Pursuit, Passion, and Perils: The Story of One Young Entrepreneur
“Passion is the genesis of genius.” — Tony Robbins
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from best selling author Shama Kabani on how to be a more effective entrepreneur. Shama is an award winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, an international speaker, and author of The bestselling book, Zen of Social Media Marketing. I asked Shama to share her lessons learned on finding your spark, following your passion, and succeeding in business. Here is what she had to say …
I was recently invited to speak to a group of young college students at The City University in Hong Kong on the topic on entrepreneurship. And, I was quite thrilled by the challenge. I believe that entrepreneurship is partly inherent, but everyone has a spark within them to make it happen. At 26, I’ve learned quite a few things about entrepreneurship first hand. My first business was at the age of 9. It was no astounding success. As it turns out, your parents will only buy so much gift wrap before they force you to retire. Since then, I’ve become a savvier entrepreneur. Today, I serve as CEO of The Marketing Zen Group –a full service web marketing firm with a staff of 27 and a global clientele.
Top 10 Lessons in Entrepreneurship
Here are my top ten lessons in entrepreneurship. These are the same lessons that I shared in my physical presentation with the students of City University.
- Don’t be afraid. It can be scary to start a business. There are a lot of variables and unknowns, but it doesn’t have to be a frightening experience. Take the time to plan it out, do your research, get help, and learn from other people’s mistakes. Ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen? Often what scares us the most is our own judgment.
- Get adopted. The younger you are, the better this works. I had a professor who once told me that the best thing about being a young entrepreneur is that you can get adopted! People want to mentor and guide you. Most see you as the future, not as a threat. I’ve found this to be very true, and have always been grateful for the support of my community –offline & online!
- Leverage technology. Technology continues to get cheaper and more user friendly. It has removed barriers, and flattened the marketplace. You can compete with the biggest of companies by leveraging what is available out there for you in terms of technology.
- Think globally. As an entrepreneur, you are no longer bound by physical boundaries. Even if your business is local, you can generate a global following. I recently learned about a business in Singapore called “Awfully Chocolate.” And, as a chocolate lover, it is on my list to visit when I go there! \
- Your age is an asset. No matter your age, it is an asset, not a liability. If you are older, you are a seasoned professional. If you are younger, you have a unique perspective to bring to the table. When I first started my company, I did not disclose my age. I felt it would undermine our good work. But then I realized that clients were seeking us out exactly because they wanted to work with a “young & hip” company. They wanted someone who understood technology as a first language. I was amazed at this revelation.
- Hire by trial. Perhaps the toughest part about being an entrepreneur is that you can’t do it alone. You have to eventually hire a team. I recommend hiring by trial. No resume, no cover letter, no interview can ever take the place of actually seeing someone in action.
- Marry a lawyer. And, it really helps if you are in love with them. I never realized what a huge role legal plays in a business. And, I’ve been lucky enough to marry one of the smartest attorneys in the world. If you aren’t married to an attorney, no problem. Befriend one! Find a great business lawyer, and make then a true partner in your business. They are trained to see things that you can’t.
- Listen to your marketplace. Perhaps the greatest lesson you will learn as an entrepreneur is the ability to listen and respond to your marketplace. When I first started The Marketing Zen Group, we only offered consulting services. But, very soon, we saw that our clients were frustrated when they didn’t have the right resources to implement our recommendations. We then offered to take over their web marketing for them, and business has been booming since.
- Invest in what matters. Bootstrap the rest. Invest in bettering your services, hiring the best, and marketing. You don’t need a fancy office. You do need to know what you are doing, and a competent team to help you do it. Don’t negotiate with your vendors on price. Negotiate on value. Make them feel like a part of your team.
- Less money is better than more money. This is contrarian advice, but it is true when starting out. As you grow your business, this changes. But, if you are just starting a business, it forces you to be more creative. And, at the end of the day, entrepreneurship is really an exercise in creativity.
Shama Kabani is the award winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, a full service web marketing firm in Dallas. She is also the author of the best-selling, The Zen of Social Media Marketing; and hosts her own web TV show at Shama.Tv.