Greg 2.0: What I Wish I Had Known

This is Greg 2.0.

I’m going to start writing articles about Greg 2.0.  What is Greg 2.0, you ask?  Since I moved to the East Coast, I have focused heavily on reinventing myself.

It’s not that Greg 1.0 was bad, or unsuccessful, but that Greg 2.0 could be so much more.  Maybe it’s silly to “bare my soul” to you, but I’m hoping that you’ll find some commonality, some synchronicity between us.  As we are writing 150 articles this year, I feel I would be remiss in not writing a touch about my own journey.

Are you an entrepreneur?

If you are, this article is for you.  However, I’m sure that anyone reading will find similar struggles and their own life.  After all, we’re all human, and the human condition is universal to us all.

What I learned.

These are in no particular order.  Most of them revolve around my entrepreneurship for the last 13 years.  They focus heavily on process and business growth.  But most are translatable to anything in life.  These are particular to me, and I would very much like to hear if you can add to this list, what your personal struggles were, and how you overcame them.

1.  Don’t be everything to everyone.

In the beginning… When I first started out, I thought I had a solid idea of how I could help people.  I would be all things to everyone.  I would do graphics design, database design, training, and web design.  Internet Marketing was not even on the landscape at that time.  I made this decision without any input from the outside world. After all, if I did a ton of things, I could get more jobs, right? Wrong.

Being everything to everyone diluted my strength as a consultant. I was doing so many things, that I never really became great at anything.

I also found out, many months down the road, is that no one wants a consultant like that.  No one believes that you can do it all.  And to be honest, they were right.  I lost months, perhaps even an entire year, by trying to be everything to everyone.  I should’ve figure out what I loved to do, and how I could help people the most.

How I solved the problem. Specialize as soon as you find a niche that you love. For me, that was Internet marketing; it was fun, I helped my clients the most that way (made them the most money), and it was FUN. Sure, I lost some jobs in the process, like web design. That, however, just gave me more opportunity to create a network of professionals around me that I could refer.

2.  Believe in your abilities.

Believe in yourself. No one else will with as much consistency (except perhaps for my girlfriend Lisa, but then it's only for me.)

In the beginning… There is no end to the number of people in the world that would tell you that you’re crap.  If you believe that, you’re not fit for the universe.  This world only rewards those who believe in their abilities, and in themselves.  After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one will.  This is, in a very real sense, confidence.

How I solved the problem. I want to please people.  I want to help people.  These are two different things.  My goal as an entrepreneur is to help people.  Pleasing people is often a byproduct of helping people.  But some people can never be pleased.  Never read too much into a person’s satisfaction and happiness.

Only evaluate to the success that you create for a customer in their business. Continue to believe in your abilities, and the ability to learn more.

3.  Network like a mofo.

In the beginning… there is a tendency to be timid when first starting out in business.  I put in vast amounts of time at home working on projects (and often spinning my wheels). You must fight timid behavior at all costs.  No one lives in a vacuum, and neither does your work.

If you network, you’re exposed to ideas outside yourself.  This is learning.  And without learning, you’re sunk.  Let me give you an example in my own life.

How I solved the problem. Networking my ideas around saves me tons of time. I ask complete strangers what they think of this or that.

Setup a networking schedule (something that I still have trouble executing after 13 years, so don’t give up!) Meetup.com is a great source for local events. It’s also a great social marketing tool, so, like double bonus.

Benjamin spent 1 hour per day sometimes for daily correspondence (networking). Ok, so he only slept 4 hours per night, but you can do that when you're dead.

Setup a correspondence schedule, too. Benjamin Franklin (one of my heroes) setup an hour a day for personal correspondence. Now, you might be thinking that he had to write with quill and paper, and you have email. Wrong – in this day and age of quantity vs. quality, spending some time for personal and intimate business correspondence is more important than ever. Get into the habit of calling people out of the blue and helping them solve a small problem, then parlay that into paid work. Don’t be pushy, just let it happen.

4.  Create a weekly, and monthly, regimen.

In the beginning… When I first started in business, I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off.  It was exciting, engrossing, immersing, frightening.  I was so engaged with the process, I never took a breath.

This has major consequences.  There’s no feedback to the process.  There’s no contemplation phase.  There is no reflection upon your personal and business growth.

How I solved the problem. Now, every Saturday, I take 4 hours of my morning (right after I go for my morning walk), and, for lack of a better term, I “sharpen the saw”.  This is my weekly regimen:

SATURDAY – WEEKLY TASK LAYOUT

  • 0. On the Horizon…
    • Go through Biz/! Potentials + Biz/Future Work for All Clients!
  • 1. !!! Go through GMAIL ——————
    • REVIEW Action tasks (http://mail.google.com/mail/#label/__!+Action)
    • REVIEW Waiting tasks (http://mail.google.com/mail/#label/__!!+Waiting+For)
    • REVIEW Review tasks (http://mail.google.com/mail/#label/__!!!+To+Review)
    • REVIEW Labels & Filters: (http://mail.google.com/mail/#settings/labels)
    • REVIEW Filters: (http://mail.google.com/mail/#settings/filters)
    • DISTRIBUTE into Google Calendar or Basecamp
  • 2. !!! Go through BASECAMP + EVERNOTE + MIND MAPS —————-
    • organize Evernote notes.
    • quick clean up of primary Mind Map
    • clean up completed tasks http://basecamphq.com/demos/todos
    • reorganize priorities, set new milestones
    • http://basecamphq.com/demos/milestones
    • fire off emails to folks (including Lisa)
    • does each and every To-Do list have a Milestone?
  • 3. !!! NETWORKING ————————-
    • check www.meetup.com for events that I might have missed.
  • 4. !!! Go through Google Calendar ———
    • (http://www.google.com/calendar)
    • Pre-entry: are there new daily/weekly routines (such like this) that I should implement?
    • TIMEBLOCK every Client tasks
    • TIMEBLOCK all bulk Critical tasks
    • SELECT and TIMEBLOCK Primary tasks
    • POOL Calls and set early in week (SEARCH: “cb ” OR “t ” OR “c ” OR call)
    • EMPHASIZE actual appointments (shots, networking Meetup.com, client meetings, auto, Lisa)
  • 5. !!! PRINT everything ——————-
    • PRINT calendar for next 2 weeks / 1 week
  • 6. !!! KEEP IN MIND ———————–
    • -TIMERS on iPhone
    • -REMOVE DISTRACTIONS for greater efficiency
    • -NO SIDETRACKING, put it into BC and forget about it
    • -be aware of actual appointments; how do I absolutely remind myself of things upcoming?
  • [/default_list]
    I have it down to science.  It takes me about 3 ½ hours to accomplish all these things.  Sometimes I’m so organized that I don’t even have to do it.  Did you notice the hyperlinks?  That means that from within that text file, I can go directly to the URL where the task is performed (they’re direct URLs to ‘labels’ that I have setup in Gmail).  Speed is success.

    5.  Do a business plan.

    In the beginning… I had done business plans before, but kind of halfheartedly.  They never seemed to give me enough information to base decisions upon.  What I know now is that I didn’t spend enough time doing it.

    A business plan does not have to be exceptionally formal; what you have to do is look at your entire business, start to finish, cradle to grave, and understand all aspects of your business before you begin.  Correct that, you do not have to do a business plan before you begin business, but to do have to do a business plan very soon thereafter.

    When I moved to the East Coast, I tried again.  I was helped by girlfriend, Lisa.  This time it worked.  I spent approximately 2 ½ weeks on three business plans, not just one, and carefully analyzed the bottom line profits that I could make with each.  It also helped me understand segmentation better, and the importance of my old school skills of data mining.

    How I solved the problem… set aside the time to do it right. After all, starting off on the right path shapes everything to come. Don’t be afraid to explore alternate business opportunities. Doing a business plan is like any diligent research. It pays off if it’s thorough.

    6.  Work your ass off.

    In the beginning… When I first started in business, I worked a lot.  A lot.  I kept thinking to myself, was I doing something wrong?  Were other people doing it easier?  Was I missing something?  Was I just not good enough to do business?

    At the beginning of every endeavor, nothing is easy.  Expect to put in 10 hour days.  This does not mean you should work all the time, but factor in long days.

    How I solved the problem. Work your long days, but quixotically, set time limits.  8 to 6 usually works best.  Also, break up the day into 2 hour units, rewarding yourself after each 2 hours.  This lesson works at odds with lesson number four; this is more of a daily regimen.  Your weekly regimen is critical for daily success.  Don’t work so much that you don’t focus on your weekly regimen.  What you’ll begin to see is the better you plan your week, your days become more productive.

    7.  Winning is never giving up.

    In the beginning… someone defined (and it might have been me) that winning is simply not giving up.  Most people throw in the towel after a few days, a few weeks, or a few months.  You must be better than this.  Being a successful person means that you go farther than other people.  That is the definition of success, after all.

    How I solved the problem. Examine those around you, and see how long it takes for them to “tap out”.  Then go farther.  If you put more time and energy into something that other people do, you win.

    8.  Do not become frustrated, because that’s stupid.

    In the beginning… Even to this day, I have to battle with frustration.  Everything seems to take longer than its supposed  to.  This is natural.  When I first started out, It was a never ending cycle of head banging sessions.

    And as I went along, I noticed that I was still getting frustrated.  Wasn’t it supposed to become easier?  Did the frustration ever end?

    Nope.

    How I solved the problem. Accept frustration as a part of life. Deal with it.  Work with it.  Use it to fuel the fire of your business.  If you do not accept frustration, and allow it to overcome you, then you will never, ever, become successful in business.  Roll with the punches.  If you’re in a boxing match, and you’re gonna get hit – that’s the nature of the game.

    9.  Document your journey.

    In the beginning… I was moving so fast that I never had time to actually think about what I was doing.  I seem to hit problems again and again, and couldn’t remember how I solved the first time.  Talk about your frustration!

    How I solved the problem. Keep a small journal on you.  Every day, right down something good that happened, something bad that happened, something you succeeded at, something you failed at, and something that you learned.  I suggest writing it, not electronically documenting it, but that’s your choice.

    10.  Learn to segment your market.

    In the beginning… I just went after anything I could get my hands on.  I never took time to think about how helping one person evolved into helping many businesses.  And with service businesses like me, turning your service into a “product”, or lease thinking of your service as a product, is a beneficial process.  Looking at one customer as a segment, trying to break down their demographic, understanding key aspects of each customer, and what the problem was specifically, helped me identify other customers that might have the same problem.

    How I solved the problem. For each customer, write down this information: Industry, size of business, how many leaders, how many followers, what they sell, what problem that solves, their geographical reach, who started the business, if they are a franchise, how long they’ve been in business, how they’re doing, major competitors, minor competitors.

    Then contemplate.  Chances are that you will discover how you help them translates into helping others.

    12. Take a chance, dammit.

    In the beginning… I waited too long to buy a house.  I waited too long to start my business.  I waited too long to get into college.  I waited too long to find the love of my life.  I waited too long to move in with the love of my life.  I waited too long to start networking.  I probably waited too long to write this article.

    How I solved the problem. I bought my first house with no money down.  This was after three years of waiting to have the money to buy the house.  I figure if I didn’t have the money, I should buy a house.  What bullshit.  As soon as I bought the house, I immediately began making more money.  Gee, why was that?

    Probably because I pushed myself, because I took a chance.  Simply taking chances equates to success.  As cliché is it sounds, no one ever got ahead in life by playing it safe.  How many times are you going to stand idly by while somebody races past you, because they had the chutzpah to take a chance?

    No more waiting.  I’m taking a chance every day from here on out.

    Come with me, won’t you?

    Greg Cox

    Analytics Geek. Gregory likes Motorcycles, Cooking, and Sciencey stuff.