Elisha Consulting turns 3: Gratitude, Cynicism, and other Lessons of Entrepreneurship
I actually forgot that June 18th was my third-year anniversary for being in business. Alejandro, who works with me, sent a congratulations message and I told him he was a month off. Then I double checked and realized he was correct, I had placed the anniversary date as July 18th.
That’s what happens when you are busy, you forget important milestones. So even though I am a little late, happy third-anniversary to Elisha Consulting! Each year, I like to write a short blog on what I learned as an entrepreneur during the previous 12-months.
These articles are more for me than anyone else because they act as a time capsule where I can look back and see progress. Additionally, my goal is to share lessons with up-and-coming entrepreneurs to, ideally, steer them away from mistakes I have made.
Below are some observations and lessons I have learned this past year. I want to share these with you as they may help in your professional journey.
Always Start with Gratitude
For the third straight year, I will begin by thanking all of those people and clients who have helped me. We live in an individualistic society that praises the accomplishments of men and women who single-handedly grow a business.
Let’s get rid of that stereotype. Success only comes when there is a support group. Entrepreneurship is too difficult to do alone.
There are more people than I can name when it comes to those who have assisted me in the past year.
- First, and foremost, is my faith that keeps me going daily.
- Then there is my close circle of my wife who listens to me vent, my children who give me a reason to work this hard, my parents who guide me, my business partner who pushes me, and my mentors who call me out when I do something stupid.
- The next group is my amazing clients who are willing to try my crazy ideas as I reassure them our marketing campaigns will work . . . maybe.
Elisha Consulting has been privileged to work companies ranging in size and offerings from a global technology company to an industry-leading insurance broker to startups to my church to non-profit organizations.
Last year was a large jump in the number of clients we worked with and Elisha Consulting continues to grow. I am blown away that a majority of my business comes from referrals. I can trace almost all my clients to a previous professional relationship.
Lesson learned: always start with gratitude and do great work for your clients. They deserve it and will reward you with contacts for future jobs.
Cynicism is Important
While gratitude is essential, I have noticed a trend that I have become more cynical. Yesterday, I read my blog from the previous year and noticed I was enthusiastic to the point of being naïve. It made me laugh as the past year has seen my cynicism and aggression rise to new levels. But that’s not a bad thing.
In the past, I would go to networking events weekly. Then I realized something. I was not making meaningful relationships, I don’t like Happy Hour events, I never secured a client from these events, and people were always trying to sell me something I didn’t want or need.
It was a freeing moment when I decided not to attend these events. My thought process is that I would rather spend an evening with my wife and children than go to some event where people will hand me their business card while never working with me.
Then there are the new business meetings. Previously, when I was presenting a proposal I would be nervous and willing to negotiate to the point of signing bad contracts that left Alejandro and I doing mountains of work for hardly any money.
Now things have changed.
I know the value we bring to the table and can back it up with data. I know how much marketing costs. I know we do excellent work. And I know I don’t want to work with companies that see me as an adversary because I see myself as a partner.
During new business meetings I am more aggressive and confident in what we can do for a client. I also call out BS immediately where, in the past, I would remain quiet. People will say they can get Y service for $X amount. I call their bluff as I know agencies in town and their pricing.
I also know the costs of my ancillary competitors, for example, telemarketers and email spammers, oh I think they like to be called email marketers. I know that those companies upset a lot of people. Either the number or email they contact will become a lead, or 99% of the time, they will never become a client or customer.
When someone says they will hire a telemarketer over me, I say “good luck, they cost $X amount per year, will get you a few leads, and will make thousands of people angry with your business.” Seriously, how many telemarketers have called you and you immediately became brand loyal to their offering?
Lesson learned: being cynical is essential as most people are out for themselves. Look for individuals and companies who will partner with you, your product, or your service. They make the best clients. One of my clients routinely invites me to take part in their team building events and that has created a bond to the point that I genuinely feel part of the team and enjoy being around them.
My Skills Dramatically Increased this Year
There is a quote I love that relates to people who do creative work.
I started Elisha Consulting after being a Director of Marketing for non-profit. We ran solid campaigns and I envisioned a smooth transition where I would see similar results. I was wrong.
As a Director of Marketing, I dabbled in design and website development to fill in gaps. Yet, my main tasks were goal setting, strategy, campaign management, and data analytics. With Elisha Consulting, I have become the lead designer and website developer. It wasn’t until this past year that skills began to catch up with my taste.
I remember the moment when I finally created something on my computer that matched what I saw in my head. My wife is the final pair of eyes to look at any design before I send to a client. I asked her to look at a logo, stood up, let her sit behind my computer, and opened the file.
When I saw the logo from that perspective, something hit me, I nearly started crying because I felt like I had finally created an item that matched my vision for design. She turned around and said, “this is the best thing you’ve designed.” The logo is below and set me on a course to design more logos, branded items, and other pieces that I am proud to say came from Elisha Consulting.
The same could be said for the websites we have launched this year and the campaigns we have overseen. They are performing well and continue to improve.
Lesson learned: don’t stop! I meet with a lot of entrepreneurs who have passion for their business, but in all honesty, their work is not that good. That’s not to say they won’t be successful, the key is to continue getting better until your skills catch up to your vision of what you can offer the world.
My Goals were Too Low
Finally, this past year has seen Elisha Consulting blow past every goal I had initially set three years ago. In 2015, I wrote down a handful of goals I wanted to attain with my business.
Every one of them has been achieved. Is that a cause for celebration or a realization I wasn’t dreaming big enough? The problem becomes you hit a standstill when you reach your goals too early. What do you do afterward?
These past few weeks have been a time of reflecting on where I see Elisha Consulting going and beginning to map goals that seem crazy to an outsider. Yet, for me they are milestones that will push me to grow to levels I didn’t think were possible.
Lesson learned: set wild goals that might not be achieved. It’s better to hit 80% of a stretch goal than 100% of a weak goal.
Until Next Year
Thank you for reading and supporting Elisha Consulting. I intend to be writing a similar article next year, and hopefully, I will remember the correct date.