The Entrepreneur Iceberg

One of the benefits of being an entrepreneur is meeting other like-minded individuals that have embraced the ongoing path and title of entrepreneur. What does it mean…all the things in the above image.

The definition of an entrepreneur “is a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater-than-normal financial risks in order to do so”. Huh. Okay. 

What I love about the many iceberg images that I’ve passed along to my “entrepreneur colleagues” is a reminder of everything we face that no one else sees. Many people only see success. What everyone doesn’t see is: 

  • Persistence
  • Failure
  • Sacrifice
  • Disappointment
  • Dedication
  • Hard work
  • Discipline

Here are some more to add:

  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Second guessing
  • Uncertainty
  • Confidence
  • Lack of confidence
  • Processes
  • Questions
  • Constant work

What would you add to the list above?
The point is it’s hard work, but I find it worth it. I’m providing myself and family flexibility between work and home — that life/work balance. The life of an entrepreneur includes uncertainty but is it any different than being an employee where nothing is truly certain?

As an employee, you receive benefits, retirement funds and health insurance. Those are all great, but if you look at the fine print, it’s still a contract. In most places, as an employee, a company may end employment anytime. So if you have a passion, an idea or a plan, look to see what it would take for it to happen.

What can I tell you about my experience?
For YEARS, my husband supported my entrepreneur mindset. I’ve always had a passion to start a business. What appealed to me was having a creative outlet. I grew up watching Caroline in the City. That was me. Greeting cards. My favorite to draw was an ink outline with color inside (I’ll have to go and rewatch episodes to see if that’s what she did… I can’t remember).

But what I do know is years ago my husband bought me the Idiots Guide to Starting a Business. It came with a CD of documents!  Heck, this was pre-marriage –19+ years ago — thanks hon! What mattered was I had a key individual who is my constant support. Someone who sees my inspiration – my desire – even though it took me YEARS to catch up to myself. 

In 2016, a year before I worked on my own, I started to think back on the individuals who made a difference in my career. Those who I enjoyed working with. Those who, when I thought back to projects, experiences and trainings, I said I want to talk to those people. The point was to connect. To build my referral base. To ask: What are you doing? What are you passionate about right now?

What was my passion then?
The idea of working for myself. Of picking up contract work. Of connecting with and learning about experiences. It wasn’t about asking, “What work do you have?” It was, “Tell me what have you been up to?”,  “What do you love about what you’re doing now?” and “What did you enjoy about our time at XYZ?”

This led to reconnecting. Reconnecting gave me an outlet to say out loud: “Hey, I’m thinking about starting my own business but until then I want to LEARN.” Learn about where key individuals in my past are now. What insight do they have for me?

This yielded more discussions and some contract work (yay!). When someone asks do you do PowerPoint? As a designer, there may be an internal discussion of, “Really, is that design? Are they serious?” but the answer is “I’d love to help you.” It made me think of when I was graduating from college and those who only wanted to work, for instance, at the Target Corporation in Minneapolis, MN. Anything less to them was “beneath them.” That’s not a way to enter working as an entrepreneur and finding clients.

I was asked once how do you have clients?
I’ve been working for the past years and can’t find any? I explained it was about RELATIONSHIPS, about feature/benefits to both individuals. What are you offering?  How can you serve this person or this company? It’s not about doing what’s in the box but how coloring beyond the lines will gain you invaluable experience.

That PowerPoint project led to more PowerPoint projects. Which led to another company needing PowerPoint design. That grew to other projects, to more work, to my realization that I CAN DO THIS. My husband has been that person that has helped push me. That noticed that fear was holding me back, like not having a paycheck or benefits. He asked the question, “Why not? You have $X saved. (That is key!) So try it, give it a year, see what you can do.”

But note, when I broke off and started my business, I had a client. I had some income coming in and was working other connections. Five years later my business is still about connecting. It’s sharing with new people within my client circle what I do, where I’ve been for the last 20 years and how I can SERVE THEM.

As entrepreneurs, we need to always be working, always building connections and always sharing ourselves. Perhaps it helps that I’m an extravert, but at the same time, 30 seconds of “What do you do?” is always a challenge even for me. So think about who you’re talking to and how you can help them…or ask how you can help them…where are they at in their experience? Think about what you can you do for them instead of what they can do for you.  

The entrepreneur mindset is constantly serving others, sharing experience, and being transparent about what’s below the iceberg while you rise above it for success.

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