There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. – Colin Powell
Building a business isn’t easy. Few people try and even less are interested in doing it – because there’s no guarantee it will be successful.
In the beginning, owners wear a variety of hats – owner, manager, accountant, employee, etc. And in the midst of that juggling act, we often forget to take care of the most obvious necessities.
This is my story of “missing the boat.” I share it to prevent you from making the same mistake, and to remind you to always take care of your most valuable assets throughout the ENTIRE journey.
As Joyce Meyer says, “My pain, your gain.”
In 2009, I was accepted into the best journalism school the United States has to offer, UNC at Chapel Hill (Go HEELS!).
I was eager to learn and decided to be that annoying student who sat in front, followed the instructors around, and asked questions constantly.
So when my 72-year-old legendary journalism professor told us to start blogging and sign up for Twitter, I was on it.
Twitter and blogging were instantly valuable to me.
I wasn’t your typical student because I returned as an adult. I balanced a job, an internship, and a full-time class schedule. Needless to say, it left little time for networking events and interactions outside of studying hours.
But thanks to Twitter, I met journalism, design, and marketing professionals that I would have not been able to meet in real life. It gave me an online contact book of influential people who valued my writing, opinions, and encouraged my career interests.
And there were tangible benefits. I was hired, filled out my paperwork, and showed up on the first day for an internship with UNC-TV before I ever met anyone face-to-face. One of the employees had fallen in love with my blog and Twitter presence, and wanted me to intern with them. It also helped me land a position as an editorial writer for the Daily Tar Heel, and awarded me a fully paid networking trip to Chicago.
As you can imagine, my affection for social media took off during that time.
I learned how to manage new social platforms and began taking on mini marketing projects with local businesses. Ever the entrepreneur, any skill I learned in class was automatically turned into a possible way to make money in my head.
And social media was just taking off.
My last semester, I landed a job as the Multimedia Producer for UNC Bands and was in charge of the brand development, multimedia content (video and design), and social media management for all the major bands on campus.
After graduation, I became an interactive designer for a marketing agency. I learned a lot and worked on incredible design projects for Angry Birds, Eva Longoria, National Geographic, Wolfgang Puck, and much more.
But I missed working directly with clients, solving problems and brainstorming new social marketing strategies. I had never stopped growing my social platforms.
So when the time came to start my business, I had a strong online presence in place.
The years of online visibility and relationship-building made launching my business relatively straightforward. I landed my first client within the first week, and although it was feast or famine for a few months, business stabilized within six months.
Eight months in, my business took off and I was struggling to keep up. There was little time for a social life, but I loved it. My roommate laughed at me because she’d go to work and come back and I’d still be in the same place.
I often suffered from burnout, but didn’t want to bypass any opportunities. There was little time for me in the midst of all that chaos, but as far as I was concerned, it didn’t matter.
I was achieving my business goals.
In 2013, I hit an all-time high. With social media marketing there is only so many hours in the day, and scaling is tough without hiring. It was either time for me to begin adding to my team or make a bold move.
I chose to make a bold move and begin traveling abroad. When I started my business in 2012, the goal was to grow a business that could be managed from anywhere in the world.
In December 2013, I waived goodbye to NYC as the plane headed out for a 29-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
I knew that taking my business away from the US would be tough, but I didn’t know how tough.
The issues I encountered led me to take a step back and at how my business was built, and what the next steps should be. Those assessments led me to completely rebuild my business from the ground up in March 2014.
My website was redesigned, systems put into place, customer excellence programs developed, welcome packets, and employee guidelines written out. Plus, I began work on new products and programs to be released in the future.
So when I was ready to begin rebuilding my clientele in July, I made a stark realization: I didn’t have the same social presence in place.
It had been sidelined for clients and cash when business was booming. I had forgotten to preserve my brand.
In addition, I had let my health slide. Insomnia reared its ugly head far too often and wreaked havoc with my schedule. Daily exercise was replaced with some half effort at the gym. And eating healthy, well, let’s just say I’m not the vegetarian who landed in Ho Chi Minh City nine months ago.
Bottom line, I had done everything right, except for the most important thing– I let my brand and myself go.
Do NOT neglect your business’s foundation for clients. Don’t forget to schedule in time to keep your website up-to-date, to write blogs, to stay relevant on your social platforms, and ALWAYS be building relationships.
And even more important – take care of your mind and body. Don’t neglect the greatest gift you have to offer the world – YOU.
I have to admit, it’s embarrassing to share my story, but it’s very real. And I truly hope it helps you to be reminded of life’s priorities.
But before I let you go..
The good news
I dumped that gym membership and get up at 5am to run like I used to in the old days. I’m back to my normal morning routine of time with God and writing every day. My social presence is coming back to life, and I am reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. And I’ve been sleeping great.