What! Do I really need to stop and reflect? How do I stop when I need to get two proposals in today and draft a scope of work for a new client? Train a new team member who is with us this semester from Cornell University? Increase the pipeline… again… and take our Chief Happiness Officer (Naomi, a 10 pound vanilla colored Havanese who comes to the office frequently) for a walk.
But I intrinsically know this is exactly the time to hit the pause button. The time to feel and evaluate the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. A time to reflect on the lessons learned this year, as my learning just might help someone else on their journey. So grab a coffee, let’s get on the road!
Two years ago I launched my dream training and development company Twomentor LLC with three goals in mind:
1. Drive millennial retention through helping companies and organizations build mentoring cultures. We do subscribe to a mentor your millennials (and GenZ) or they will leave you mentality. We also believe that the people who mentor in your company are the ones who drive retention in your company.
2. Elevate women in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) and drive diversity in companies by helping leaders sponsor more deliberately. (i.e. a mentor speaks to you, a sponsor speaks about you behind closed doors and champions you to others). We do believe that if you want diversity, you need to mentor + sponsor more diversely. Companies have good intentions, but need a boost, a model or a refresher on the business case for mentoring.
3. Build a scalable high touch and innovative company with a model to engage a lot of great women and men to be entrepreneurial with us. Cash may be king, but culture is queen here!
Here are Four Lessons Learned in Year Two:
JUST KEEP DRIVING: If I thought that entrepreneurship was a sprint before and I love the quote by race car driver Mario Andretti “If I seem like I am in control, I am probably going to slow.” I was wrong. Entrepreneurship is a multi- year drive across the entire country (and sometimes a few flights overseas as well). Some days windy roads with gorgeous vistas, some boring, seemingly endless and flat. At times I have found myself driving and there really is no gas station nearby and my tank is close to empty….ugghhhh. Sometimes, refueled and recharged, rooftop down- nothing can stop us and we will go above and beyond those extra miles! I wrote in a year one perspective last year that I had underestimated the financial runway to start the company. This year I learned you have to keep your engine fueled and drive confident, work incredibly hard and persevere through challenging weather elements and self-made mental road blocks. Who ever said this was easy? Keep driving is the only thing I can advise. Plan your drive, think, U turn if you need to without shame if you got lost. I step on the accelerator every day and strive to be unafraid to go full speed toward our potential. Keep driving with belief in yourself and your company.
LOVE YOUR CLIENTS… THEY FUEL YOUR ENTIRE COMPANY: I have come to see that my clients are truly investors in my company and often become my mentors and sponsors (thank you Jill, Jenn, Sharyn and Dennis!). As I self-financed Twomentor, each client that comes on makes our social impact LLC more sustainable and fills our gas tank. We learn, we grow, we innovate and build together. We are a training + leadership development company that values customization and as we elevate and train others, we are elevated too. The client contract revenues enable me to pay the mortgage, office rent, build our team, feed Naomi and hit this amazing second hand clothing store I love in Bethesda every once in a while for my a J Crew sweater or my next Keynote outfit (The Mustard Seed and Reddz Trading company rock!)
BUILD A TEAM & DEFINE YOUR CULTURE EARLY: When I was in 8th or 9th grade I wrote this poem:
I am lost in a storm, there is no where to turn
Thinking about a warm fireplace, with lots of wood to burn
The sky is getting dark, the day has half gone by
Than all that remains, is a small and tearful cry
I follow the trail of sounds, I hope that no one is hurt
I run until I fall, and slip into the dirt
Then I hear someone running, running toward me
I wonder who it is, but I am too scared to look and see
The person picks me up, she is as cold as I
And then she sits us down, on a nice warm place to lie
I think I’ve found a friend, the bad days must be done
And then to my surprise, out comes the sun!
With entrepreneurship, you do not have to go at it all alone. Find people with a shared vision and incentivize them well to help build something worthy. Let them be entrepreneurs with you under a shared vision of culture + a trust and verify mentality. We are now a team of eight consultants, associates and growing. It has taken a lot of commitment to onboard and train others, But I know we triple our abilities to build, scale, and make the next right move from team input… and psssst it’s a lot more fun to work with Gunilla, Lydia, Lisa, Ana, Abanob, Karen, Marc, Francesca and of course, 4-legged Naomi.
There are so many more lessons learned but I will save some for other future blogs. I guess the last one I will share is PICK UP THE PHONE & GET INTO THE GAME. You need to be out there selling (or educating) at all times. You need introductions from people you respect to potential clients, Consider Co-sponsorship with another entrepreneur or leader. Don’t isolate. You need to set a goal for # sales calls per week, you need to help others get what they most need, and yes you need to pick up the phone to circle back with all the great people you are meeting. To close a deal you might be looking at 8-12 touch points and a 3 – 18 month sales process. I’ve learned a lot of this is timing. You may be giving some of it (i.e. consulting advice) away for free. Do all this with a positive and proactive mindset. You have joined the great game of business and you need to get up to bat, swing as hard as you can and value yourself and your capabilities. Negotiate to close the deals. Sometimes you will strike out and sometimes you hit a double or a triple. Dust yourself off, savor the small wins, and don’t be afraid to continue swinging for beyond the fences. I wish you entrepreneurial success and luck!
Julie Kantor is CEO of Twomentor, LLC, a high impact training company focused on talent strategies for a diverse workforce. We build mentoring cultures, diverse sponsorship initiatives & help companies better retain their Millennials and GenZ. We have experience boosting mentoring efforts in Fortune 500 Companies, SMBs, Universities and offer facilitated (and fun) mentor + sponsorship training, Mentor Road Trip™ flash mentoring, keynotes and more. Please learn more about us here, client testimonials, meet our team, our talented advisors.