7 Lessons from a Serial Entrepreneur: How to Carve Your Niche Like a Boss

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A serial entrepreneur, investor and startup advisor shares her “secret formula” for success. By Lauren Maillian Bias (Author, The Path Redefined: Getting to the Top on Your Own Terms)

Life is like a box of chocolates… but even if you don’t know what you’re going to get, you can be prepared. Because there’s plenty you know about yourself. And truly knowing yourself will prove handy no matter what comes your way.

You are the one person who best knows how determined and persistent you are.

You are the person who must motivate and challenge yourself on a daily basis.

And even if you don’t know what’s coming, you need to work hard and be your very best at everything you apply yourself to.

I’ve always motivated and challenged myself; ultimately I’ve been competing to become a better version of myself day after day for as long as I can remember. When it comes to being a woman under 30 working in industries that are predominantly far more mature (or male), it’s all about results and impact on the bottom line. No one gets to keep their place if they aren’t pulling their weight. I strive to consistently exceed expectations and pride myself on always being prepared – for anything.

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is there a formula for success? Absolutely yes. These are seven mantras I live by that have gotten me this far and have helped me find my niche:

1. Quickly Identify Your Value and Strengths

Build your reputation on your strengths. Explore other areas of interest or skills once you've already established your expertise in your core competency. I’ve successfully started every business this way -- focusing on my core strengths and delegating the other areas to experts so that we are building upon a strong foundation.

2. Embrace Fear and Failure as Growth

Failure is a place of potential between where you are and where you want to be. Once you can embrace failure as a learning experience, you accelerate your own success by quickly adapting. How you handle failure speaks to if you have actually failed. I always ask myself, “Is it worth it even if I fail?” When I started investing in technology companies, there was so much I didn’t know. But I was so eager to take it all in and do my best. I knew then that the decision to start an early-stage venture fund would give me invaluable experience and that the team I was working with had more to offer me than any MBA ever could. I was right. Starting that fund gave me an opportunity for exponential growth, which has continued to enrich my life, career and network.

3. Find Constructive Criticism in the Naysayers

Some of the most important feedback I’ve received was masked as discouraging and doubtful critiques. Turn the trash talk into constructive criticism. Flip it on its head to improve your self awareness and accelerate your professional maturity. Learn the value of being inquisitive and process feedback to evolve and handle situations with insightful perspective. I’m frequently asked if I have had mentors. I always joke that I’ve had far more people who doubted if I could succeed. It’s been valuable to stomach those trifling comments from the naysayers and concentrate on making sure I put extra effort into succeeding when they clearly thought I would fail.

4. Don't Shy Away from Responsibility

I’m always in permanent beta – there is always more I can learn to do better, or differently. And, as a young woman who has worked in several industries, I know someone else always has their eye on my prize. Someone’s just waiting for me to slip up and give them an “in.”Experience under your belt trumps the title on your resume.
 Keep working -- hard. I’ve thought many times about going to business school and getting an MBA from an Ivy League University. But every time I think about this course of action, I’m reminded that gaining more experience is far more valuable for me. So far, so good!

5. Learn to Articulate Your Intuition

Collect your thoughts and formulate your point of view succinctly to get what you need or want. Trust your intuition and refer to logic to design your own professional life. When I started working with a team to build the venture fund, I had to very quickly learn to articulate my intuition to make management decisions I had grown accustomed to having the autonomy to do on my own. I still relied on my gut instinct to make important decisions. But I got better about explaining myself. Once I figured out how to present my argument, my team trusted my decisions more and more because they were thoughtful and logical. Through this process, a team can begin to truly understand your point of view.

6. Use the Power of Transparency to Build Integrity

The most valuable strengths -- integrity, honesty, and humility -- can not be taught. Incredible opportunities are given to those who will handle them professionally and have shown they are committed to quickly learning everything they need to know. I do not make excuses or apologies for what I’m responsible for both personally and professionally. People are always watching and the respect factor goes up tenfold when you’re transparent and your colleagues watch you excel under the most pressed circumstances.

7. Know Your Audience

Learn to adapt your message to tailor to your target. Accept that perception is reality and know how to monitor how your actions are perceived by your colleagues. One size does not fit all. I was really forced to learn this lesson when I entered the technology space -- startup founders and marketing teams need a completely different communication approach than the development and engineering teams. I listen now more before I speak to understand what matters most, how messages are best received and how I can give positive affirmation to colleagues who thrive on words of praise. These lessons have kept me grounded in my purpose and motivated in my passion and hunger to succeed. They have gotten me to where I am today. Mastering these skills and learning to combine them throughout your career with your expertise, intelligence and sheer grit will make you a rising-star who is ready to take the world by storm! Go get ‘em!

What mantras have helped you succeed as an entrepreneur?


About the guest blogger: Lauren Maillian Bias is a serial entrepreneur, and the author of the Amazon bestselling business memoir, The Path Redefined: Getting To the Top On Your Own Terms. In 2011, she was recognized at The White House by the Kauffman Foundation as an Empact100 Award honoree, the top 100 entrepreneurs under 30 and named by Essence magazine to the Class of 2013 African-American Shot Callers. She is the Founder and CEO of Luxury Market Branding, a strategic marketing company, and is an investor and advisor to early-stage venture-backed mobile and consumer facing technology-enabled companies.