One year and two days have passed since I left Groupon employment. I’ve posted before on the trials of starting a business. Since then, I’ve waded through difficulties and learned even more about how I operate. I’d like to pass on a few key items that I may have initially dismissed as someone preaching to me:
1) Advice means nothing if you ignore it.
I asked many different people for their thoughts and feedback. I’ve nixed ideas, because people have convinced me to see them in a different perspective. I’ve also ignored some advice, because it didn’t sit well with me. Ultimately, you are the person at the end of this road and you’re the person who’s going to be responsible for the demise or success of the company.
2) Relationships are everything. Create them & maintain them.
I spent an enormous amount of time in coffee shops talking to baristas and getting to know what each shop served. I also dedicated a lot of time to attending industry events so people could see that I was absolutely interested in being part of the community. These conscious efforts, for someone who isn’t normally so social, paid off. The friendly relationships I have with the baristas who present on the crawls is easily identifiable by my crawl participants.
3) Social media marketing is not free.
You may not have to pay money to set up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, but you do have to pay in time to create your communities. I now have three Twitter accounts, two Facebook pages, and two Instagram accounts. Building loyal communities from zero is very difficult. It was probably more tough for me, because I don’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront.
4) Your time is your most expensive possession.
Sure, let’s meet for coffee and talk about topics of interest. No, you, as a stranger, can not “pick my brain” for what the Chicago coffee market is like or ask what consumers want- unless you’re willing to pay for it. Assume everyone in the world is busy and that I’m equally as busy. Someone once wrote me an email, asking to meet for coffee so they could talk about a new “drinks” blog that they wanted to start up. When I arrived, it was essentially a consulting session. They wanted to open a coffee shop and needed advice and names for someone to help them run the shop (and for them to collect paychecks while working their full-time jobs). This kind of shady maneuver is not representative of someone I’d want to work with.
5) Trust your instincts.
I spent a lot of time by myself this past year, making me more introspective and in touch with my instincts. During some exchanges, I’d have this strange, nagging feeling of discomfort. In the above consulting example, I felt used, angry, and unimportant. While I’m sure I’ll feel like that at some future point, I am more adamant now in avoiding these types of situations. There is nothing wrong with asking questions and the people who you want to work with are the ones who will pay you.
6) Surround yourself with positive people.
In the beginning, and sometime still currently, days and weeks would be like a roller coaster ride. I would hit an absurd high with great press and then dive to a dismal low when no one took action on the press. If you don’t want to live a mediocre existence and have life live you, then you should be surrounding yourself with ambitious, positive people who are living life.
The last year has been a real trip. I haven’t regretted leaving the company. The friendships I’ve made and the personal growth I’ve achieved is much more satisfying than anything I could’ve done previously.
Two of my close friends wrote me birthday cards, which pretty much made me tear up:
“You are fabulous and an inspiration, with your drive to pursue your passions.”
“You’re a completely different person than the tired & bored Jenn from the Groupon era.”