Even if you've yet to go it alone, these four tips can help you be more productive, whatever your role.
By Renee La Londe, (CEO, iTalent Corporation)
While you may not be ready to launch your own tech startup (yet), there are several lessons you can learn from entrepreneurs that will serve you well in any job – particularly a new position. Every opportunity faces challenges, from the mundane to the truly maddening.
However, taking tips from company founders who have emerged on the other side of common tribulations can help you avoid making the same mistakes, no matter what side of the business you’re currently working in.
Here are four of the top lessons I’ve learned in starting my own consulting company that can be applied to improving your performance at work:
There Will be Doubters – Don’t Believe Them
While you might expect that launching a business would draw accolades from everyone, the truth is that when you try anything new, you may face some resistance.
For example, if you’ve proposed a new process to make systems run more smoothly in your department, you’ll likely draw supporters who understand and want to help promote your vision. But you’ll also probably find some people who will tell you all the reasons why your proposal won’t work.
It helps to have passion about your idea, but make sure you also have a value proposition that you believe in and can back up. In my case, I had a lot of passion around creating a consulting firm that would become the “unconsulting firm.”
I started my consulting company in large part because I wanted to create a better solution to the ones I saw around me.
When I was a senior director at NetApp, consulting firms frequently pitched their services to me. I’d be disappointed when a firm would staff the project with consultants fresh out of college while still charging high rates and hidden fees. I was motivated to launch my own venture where I could do things differently for my clients.
Based on this passion, I developed a value proposition that involved partnering with our customers to remove the normal Big 4 consulting firm pain points and delivering the highest quality services. I recommend identifying a clear value proposition with any new initiative you promote, to help overcome the fears of naysayers and doubting Thomases.
You’ll Need to Sacrifice Other Things for a While – Just do it
Whether you’re launching a company as I did, or taking on a new role within your current organization, it takes a lot of devotion, time and hard work.
When I talk to business owners whose ventures have failed, there are usually two reasons they give for the failure: fear that it wouldn’t be successful, and a lack of time to devote to the business. These perceptions keep some entrepreneurs from fully committing to their vision. Instead, they hedge their bets and hang onto their day job, or try to juggle another part-time job “to be safe.”
By the same token, when given a promotion, you may be reluctant to jump into your new responsibilities with both feet. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed by the challenges, or miss some of the things you used to do in your last position. Whatever the reason, you need to jump off the cliff and channel the majority of your time, energy and resources toward your new job, just like you would a new business.
Sacrifices must be made. Giving too much of your time to other commitments, either work or social, can leave you too fragmented to be effective.
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
When you’re in startup mode either in a new business or a new job, things happen that to you can either make you stressed or you find you can take them in your stride. In the first three months of starting my firm, two people (myself included) were actually wearing the hats of 4+ roles. This naturally led to some cases where the right hand didn’t know what the left was doing – literally.
With one of my first big, critical hires, instead of sending out one email to her, I sent out five different emails from five separate departments that said the same thing. At the end of the day, my new hire called me and said, “I received five different emails today from all these different departments, and just to confirm, Renee, you actually sent me all these emails, right?”
There was silence, and then we both burst out laughing. I am happy to say that 10 years later, she is still with my firm! So remember – it’s always better to laugh than to cry when something doesn’t go quite right. It’s not about perfection – it’s about learning and having fun.
Take Time Each Year for Visioning
Every year, you should step away from the chaos of your job and reflect on what you have done and where you want to go in the next 1 to 3 years (or 5 years if you can).
As you think about this, also consider what is fueling your passion and what is deflating it. Don’t be afraid to cut tasks – or even customers or clients – that are not a good fit and take you off-track from your primary focus.
In my case, not organizing enough around charity programs, not doing more for our employees and not going the extra mile for our customers are all big deflators for me, so I am constantly reviewing how we are doing in these key areas.
At the end of the day, looking at the big picture can show you how far you’ve come while helping you identify new opportunities.
What one tip would you give to a first-time entrepreneur?
Image credit: Mangsaab via Shutterstock.
About the guest blogger: Renee La Londe is the CEO of Santa Clara, CA-based iTalent Corporation, which she founded in 2005. Renee has over 15 years of experience in the high-tech industry. Prior to starting iTalent, she was Director of Business Systems at NetApp. She has also held senior positions at many Fortune 500 companies, including Cisco and Apple.