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.

Life Lessons Learned at the Zoo

Life at the Zoo

A rare reprieve of relentless Arizona summer temperatures provided a great day to visit The Phoenix Zoo.  Walking through all the exhibits inspired me to think about life lessons you can learn at the zoo.

First, I learned my brilliant idea of mixing with animals is not unique. Every year 175 million people visit 224 accredited zoos and aquariums in the United States, according to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

Second, getting close to elephants, sharks and wolves has an important financial impact.  The AZA reported in 2011 that zoos and aquariums contributed $16 billion to the US economy and employed more than 142,000 people.

Further observations and life lessons from my day at the zoo:

  • Diversity Exists at the Zoo – Hundreds of species existing together – lions and tigers, oh my!  From reptiles to some of the largest mammals that roam our planet, the zoo is truly diverse.  We are able to see a harmonious place where differences are appreciated and celebrated.  We seek out and marvel at all the distinct unlikeness between varieties of snakes, birds, monkeys and bears.  It is also worth noting that there is great diversity in the people that visit the zoo, all together and at the same time. Travelers from all over the world, all cultures and ethnicity enjoy visiting the zoo — a true melting pot.
  • Community Matters at the Zoo – Most zoos survive with a community of volunteers and public and private donations.  Zoos need communities to promote and participate in supporting the upkeep and daily maintenance.  It is expensive to entertain and educate us.  Zoos need all of us as much as we need them.  Make it a priority to visit your local zoo at least one time a year, better yet become a zoo member!
  • Visiting the Zoo is Healthy – It is outdoors and requires you to get moving!  Most zoos require you to walk great distances to see all the exhibits. Zoos definitely beat out a walk inside the mall and will probably save you money.  As fact, in 2009 a Animal Science Journal study reported zoo visitors had a drop in blood pressure when they left the zoo and felt they had an improved quality of life.
  • The Zoo is Ageless – As marketers and business leaders continually look for ways to segment their target audience, the zoo appeals to all ages!  From babies to seniors, the zoo brings smiles to the young and young at heart.  Families, teens, dating couples, grand parents and small children wander the paths together.  Screaming and crying is expected and crowds draw more people to get a glimpse.  There are no limits at the zoo.
  • Curiosity can Conquer Fear – Imagine starring a tiger in the eye or feeding a sting ray.  Only at the zoo can we conquer our fears so easily.  We can watch the spiders and snakes up close and glare at the wolves as they roam a few feet in front of us.  The zoo allows us to use our curiosity as a way to overcome the fear of the unknown.  Children (and adults) can ride a camel and shake hands with a tree monkey.  Interaction creates an opportunity to learn.  The more we know, the less we fear.

Zebras at the Zoo

As you think about a way to support your local community, go for a long walk and tap into your adventurous side to explore the unknown, I suggest there is no better place to do it all than the zoo!

“We all have a fear of the unknown what one does with that fear will make all the difference in the world.” – Lillian Russell