In 1997, I created the first NASA online store selling a few official astronaut patches, flight suits for kids and adults, and that nasty astronaut ice cream no astronaut really eats in space (insider secret). The Space Store went on to become the largest store of its kind in the Universe. It was fun, crazy, wild, and an incredible amount of hard work.
Since that time, I’ve taken what I have learned from that entrepreneurial effort along with the lessons learned previously in rock radio and applied many of these ideas to whatever endeavor I am currently involved in.
These are the things I wish I had known when I started:
- Enjoy the journey. Pick a time each week to look back on what you have accomplished, the pros not the cons. Even if it is small, it keeps you going. Who did you meet, what small thing did you accomplish? If you worry about what still needs to be done, you will not enjoy yourself. Successful people usually love what they are doing.
- Whatever you are doing, odds are you are not the first. Find someone who has done something successfully similar to what you are doing or has been successful in another business. A mentor is a great person to bounce ideas off of and learn what has and hasn’t worked in the past.
- Ask for what you want or need. No one can read your mind and, for the most part, people do like to help others. It makes them feel valued. And, you never know who knows who. Put your request out there in the world and see what happens.
- Keeping with the “ask” theme, if you don’t know or understand something, ask. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
In the first year of The Space Store, I had no idea what a PO was. Every time a vendor asked if I had a PO number, I said no and nobody seemed to have a problem with that. Finally, I looked it up! As the business grew, I’m glad I did.
- Don’t go into debt. Used furniture and office equipment work just as well as new things. And that couch you saw on the side of the road? If it is in decent shape, pick it up for the office. Free is good when getting started.
- Spend more time listening rather than talking. To your employees and to your customers. Even more so to your competition. Oh, the things you will learn!
- Get organized and stay organized. “I can’t find a thing,” said no successful person ever.
- Mistakes are not fatal. In fact, the most successful people in the world, in every business, fail all the time. That’s because they continually innovate, try new ideas and look for the next big thing. Figure out what went wrong and how, make adjustments and move forward.
- Take care of yourself because starting a business is stressful. Have something that takes you away a bit so you can focus more clearly when you get back. Work out, yoga, play an online video game with others – find a way to take a break, and clear your mind. A good, long downward dog can do just that!
- The #1 most important thing to remember when you are beginning a new venture? The more you do to help someone else be successful, the more successful you will become. Call it karma, call it networking, call it what you want, but it works. Every time. In any business.