The life of an entrepreneur is…interesting. It definitely has its ups and downs (hence the title of this post!). Sometimes entrepreneurs ask themselves why in the world they thought starting a business and quitting their full-time job was a good idea, and other times they can’t believe they ever ‘survived’ a standard 9-to-5 job with a steady paycheck. When I experience those ups and downs of the startup life, it helps me to remember some excellent advice a former business mentor of mine, Rick, passed on to me. I only use the term ‘former’ here because he unfortunately passed away, one year ago today. Perhaps that’s why his business advice came to mind for this post!
When I was starting out in my sales-oriented role as an insurance agent, I was originally given monthly policy quotas that I was mostly expected to achieve or exceed. As an admitted perfectionist and somewhat anxious overachiever, the quotas terrified me at first! What if I had a bad month? What if I had a bad few months and literally no one in the entire state wanted to buy insurance from me?! These ‘what-ifs’ of course drove me to work even harder at succeeding in my job. But I would also check in with Rick as my mentor and ask him how I could get more clients. I know now there is no quick or even ‘right’ answer to this question, but at the time his answer frustrated me beyond belief! His answer was not to get out and attend more networking events. He didn’t tell me to make more cold calls. He simply told me this: “If you’re doing this job for the right reason, and doing it the right way, you will eventually win more clients.”
That was so not what I wanted to hear! Of course I was in this business for the right reasons, but at the time I needed 10 more policies by month’s end and ‘doing things for the right reasons’ just was not cutting it! So I did what any overachieving-perfectionist might do; I worked even harder!
When the next month came and went and I still wasn’t where I wanted to be with the number of policies I wrote, I was mildly panicked. (Okay, maybe more than mildly…) Again, I asked Rick what to do, thinking since he had been in the business for 30+ years that he had all the answers. He told me that I needed to look at the big picture, essentially. He said, “If I’m working towards a goal I set for myself, and one or two months go by where I don’t quite hit that goal…well, that’s just a mile marker on the path I’m taking, as long as I’m still lined up with my original goal.” (I wish I could remember his exact words, but this was pretty close!)
And again I thought, “WHAT?! That is no help to me right now, when it’s the dead of winter and no one wants to talk to an insurance agent or even leave their house to get food!” (Did I mention I live in Minnesota, home of below-zero temps and lots of snow?)
When I think back on those answers that Rick gave me, I completely appreciate them now. They are relevant not just to a new insurance agent, but to any one in sales or in business in general. When I experience those lows on the roller coaster of the startup life, I try to remember Rick’s advice. I ask myself if I’m doing my job for the right reasons and doing things the right way. I also think about the ‘big picture’ and those mile markers I may have missed along the way, but if I’m still on the right path then it’s still okay to keep going down that path. Maybe I’ll need a few readjustments to my course, but that’s okay too! It’s all about the journey and for me, it’s about helping business owners along the way.