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Engine start button on Aston Martin DB9. (Guy Spangenberg)
Engine start button on Aston Martin DB9. (Guy Spangenberg)

COMMENTARY

Four lessons learned after starting a business Add to ...

Jumping head first into the digital startup life, or any entrepreneurial venture, takes courage and determination. It’s a choice only a handful of people dare to make, and an even smaller handful survive beyond the first couple of years.

Things move fast, it’s often chaotic and everything must constantly evolve in line with the rest of the world, or ahead of it, if you’re innovating. There’s no predetermined path when you’re bringing something new to the market, and no book or podcast can outline the required steps – if you’re blazing a new trail, there are no directions or road maps.

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Here are a few things I’ve learned since pushing myself into new territory and starting my own company more than four years ago. I didn’t have a formal business background, but I came from the world of TV news, which is also fast paced and you have to think on your feet.

Problem solving and patience

When I first ventured out on my own the world was my oyster and I had the freedom and flexibility to do what I wanted without having to ask permission. My overactive mind was brimming with ideas. Some were tied to the core business, others were not. I wrote those ideas down and talked about them with great enthusiasm, convinced I alone could do it all, and in a short time.

Reality sets in when you learn that executing one innovative concept takes work, commitment, and a solid team. I still have all of those ideas written down, and many of them remain part of the company’s core goals. But years later, most of them haven’t been touched as we continue to perfect the initial concept.

Sometimes I wish we could be further ahead than we are now, but when you’re trying to innovate, timing is critical. Sometimes you have to be patient and wait for the market to catch up to your ideas.

Remain flexible and solid


While focus is fundamental to a startup’s success, an open approach to getting where you want to be is just as important. I think more about the bigger picture and where we’re headed rather than specific details on how to get there. I trust we’re on the right path as long as we keep moving forward and innovate as we go.

As technology and consumer habits change, new opportunities will present themselves that you may not have thought about when you first developed your plan. Be willing to embrace them. When you achieve your goals you know you’re doing something right.

People and delegation

It’s crucial at any stage of business that the people who work for you align with your personality and objectives. I have been very picky in the past about finding the right fit to represent the brand. My fear comes from working in organizations where individual effort and attitudes were so different, it was impossible to stay focused on the big picture.

Slower, solid growth is entirely worth it when you’re willing to take the time to build the right team, one that enhances your core values, rather than hiring just to hire. A lot of it is also trial and error, so if you bring someone on who quickly or eventually proves they aren’t on the right page, there’s nothing wrong with flipping to the next one and starting over. Having the right people in place also means you have the confidence and ability to delegate, which is something many first-time entrepreneurs struggle with.

Love what you do – a lot

This is almost a cliche, but it remains true. If you have a passion for what you do, and you are committed to the big picture, it shows in your work and in how you interact with people. Clients can tell when someone doesn’t care about what they do, and they will be less likely to want to do business with that person. Enthusiasm is huge and it can take you far as long as it’s genuine.

Launching a new business isn’t easy and it’s a constant learning process, but it’s worth pursuing if your head and your heart are in it. Success has never been just about the money. It’s about building a business and a brand that you can be proud of – one that keeps you engaged and inspired every single day.

Lisa Ostrikoff is a TV journalist and anchor-turned-creator of BizBOXTV, a Canadian online video production, advertising and social media marketing agency. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook .

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