Entrepreneurial Lessons from Your First Job

We have all had one. A first job. Someone looked you in the eye and said, “You are hired!” The decision confirms they trusted you to represent their business. They were willing to invest in you, train you, teach you how to earn a paycheck.

Your confidence swells with the first yes. Your stride is more brisk, your smile broadens. You did it! You are accepted, wanted and needed. Someone recognizes you for being a contributor. Then, the apprehension begins. What if they don’t like me? What happens if I make a mistake? Can I do this job? The overwhelming reality of being responsible of earning a wage is measured by the sudden onset of nervous excitement.

Many of the emotions and fears of starting your first job are similar to starting your first business. Entrepreneurs have to balance the adrenaline associated with being in complete control with the reality that businesses fail. Lingering in the bravado are facts from the Small Business Administration (SBA) that nearly a third of businesses fail within the first two years. Reverting to your confidence that says “just do it” because you are different and better, you focus on the statistical favor that you do have a 66% chance you will make it.

The first time you do anything is valuable experience. Recalling what you learned at your first job is an excellent way to apply past experience to a new first – starting your own business. Here are some tips to take from your first job that are nuggets of wisdom to apply to your startup venture:

1.  Embrace the Fear of Failing – You have an option to be paralyzed in fear or embrace the opportunity that if you try, you may succeed.  We all know examples of the person who tried over and over again, failing countless times before they finally made it!  They never quit. Using the knowledge of each failure, big or small, prepare yourself for the possibility of next time.

2.  Take Pride in Your Work – Others are counting on you to help them.  Any business is defined by satisfying a need.  If they need you, take satisfaction in your ability to help.  In the early stage of a new business, people will flock to those that are confident in what they deliver.  Uncertainty creates worrisome customers, or even worse, potential customers who never buy.

3.  Always Be Learning – You are glowing green at your first job.  You are a blank slate.  Your training is the groundwork for how you will perform. Soaking up expertise from those that proceeded you is smart business.  What you don’t know today, can propel your business to the next level. Find expertise.  Be a knowledge consumer.

4.  Businesses Reward Hard Work – As you master the skills necessary to do your first job and do it well, you soon learn that businesses reward performance.  Promotions and raises are given to those that work hard and do more than their peers.  Your customers will reward you for your hard work.  Their loyalty is associated to your ability to outperform your competition.

5.  Listening Skills are Important – Listening to your customers in your first job and in your first business is elementary.  Your customer is paramount to delivering products and services that meet the customer’s needs.  Failing to listen increases your odds of an unhappy customer.  Unhappy customers tell others of their experience.  Listening improves potential for high customer satisfaction.

6.  Time Management is Critical – There are no rewards for showing up late or missing work.  One of the most important skills acquired in the first job is how to manage your time.  You soon learn there are no acceptable excuses.  Juggling priorities becomes primary to your success.  Owning a business depends on the genius of multitasking.  You will work harder and that means you have to work smarter to get the job done.

7.  Handling Money Builds Trust – When you take money for any product or service, you are now accepting the currency of trust.  You are expected to provide equal or greater value in the exchange of cash for goods.  Exceeding expectations builds credibility.  Manage others money with the same respect you demand from those that manage yours.

The knowledge acquired from a first job is fundamental to a startup. How you apply that knowledge and skill will often result in similar or better experience as an entrepreneur. The mistakes are lessons of how to do something different. The successes are foundations to build upon.

Challenge yourself to reflect on your first job. What was the best lesson learned on your first job? Can you instill this in your values, culture and standards as a business owner today?

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely. ~Auguste Rodin

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Who Makes the First Impression for Your Business?

Who Greets Your Potential Customers?

First impressions for your business are made by people that open doors, make cold calls, attend networking meetings and answer your phone.  They are delivered by your marketing communications like social media and websites.  How confident are you that your potential clients are greeted warmly and with a direct invitation to do business?

Years ago businesses paid someone to sit at a front lobby desk and answer every inbound call and greet every walk-in appointment.  The receptionist qualifications were measured by friendliness, service-orientation and attentive disposition.  The standard phone greeting of this time was “Thank you for calling, how can I help you?”

When is the last time were greeted this way?  Today we are often met with automated attendants and empty lobbies.  Some businesses have completely eliminated any dedicated space to a welcome station and filled it with another cubical. My impression is that first impressions are not a priority for this business.  The decision that customer experience may be too costly to employ a dedicated person, may be costing you business.

It is not difficult to think back to a bad first impression.  I recall three in the past weeks.  One top restaurant asked me to wait outside in 110 degrees because they did not open for four minutes, yet the door was unlocked.  Another restaurant hostess asked me to stand until my party arrived even though every table was empty.  A technology company, which had a sitting place upon entry, left me for 20 minutes while employees stared at me.  Not one person asked why I was there or if I needed help.  I remember all of these first impressions, vividly.

Noted in a recent New York Times article Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall, “Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.” Sited from Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University in a journal article he co-authored in 2001, “Bad Is Stronger Than Good.”

How your employees are greeting the public, networking, making introductions, and opening doors for others is a direct reflection of hiring skills, company culture and leadership.  Business owners, CEOs and managers own the customer experience.  Every employee is responsible for making a positive first impression.  How are you reinforcing how positive first impressions are made in your business?

Customer experience is a financial decision in business, unless revenues are low on the priority list.  Reputation management is critical and costly.  A bad review is hard to overcome.  You can’t erase the Internet or someone’s memory.  People use others professional and personal experiences as a reason to buy or not buy. Bad experiences are viral, whether online, through social media, on sites that track reputations or by word-of-mouth.  Once word is out, it is permanent.  You own it!

Welcome!

Every experience starts with the greeting.  Take time to review how your potential and existing customers are greeted today.  This applies whether you are selling B2B or B2C, for every industry, in a building or online.  Use “secret shoppers” and have them rate how inviting, caring, and enthusiastic they were welcomed to do business with you.

Customer service is a pillar to good business.  Customer experience starts when the phone is picked up, the door is unlocked or a web site is visited.  We may not all have the luxury of hanging up a flashing “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to greet everyone.  We do have the luxury to manage and train our messengers to provide an outstanding first impression.

Invest in your greeting.  Define, train, test and continually reinforce how you want to insure a positive first impression.  It your opportunity to create a long-term valuable relationship with your customer.

Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.