Frustrated, Elated, Dejected, Confident, Negative, Optimistic. These are some of the emotions that I experience on a daily basis on my entrepreneurial journey. While there are so many “soft” benefits to being an entrepreneur, from freedom over my schedule, to not having a boss tell me what to do, I find that I’m more affected than I would have anticipated by the peaks and valleys that come with growing a business.
Revenue generation is the single biggest topic on my mind every day. Will we generate enough revenue to sustain the business and cover our living expenses? When will the revenue come in? Will we be able to invest enough revenue to continue to grow and expand across the country or around the world? The womancon business, our content, our mission, our vision and even our ability to execute – all of these seemingly difficult things that would likely weigh heavily on the mind of someone who is building a business – don’t give me pause. Not even for one minute. Each and every one of those things come naturally to my partner and I. We know what we are doing, as these tasks are familiar to us.
My background is marketing. Corporate marketing in corporate America. I’ve got some bad news. Corporate marketing does not teach anyone how to be an entrepreneur. Asking for incremental marketing dollars from the all-knowing Oz was the closest that I’d ever come to worrying about money. And, my livelihood, my paycheck, came to me like clockwork on a bi-weekly basis. If my team and I simply kept within our allocated budget spend and delivered our projected results, money to support our next marketing campaign was always magically there. What a stark contrast that is to my daily existence as an entrepreneur. There is no magical mystery man holding a sack of gold, ready to dole it out on a set quarterly schedule at womancon. In my corporate marketing role, I had to do little more than provide a thoroughly informed and tweaked strategic plan to generate leads (leads…not even sales!). Marketing is my area of expertise and I love what I do, so I’m not here to point out what’s wrong with corporate marketing. Rather, I love it because marketing inspires action through detailed product and service benefits explained in creative ways that connect with prospects and customers. I love every bit of what goes into creating marketing plans and all the great work that comes out of a well designed and executed plan. However, one critical piece that is missing from a corporate marketing plan is the element of pain. Pain? You’re reading that correctly. Pain must be generated before the first marketing lead. It’s the pain of generating the revenue that fuels the marketing machine. It’s something that I know I missed along the way, but have now become an expert.
It’s so easy to understand the reason why so many entrepreneurs seek financing. It is just too difficult, distracting and disheartening to worry about where revenue is coming from before you can do what needs to be done to market, sell and operate. To seek financing takes guts. You need to be comfortable with loans you may not be able to pay back, with others giving out advice that you may or may not want to hear, with VCs taking a piece of your business and telling you how to do everything. Endless meetings, presentations and displays of passion are par for the course. Yes, these are all necessary when you need financing to keep your business going, but it all serves to distract from the business of building a business. For these reasons, we have made the decision to put all of our energy into generating revenue to keep our business growing.
So what’s an entrepreneur like me to do to focus on generating revenue? After much trial and error, which continues hourly, here are some tips I can offer other women entrepreneurs who are in the same boat:
1) Get a partner – and quick! I am extremely fortunate that I have an understanding partner in womancon who builds me up when I’m down and takes a no B.S. approach to many of the things that trip me up. She is positive, uplifting and, of course, brilliant. And, when she’s feeling frustrated, dejected and negative, I bring her up to the place to which she’s brought me. We remind each other of our mission, daily. This is a key element that prevents us from throwing in the towel and heading back into the corporate world. Left to my own, I would have talked myself out of this a long time ago.
2) Keep the vision/mission front and center – We are doing this for women everywhere, so that they know that entrepreneurship, business ownership and leadership is the way to career satisfaction and success at every step along the career trajectory. If we do not succeed, we are not only failing ourselves, but also failing half of the entire world’s population. What we are doing matters.
3) Stop with the distractions! – Every day we see a new event, an amazing approach to something we’re working on or thinking about, a lucrative strategic partnership formed between a hot brand and women who are doing similar things to us. And we deflate. Why didn’t we think of that, why didn’t that brand reach out to us? And so it goes. And after we spend the time dissecting all the reasons why, we realize that everyone else is in a different place than we are and we don’t really have all of the facts. And, all of this is a big waste of time. Until we are generating revenue, nothing is worth distracting us from our goals and from generating revenue to support our vision.
These three tips allow us to continue, to get closer to bringing dollars through the door –which is the single most important activity that any for-profit company needs to do – especially in the beginning, and especially when you don’t have a source of financing. Now it’s time for me to get back to the business of generating revenue so that we can serve women entrepreneurs worldwide.
READERS: On your entrepreneurial journey, what frustrates you and makes you question your decision? And what keeps you going? We want to hear from you, so please don’t be shy about writing.