Kelly Lucente

ENTREPRENEURIAL LESSONS I LEARNED IN 2019

Every year I’m in business, I learn a few more lessons. Some of them are hard earned that’s for sure and 2019 was no exception. Fourth quarter had me questioning whether entrepreneurship really was for me or if going back into a corporate gig was the way to go. Everyone I shared my concerns with thought I was coo coo for cocoa puffs. Since an early age, I was exposed to entrepreneurship, so I guess you could say I was destined for it. However, that didn’t give me a pass for a beat down year… and that happened in 2019.

Through it all I learned a few things I’ll be carrying with me into 2020. I wanted to share them with you today in hopes that maybe something will resonate with you. 

#1) Wordsmith what’s not working.

Many refer to me as a brand strategist and it’s true that positioning is a core service within my suite of services, but by definition, brand falls under the marketing umbrella. Technically, I’m a marketing strategist who specializes in positioning. It was cool when “brand” was really hot. It’s what people Googled to find their way to me. Now that brand isn’t the new black many are Googling marketing in general. One of the things I speak to when working with my clients is the importance of speaking the client’s language, so when I saw a tip in traffic and leads I knew it was time to pivot by introducing a new division within my business (kellylucente.com). A disconnect is a hard “no” for many. That simple addition opened the door to new conversations and new business.

Consider looking at your external messaging. Recognize that your brand marketing efforts are never really done. Serpentine to stay relevant with your audience by defining what you sell the way your audience will understand it. Sometimes this means a tweak and sometimes it means a do-over. Just remember that your own marketing is a cost of doing business and wordsmithing again and again is key to maintaining relevance in a saturated marketplace.

#2) Know your opportunity costs.

They say time is money and in many ways, I have to agree. As a small business owner, I wear many hats and as such, I need to optimize my time management if for no other reason than a sense of sanity. One of my commitments last year was to spend less time on the road. That included business travel as well as being out and about tackling errands.  After calculating how much opportunity cost I had been losing by being away from my desk trying to get from point A to point B I had the realization that something had to give. 

The “less travel” thing was a bit more complicated, but an immediate fix was to shop online. Amazon Prime’s free shipping made it a no brainer to make necessary purchases without leaving my desk. Even though they (and consequently I)  took a hit with delivery issues toward the end of the year, I still believe that keeping my bum in my office chair saved me far more frustration than the bumper to bumper traffic and the occasional road rage.

You might want to consider tracking your opportunity costs in any given situation. It may help you make more informed decisions about where you spend your time. Opportunity cost is a concept used in economics which speaks to the value placed on a missed opportunity. In other words, if you were to stay home and do activities to create revenue instead of doing the tasks necessary to say, attend an event (ie: research, shopping, scheduling travel, attend the event, etc.) the hours you spent doing the latter prevented you from generating business during your prep time and time away; therefore a potential missed opportunity.

Here’s the calculation:

We are assuming it will take you 8 hours to prep for an event (ie: schedule travel, order extra business cards, make some calls to get logistics, etc.) and 10 hours in travel time (ie: to and from the airport, the time waiting to board, time spent in the air and cab rides to and from the event), then 24 hours attending. That’s assuming three 8-hour days. I used a multiplier of $125/hr as a calculation on your hourly rate. In other words, what would you charge for your time? I’m assuming $125 for this scenario.

Just something fun to try to see where you land on the opportunity cost spectrum.

#3) Health is more important than business.

2019 was a tricky health year for me. A really nasty case of the flu in the spring had me in bed almost 17 days and considering I’m the only biz dev person for my company, that impacted sales… significantly. Followed by a summer with blood clots in my legs, I had to take a real hard look at what this new phase of life looked like for me. I’m not at a place in my business where I can outsource the sales role, so staying healthy is paramount to my productivity… working in and on my business. That being said, I had some real trepidation when I was down and out with my bouts of health “stuff” that kept me grounded from generating new business. 

That mind chatter was not healthy and as a result 2020 will look a lot different. I’ve made a conscious decision to prioritize differently, place emphasis on things I worry about differently, and what I will say YES or NO to.

If you’ve had a health scare, I know you know what I’m talking about. If not and this resonates with you, consider taking a snapshot of your daily routine; include work and non-work related tasks. How much time are you in the echo chamber of social media? How many hours are you on your electronic devices? What are you eating and when? How much negativity creeps in versus positive affirmations? Knowing how your days lay out might help you map differently. And for those of you who’ve got the work/life balance thing nailed… I envy you and I am working toward a more balanced 2020.

#4) Walk away from bad deals.

My mom always told me, “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” I’ve actually learned that lesson the hard way. More than once. One of my Achilles heels is to trust that everyone is as honest and forthright as I try to be. Many times I’ve entered into a business deal that went south. What I’ve finally reconciled is that no deal is better than a bad one so I’ve learned to walk away often times with zero retribution.

One of the best (and painful) things I’ve heard from my business mentors over the years is, “Suck it up, Buttercup. It’s the cost of doing business.” Hearing it and living it has been a big OUCH! But, they were right. There are definitely times where it makes better business sense to chalk it up and walk away. That was a big “a-ha” for me in 2019.

Do you get a sixth sense about things?  Consider looking at business deals with my mom’s duck analogy. It might save you some time, money, and certainly angst, both in the short term and the long run.

#5) Have a strong support network.

I’m not just talking mentors and advisors. I’m talking about pals that “get” what you’re going through and family that understands your chosen work/life balance. It’s not the same for everyone. I have entrepreneurial friends whose parents think their business is simply a hobby and as such, the familial support they receive is counter to what they need to hear and feel to keep fighting the good fight in their business. 

My inner circle knows first hand what a beat down year I had in 2019. They rallied for me on a monthly/weekly/daily basis with constant check-ins to make sure I was okay and offering assistance wherever they could. Just hearing, “I get it because I’m going through it myself” meant everything on down days. Knowing I had people on speed dial gave me a sense of comfort as I pushed forward and leaned into discomfort and uncertainty.

One of my greatest lessons of 2019 is to not wait to ask for help. There are people out there (some you may not even have considered to be on the list) who will make themselves available at a moment’s notice. Leverage those amazing relationships and reciprocate when you can. It could mean the difference between a good and bad day. Here’s to more good than bad of course!

What lessons did you learn in 2019?

Here’s to an amazing new year and new decade. – Kelly

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