I was asked during a phone interview recently to share a few things I wish I knew back when I first started out in the world of Internet marketing. Things that maybe could have made my journey easier or lessons I wish weren’t so hard learned. It got me thinking about where I’ve been, what I’ve jumped over (or, trip over, as the case often was) and the guidebook I wish someone would have handed me when I was still fresh-eyed and new to the world.
I wanted to expand on some of the answers I gave during that interview. Below are 29 things no one told me about business that I really wish they would have.
1. You can save yourself 20 redundant emails (and maybe some hurt feelings) simply by picking up the phone or walking across the room to ask the person that question you’re trying to type out in an email.
2. There will be days when you really don’t want to get out of bed to start up again. Do it anyway. Unless there are tears involved. Then stay there until you can make them stop.
3. Firing people sucks, but employing people who don’t fit sucks even harder. Look for culture and value fit. Most other things can be taught, picked up, or beaten into them.
4. You’ll learn more from people who think differently than you, than from those who share your way of thinking. My greatest business conversations have been with people who sit on the opposite side of the spectrum from me.
5. Today’s nemesis may be tomorrow’s ally. The opposite is also true.
6. If something’s not working, change it. You must fail faster.
7. Today’s hot trends are tomorrow’s Friendster. Focus on what you’re after, not the tool you’re using today to get there. Twitter may not last, but your need to have real-time conversations with customers and approach them on their terms will remain. How will you do it post-Twitter?
8. If you’re lucky, your employees will always be smarter than you. Embrace that.
9. You will become who you align yourself with. Pick wisely.
10. Always take the lunch. You never know where it will lead or what unlikely friendship it will create. That stranger in the bar could grow up to be your business partner. [Right, Rhea?]
11. No is a complete sentence.
12. Hire an accountant; never touch your own books. That’s not your strong suit and it’s a waste of your time to mess it up.
13. Getting involved with Internet drama, public flame wars or emotional train wrecks is for people with too much time on their hands. It’s distracting and will derail you from your real purpose. [Though sometimes it does brighten up a slow day.]
14. Always remember why you’re doing this. Know, at your core, what you’re trying to build and why you’re trying to build it. It will see you out of some difficult times. Make sure your team remembers it, too.
15. Don’t trust people who routinely answer questions you never asked. They’re trying to justify something – maybe to you, maybe to themselves. Either way, it probably won’t help you.
16. Having people pen hate blog posts with your name in the title is a sign you’re doing something right. Your skin will get thicker and it will be okay. You’ll actually come to find the attacks amusing.
17. You won’t know always what you’re doing or have all the answers. You just need to know where to go to find them. Or at least have the balls to make a decision and stick with it.
18. When debating with someone, act under the assumption that you’re right. Even if you’re not. If you show uncertainty, you lose anyway.
19. The world will not end if you don’t get that blog post out on time. Eat dinner. And go for that run.
20. The best clients are the ones you’d be friends with and who you’d happily support even if they weren’t paying you. We’re lucky to have more than a few of those currently on the books. However, we do still charge them. ;)
21. If the client isn’t happy, it’s probably because you did a crappy job establishing expectations. Do it better next time.
22. The people in business who you think have it the most together are probably Charlie Sheen’ing it in their home lives. Don’t psych yourself out.
23. It’s never the post you like that will become viral. It’s the best *they* like. Remember that.
24. You’ll get more from promoting others than you will from promoting yourself. You’ll also learn more, be introduced to cooler people, and hear about things sooner.
25. Business is based around relationships. The relationship you have with your partner, with your employees, with your colleagues, and especially with your competitors. Invest in them and treasure them. You’re lucky to be surrounded by people constantly surprising you.
26. Talent and luck only get you so far. You need to create your own opportunity.
27. Think before you execute, but don’t get stuck there. A mediocre idea that’s acted upon will always trump the genius idea still in your head.
28. As partners, you don’t always have to agree on the individual steps, just the course.
29. You are going to meet some amazing people. You just have to relax enough to enjoy the ride.
Those are 29 things I wish someone had sat me down and told me when I started on this path. What do you wish someone told you? What lessons have you learned the hard way? Give me one.