What I’ve Learned as a Young Entrepreneur

Posted by Todd Smith

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Author: Gerrid Smith (Todd’s 24-year-old son)

PastedGraphic-1Six years ago, when I graduated from high school, I had no clue exactly what I wanted to do with my life—but I knew I was an entrepreneur. Because I knew college wasn’t for me at this time, I decided to spend the next year researching every possible business that might be a fit for me. I attended conferences and business seminars to expose me to the world of entrepreneurs.

My first two business attempts failed, but I learned much from these adventures. During my research, I learned about Search Engine Optimization (also referred to as SEO).  SEO is the art and science of getting websites to rank well in search engines.  It’s a form of internet marketing, and it’s very effective when used properly. I started my own firm and haven’t looked back since.

When my father asked me to write something for the Little Things Matter community, I thought about being 18 again, out of high school, with no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I thought about the past six years and all the lessons I have learned on this journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur.  While I understand that many of you are not 18, these lessons can be applied to most business professionals. And certainly, if you are the parent of an entrepreneurial-minded child, he/she will greatly benefit from reading this post.

These notes represent two dozen little things I’ve learned in the past six years:

1.  Shoot for singles and doubles. My first two businesses failed because I went for the home run. Shoot for a single; refine that first. Once you learn your business inside and out, you can always take it to a new level.

2.  It’s all about marketing. Customers can’t buy your product if they’ve never heard of it. Mastering some form of marketing is an essential skill set in every entrepreneur’s toolbox.

3.  Master something (preferably something in marketing) and stick with it. According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours to be great at something. Changing careers only sets you back.

4.  Find a niche and marry it. I’ve been in the same niche for three years. Today I found what could be one of the most profitable sectors of my niche. Of course, I’ve known about it since the beginning, but I just recently realized how profitable it is. You won’t find niches like this in your first year or on your first try. You have to marry your niche to learn the secrets.

5.  Build something for yourself. Find a way to build an asset that works when you’re not. One that grows and can be sold for a profit when you’re ready to move to your island cottage.

6.  Seek out the experts. The fastest way to the top is to learn from those who have already been successful.

7.  There’s nothing more valuable than your time. Don’t waste it. Benjamin Franklin said, “Time is money.”

8.  College is not a requirement. I had a four-year head start on all my peers. A college degree is a prerequisite for many careers, but it’s not a must for those who have entrepreneur genes surging in their blood.

9.  You are your greatest fan. Don’t look to others for encouragement or applause.

10.  Who you marry is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. I think your spouse greatly determines your level of happiness and can be a blessing or a burden, a help or a hindrance in reaching your goals.

11.  Live below your means. Don’t let your lifestyle grow with your income. Be content with what you have and with what you don’t have.

12.  Fund your own business. I funded my business 100% with my own money. I believe you work harder when your own money is on the line. Work hard, save your money, and fund your own business.

13.  Develop your communication skills.  The most important attribute of a great manager is clear and effective communication.

14.  Hire people as part-time freelancers before hiring full-time. This allows prospective employees to prove themselves.

15.  Build a moat. Build a hedge of protection around your business. If the business drops by 50%, how would you build it back up? How are you defending your business against the competition and the economy?

16.  Go towards the unsexy. Building the next Facebook is cool, but the odds of success are 1 in 1,000,000. My niche may not be cool, but it’s profitable.

17.  Delegate. You’ll quickly get to a point where you need more hours in a day. Work on the most important tasks that only you can do and delegate the rest.

18.  Trust your gut. It’s right 99% of the time.

19.  Keep the long-term vision in your pocket. Reviewing your goals and long-term vision on a regular basis will prevent you from making shortsighted mistakes that negatively affect the long-term viability of your business.

20.  First impressions are everything. I had someone contact me recently about a job with my firm (SmithSEO). There were a few misspellings and grammar mistakes in their first email to me. I could tell immediately that they weren’t serious about the job opening.

21.  Be hard on yourself. You know what you’re capable of. If you come up short, push yourself to do better. Don’t blame the competition and don’t blame the market.

22.  Don’t compete on price. It’s more fun to be the Starbucks of your industry, as opposed to the Dunkin Donuts. Give people plenty of reasons to spend more money with you so you’re not competing on price.

23.  Build something that has recurring residual income. It’s not easy, but residual income is the best type of income I’ve been able to acquire.

24.  Invest in yourself and your business. I believe the smartest investment you can make is in furthering your own self-development and marketing your business.

My Message to All Parents.

Teaching your kids the “little things” is so crucial to helping them succeed in life and business. I’ve been fortunate to have parents that instilled the right values and lessons in me at a young age and pushed me to become the man I am today. Don’t give your kids the easy way out. Allow them to work for what they want. Guide them with your experience but allow them to fail when necessary. Failure precedes success, and it fuels it, too!

“The elevator to success is out of order.  Take the stairs.” -Joe Girard

Author Bio: Gerrid Smith is the founder and president of SmithSEO, an Internet marketing firm with clients nationwide. With a background in marketing and internet strategies, Gerrid has been actively involved in SEO for over five years. He is also a member of the Little Things Matter Mastermind Team. When not working, Gerrid, enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife and family in Sarasota, FL.

About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 34 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.

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