tales. Honesty will cost you, but it will always be worth the price.
Know When to Say “No”: Just as some relationships and partnerships will succeed, others will not. There are times when walking away from something you’ve started is not only okay, but necessary in moving forward. Develop an appreciation for the power of “no.” Be honest about your constraints. Time is not limitless, and you’ll find doing a few things well is more rewarding than doing many things half-heartedly. In business and in life, know that more opportunities and exciting ideas are yet to come. Whether it’s a person, a project, or simply an idea you’ve held onto tightly, go with your instincts and know when to part ways.
You Can’t Take It with You: When you enter the startup world, you’ll get sucked into long days and late nights. You’ll become obsessed with “doing” and you’ll sometimes forget about the “living” part of the equation. Remember that no matter how many awards you receive or how much money you make – you can’t take it with you. There are weddings, new arrivals, and lazy afternoons at the beach I’ve regretted missing. Make the time – you’ll never regret spending it with family and friends.