When I launched my company ForCollegeForLife a year ago, other entrepreneurs offered strikingly similar advice; make wise investments. Initially the only investments I considered, and possibly what they were trying to suggest, were those of the fiscal variety. Upon reflecting on an amazing period of growth, I find the investments needed to be successful are far more than money.
Robert Herjavec, known primarily for his role on Shark Tank, is fond of saying “every minute you spending doing something is one minute you aren’t doing something else.” This wisdom applies to time and every other resource we have at our disposal.
For any startup entrepreneur (or student leaders, whom I most closely encounter) the investments needed to be a success are profound.
Anyone who has ever introduced something new into the market has learned a sharp reality—with rare exception, you are going to be uncomfortable “selling” yourself. There is the physical discomfort of late nights/early mornings, which is to be expected, but also the emotional discomfort of marketing, cold-calling and rejection. It is essential to embrace a certain level of discomfort but also to invest in small rewards for yourself. Mine are timely cups of coffee, exercise and (occasionally) an afternoon catnap.
As it turns out, not everyone is going to root for your success. Your friends might “like” your social media posts and ask you about your work, but only a few are going to truly care. Invest in the relationships with the select few (friends, mentors, partners and family) who champion you. Also, be wary of those who attempt to abuse their relationships with you for personal gain, access or favors.
Since launching my brand, I have fielded countless requests for collaboration or consideration of partnerships. While every offer received might seem appealing (and, honestly, who doesn’t like being wooed?) it is essential to only invest yourself in those which are consistent with your vision and values. One of the greatest investments any new entrepreneur/leader can make is the power of saying “no” to potential offers.
Of all resources we can put forward into a new venture, there is only one which is distributed equally; time! We are all given 168 hours each week, for example, and the difference between those who are successful and others is how they spend each. A useful practice is to project how you are going to spend your week each Sunday evening. Map our details about how you plan to invest your time and energy. Then, at the conclusion of those 168 hours, reflect critically on how you “spent” your capital. Permit for distractions and unexpected diversions (remembering Robert Herjavec’s advice) but also be wary of those who want your time. Similar to the relationships discussed above, your time is valuable and shouldn’t be given away to everyone.
Please don’t mistake what I have said thus far to mean I fail to respect the importance of financial investment. Any startup is a living and breathing creature and, as such, needs to be tended to as you would a child. Investing wisely means not jumping at every marketing opportunity (100,000 Twitter followers does sound nice, but what is the true value-added?) Instead look for ways to efficiently maximize your resources. Making your own social media posts, as an example, can save a lot of dollars which can better be spent elsewhere.
Finally, one of the most important investments any entrepreneur or leader can make is reinvestment—taking care of one’s self mentally and physically, reflecting critically and making appropriate course corrections are essential. Investing bandwidth on your own personal inspiration is critical.
The challenges facing startups are akin to the person attempting to spin plates on their body—each one needs a certain amount of attention to stay steady. Think of your investments, both fiscally and otherwise, as one of those plates. The trick is to keep them all moving without neglecting any.