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The Big Lessons I Learned From My First Entrepreneurial Job

Here are some of the lessons that I learned that might be useful to anyone running a business or looking to start one

Miles Jennings

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I don’t remember how I got the interview. I met with a recruiter in my university’s library.

Instead of interviewing me, he pitched me on the opportunity: Running a College Pro franchise was a great way for tertiary kids to learn to run their own business over the summer, painting houses and earning tons of money.

I remember my College Pro training fondly. There were PowerPoint presentations about the positive and negative qualities of oil and latex paints and role-playing exercises about pitching house-painting services and answering homeowner objections.

The training culminated in having to paint an actual house. It rained, however, and all I remember doing was eating pizza with the sales manager while he talked about paint-sprayer pricing.

Summer began. I started my own little mini enterprise under the umbrella brand of College Pro. I put an ad in the paper declaring ‘Hiring Painters Now’ and I was in business. The folks at College Pro weren’t kidding when they said a person would learn a lot about business. It was trial by fire with pretty high stakes for a college kid.

Related: Lessons Learnt From E-Tolling

1. Marketing works

One of the first things I did was buy a ton of lawn signs with my number. I enlisted my sister to help me blanket the town. It turns that it was illegal to post in half the places the signs went, and I received a notice from the city to cease and desist my guerrilla-marketing tactics. What did I know?

But in any case, the calls started coming in. Marketing is powerful.

2. Well-developed brands deliver

After pitching my company’s services to homeowners, my success rate was pretty high, I was surprised to find. I didn’t know anything about painting, my prices weren’t the lowest around and I’m sure that I was up against very experienced local pros.

But I wore a nice clean shirt with a logo, gave prospects solid marketing materials, a well-documented quote and had the right insurance. Having all the branding done correctly counts for a lot.

3. Fire fast

I hired people from newspaper ads after meeting them in the local strip mall. I hired some people who had never picked up a paint brush — basically folks who were motivated to try a new job.

Some employees just weren’t going to work out. One man spent the entire day smoking. Another person painted around a bicycle that was leaning against a house, instead of moving it.

I learned that it’s better to let go of people quickly and not let them drag down the whole team.

4. Don’t overextend resources

About halfway through the summer, my business ran away from me. I had multiple teams working on multiple houses at the same time. I started losing money that I didn’t have to lose.

So I downsized the operation, keeping my best employees, and from then on, I only took on one project at a time. It was a better fit for my level of experience and helped me avoid any major disasters.

Make sure the size of your company fits the opportunities and challenges that you take on.

5. Fight back

For one project, a crew member dripped paint all over someone’s roof, and some other problems emerged. The homeowners were furious: They sent a letter threatening legal action for the damage. They still owed the last deposit, which was for thousands of dollars.

Instead of immediately caving in and offering to pay for the damage, I sent them a bill. They were incensed, but it changed the conversation. They started arguing, “We don’t owe you any money” instead of “You owe us a fortune.” I ended up canceling their last deposit that was due, the homeowners had their house painted for cheap, and I didn’t end up in court – a happy ending.

It goes to show you don’t be afraid to negotiate and play a little hardball. That can go a long way.

6. Finish the job

When you finish painting a house, it’s easy to call it a day after the last brushstroke. But you’re not really done until you’ve touched up every little corner, cleaned up your mess, vacuumed up the paint chips and received a final sign-off and a completed customer-service questionnaire.

You’re really only done when you’re driving away with the final deposit in your hand, paid by a happy customer who will give you referrals. Finishing the job is something much more than covering a house with paint.

What was great for me about running this painting business was the perfect antidote to my philosophy major. In the end, to be successful, you don’t need to think much. You need to pick up the brush and climb ladders. You need to paint a lot of houses. You need to get the job done.

You need to make more bucks than you lose. You need to not get sued. I ended up coming out a bit ahead that summer, probably with about as much in my pocket as I would have had after running a large paper route. But as I remember, at the time that was more than alright with me.

What I learned that was so crucial was that victories and setbacks are both equally important parts of an entrepreneur’s journey in business. Looking back on it, the things that were the most challenging were really the most valuable. If you recognise this and make the most of each day, you’ll come out ahead every time and have some fun along the way.

Related: (Slideshow) 8 Super Lessons on How to Be a Super Leader

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Miles Jennings is an entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Recruiter.com, an online career service firm based in Farmington, Conn. Recruiter helps people discover opportunities, follow their passions and live life with purpose.

Lessons Learnt

7 Pieces Of Wise Advice For Start-Up Entrepreneurs From Successful Business Owners

Launching a business is tough, but with perseverance, a willingness to learn from mistakes and a focus on the future, you can turn your dream into a reality. Seven top South Africa entrepreneurs share their hard-won start-up lessons.

Nadine Todd

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“What seems like an expensive lesson is actually the best thing that could have happened to you.” 

So you want to start a business? Seven successful entrepreneurs share their words of wisdom for start-up entrepreneurs

1. Offer advice and share your expertise freely

The more your clients are educated, the more empowered they will feel, and the more they will view you as a trusted advisor. I gave my clients material to help them develop the best labour policies and procedures. It didn’t make my service redundant — it built trust between us. — Arnoux Mare, Innovative Solutions Group, turnover R780 million

2. Stop planning and start doing

We all tend to complicate business with planning and processes. These shouldn’t be ignored, but you need to also just start — start your business, start that project, start walking the path you want to be on. — Gareth Leck, co-founder, Joe Public, turnover R700 million

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

3. Play your heart out and the money will follow

I learnt this valuable lesson when I was a student and busked at Greenmarket Square. You don’t stand with your hat, waiting for cash and then play — you play your heart out and the bills pile up in your hat. It’s the same in business. You can’t look at the bottom line first; it’s the other way around. — Pepe Marais, co-founder, Joe Public, turnover R700 million

4. Love learning lessons

What seems like an expensive lesson is actually the best thing that could have happened to you. I wasn’t paying attention to my partner or my books in our early days, and I didn’t realise the debt he was putting us into. We ended up owing R1 million. In hindsight, it was a cheap lesson to learn. Imagine if that happened today? The fallout would be much greater. We have 19 stores and nearly 100 staff members. It would hurt everyone, not just me. — Rodney Norman, founder, Chrome Supplements, turnover R100 million

5. Landing an investor starts with your story

A great story and data are the two golden rules of attracting an investor. You need both if you really want to access growth funding that will take your business to the next level. — Grant Rushmere, founder, Bos Ice Tea

Related: Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses

6. Offer solutions

If you’re not solving a problem and creating value, don’t ship it — throw it away. That’s cheaper than selling a bad product. — Nadir Khamissa, co-founder, Hello Group

7. Small, clever decisions lead to big profits

One of the most important lessons any business owner can learn is that success on profit is nothing more than the accumulative sum of rand decisions. Lots of small, clever money decisions lead to big profits, and without the disciplines of frugality, money gets lost. It’s that simple. Question every single line item on a quote. Do we need it? Can we get it cheaper? This is what it’s about. — Vusi Thembekwayo, founder, Watermark

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Lessons Learnt

Here’s How Bosses From Hell Helped 6 Entrepreneurs Grow

From control freaks to being unco-operative, founders share what they learned from their worst boss.

Entrepreneur

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In business, sometimes the most valuable lessons come from the worst teachers. We asked six entrepreneurs: What’s the greatest thing you learned from a bad boss?

1. Bring everyone in

“A former boss was very hierarchical and discouraged collaboration. Everyone reported directly to her, and interdepartmental meetings were practically prohibited. It meant that only our boss had the full picture – we missed a lot of opportunity for alignment and cooperation. Today at our company, it’s a priority to hold regular team meetings and foster a strong culture of collaboration. It’s crucial that our team members weave collective sharing into the fabric of their day-to-day interactions.” – Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder and CEO, Indagare

2. Be vulnerable

“Don’t be afraid to show your emotions! I worked for a partner at McKinsey who was an incredible person but an awful manager because he kept his feelings bottled up. After a client presentation went awry, our team didn’t know where we stood with our manager. It was tense, awkward and demotivating. Showing vulnerability and letting others know when you’re genuinely upset can help everyone externalise their emotions, build trust and reassure employees that they aren’t alone. It sends a clearer message than stone-faced silence.” – Leo Wang, founder and CEO, Buffy

Related: 5 Factors That Make A Great Boss

3. Lend a hand

“I worked for someone who would never help out the junior staff with their work, even if he was finished with his own – he’d simply pack up and leave early. I now make an extra effort to ask my staff if they can use a hand when my own workload is light. It’s created a culture that feels more like a tight-knit team and less like a hierarchy.” – Adam Tichauer, founder and CEO, Camp No Counselors

4. Move as a group

“When I was a nurse manager, I had a boss with no experience in healthcare. She wanted to change our process for keeping patients from getting blood clots. I knew it was a mistake, but she insisted. Ultimately, the change failed. It taught me the importance of empowering staff to speak up. At Extend Fertility, we collect feedback from customers via surveys. Results are shared with our staff, and together we develop action plans to address negative experiences. It’s the employees who interact with patients on a daily basis who have the best solutions.” – Ilaina Edison, CEO, Extend Fertility

5. Trust your team

“I once worked for a woman who joined our team after I had been working there for a while. Every time I stood up, she’d ask me where I was going, whether it was to the bathroom or to the printer. She had a fear of not having control over my time and work. As a young adult, this behaviour really demoralised me, especially since I had excelled at the job for years prior. My leadership style is less neurotic. Once my team members have my trust, I’m pretty hands-off.” – Denise Lee, founder and CEO, Alala

Related: 5 Leadership Questions Every Boss Should Ask

6. Respect others’ time

“Early in my career, I had a project manager who’d wait until the very last minute to review work, then convey lots of new information and requests. This happened at the end of the day or, worse, after hours, when I was home. It was demoralising, inefficient and disrespectful. In my career, I’m conscious about reviewing work in a timely and complete way so my team can successfully incorporate my feedback without generating a last-minute crisis – or lingering resentment.” – Kirsten R. Murray, principal architect and owner, Olson Kundig 

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

11 Things Very Successful People Do That 99% Of People Don’t

Consistency is a big part of succeeding. The top 1% of performers in the world know this is the secret to their success.

John Rampton

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Becoming wealthy and leaving an impact on the world is not an easy feat. If it were, everyone would go around doing it. At that point, it would not be much of an accomplishment at all.

Rather, being extremely successful requires an extreme amount of work. Especially when there is nobody looking. The best people have developed habits that help them reach their goals. These routines are not necessarily challenging to form, but they take consistent effort over extended periods of time. Creating these tendencies in your own life will propel your success.

Here are 11 things, that 99% of people (myself included) do not do, but really should.

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