2014 Recap – 5 entrepreneurial lessons I learned the hard way

2014 for me is what I’d like to call a “catalyst” year. Those who know me know that I like putting myself in tough situations on purpose, just to see how I can handle them. That’s my own little way of evolving – by throwing myself into the deep. Last year I took the biggest plunge ever, by turning my back on a financially secured life of an employee and founding my own company.  I will never forget the unique combination of anxiety & fear, but also hope & curiosity, which fuelled my motivation for change. Now, a year later, stability is still a word I cannot freely use in my daily life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, and here’s why.

Teddy TonevaThere’s the old debate on whether entrepreneurs are born with a set of skills or if this is something that can be learned. If my humble experience is any indication, I would say all entrepreneurs I met last year had one key trait in common – bravery. They were brave enough to dream big and to pursue those dreams with everything they got. I became part of a community of individuals where I could exchange ideas, discuss problems and grow our businesses together. And I’d like to think that I’ve slowly started adapting the mindset of these lunatics, experimenting with different fields and business concepts and seeing through those, which I’ve been able to grow into actionable plans. So what’s the conclusion? The skills you need to be a good entrepreneur are skills learned in the right setting with the right environment, as long as you’re crazy enough to give it a shot.

But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. 2014 was full of challenges, both personal and professional, and I am so grateful to have come out of it stronger and with a clearer vision for the year to come. Here are 5 lessons about entrepreneurship from my own experience, which I learned the hard way (not that I would have it any other way!).

  1. Actions are always louder than words – It’s easy to get caught into the “think tank” mode, constantly exchanging ideas with fellow entrepreneurs. But ideas are just that – ideas. A good business partner is the one that acts on them in a systematic order and has a clear plan of the steps that need to be taken to get things done. If you have a great idea but cannot imagine the whole process from A to Z, then perhaps you should put it back in the think tank for now and focus your energy on more viable projects.
  1. Choose your battles – If you’re striving to be a flexible entrepreneur with good contacts and the right partners, chances are you will attract many new friends who want to do business with you, because of your background/ profile/ field, etc. One of the hardest things I had to learn in 2014 is to say “no”. Prioritizing is key. Have a clear idea of the pipeline of projects for the year. Which project will take the most of your energy or resources, which will yield the most return on investment and when? What added value will this project bring in the long run? Those are all questions you should try to answer for yourself before you take on more work. You will soon start recognising the good opportunities from the ones you should politely say no to.
  1. Long VS short term goals – this one is tricky. How do you balance your projects in such a way to not lose focus of the short-term deliverables, but also to keep thinking about the bigger picture? My solution is – learn to think in phases. Each project I divide into primary efforts / execution/ results & growth. This way I don’t lose track of where I am and where I need to go in 3, 6 or 10 months. Set best case and worst case scenario goals for each phase and monitor how well you are performing in each. Chances are, by mid-phase 2 you will know which project to drop and which to focus more energy on.

Choosing the right partners

  1. I’m lost without the right team – When I started my first business a year ago, I did it all on my own, which was frustrating, to say the least. Along the way many people wanted to work together on various ideas and through a trial-and-error approach I was able to find the right mindset for my company, making it easier to find new partners, when you have a clear idea of the profiles you are looking for. Don’t underestimate the process of funnelling business partners/ employees. I don’t find the right people for a job, I find the right mindset and create the job around it.
  1. Self-analysis is key – We tend to overanalyse projects and businesses, thinking about ways to better the product, the marketing efforts or the scale model. However, we often forget to do the same about ourselves as entrepreneurs. I like applying the same criteria when working on a project to my own self. The person I was a year ago and the person I am today can’t be further apart, but I choose to analyse each change. When and how did it occur and am I a better person for it? Thinking about my skills as a separate business has really helped me drill on what I need to improve or change to keep growing.

All that being said, I am very grateful for the amazing people I met in 2014, the cluster partnerships I founded with the great companies I work with and the variety of projects I have the chance to be involved in. 2015 is the year of scale and the goal is to take my core business to the next level, by doubling the internal team and the accounts we work on. I believe that if the right foundation was laid last year, this year should be twice as challenging and twice as rewording as a result. I am excited about the opportunity to keep learning every day and I cannot wait to see what this year brings on the table!

 

xo,

 

Teddy T

How shaking things up affects productivity – both personal and professional

Time for change

Productivity is one of those words that have different meanings to each individual. For example, I never feel ‘lazy’, I simply strive to find quicker, more efficient solutions to problems. I never used to mentally go through my tasks of the day, I simply try to accomplish as much as I can, as fast as I can. Some might not understand my definition of productivity, but I’ve recently found a formula that works for me and I think it just might work for you too.

A couple of months ago I made a life-changing decision, which had an astonishing effect on how I go about my activities. I stopped smoking. There’s a lot of health-related research on the continuous effects of smoking tobacco, however I must admit that the psychological and behavioural effects of quitting took me by surprise. Suddenly, a habit that took up to 25% of my day was eradicated. The result was a dramatic shift on productivity and efficiency, both professionally and interpersonally. I believe you can draw your own conclusions based on my experience:

Week One:

  1. I started counting my time, I was more aware of the present. Result: I was able to efficiently draw mental notes on how much time it took me to complete specific tasks.
  2. I began noticing ‘gaps’ in my time – those were the times I would stop and have a smoke. Result: I tried to fill these gaps with errands or small tasks, so I wouldn’t have the time to think about the habit.

Week Two:

  1. I became more eerie about what I put in my body. Result: Started a cleanse that cleared my mind and boosted my concentration on the work place.
  2. I stopped drinking coffee, because I associated it with the habit. Result: After a couple of days of adjustment I was able to achieve better sleep in less time.

Month One:

  1. I noticed a continuous growth in energy. Result: It started taking me half of the time to complete previously tiresome tasks.
  2. I started wanting to do more, to be more. Result: The ‘additional’ time allowed me to focus on other projects, grow my partnerships and my client base.

How to step out of the box:

We all have our vices. I’ve begun to understand that our habits are an embodiment of our com
fort zones. They seem like essential parts of our being, until we decide otherwise. 

Shaking up those habits forces us to step out of the box we so comfortably inhabit. Now I try to change small routines on regular basis, because that keeps me on my toes. Being on your toes, especially when you are running your own company is essential. So why not try to change something in your own routine?

  • Take a different route to work one day of the week
  • Change a regular drink (let’s say coffee) with something you wouldn’t normally get for a couple of days
  • Try the YES approach for one week – whenever someone asks you to do something (go out to a party, meet new people, do a task, etc.) simply say YES!
  • Talk to a complete stranger at least once this month – gives you perspective on your own life and your path to personal success
  • Get out of your regular circle – go out of town, take a hike or a walk alone and use this time to contemplate

In the end, my simple advice to you is – Keep growing, keep aspiring to do better and don’t be afraid to shake things up. You never know how changing smaller details can help you gain sight of the big picture.