I woke up yesterday morning and looked out of the window. My apartment overlooks the intersection of 72nd Street and Amsterdam avenue which is always very busy and loud. But yesterday it was different. A few people were rushing in and out of the buildings trying to hide from heavy snow. Streets were completely white and almost empty from people and cars. I stared at the silent Manhattan and watched the snow peacefully fall down like in a movie scene.
I had my morning coffee, put on as much clothes as I could to keep myself warm and went for a walk in Central Park. The wind wasn’t bad and I couldn’t understand why people were trying to escape this weather. Perhaps, they were too used to snowless winters. Watching the snow fall, feeling how it touches your cheeks and instantly melts, hearing children’s laughter as they sled down the hill and run up to enjoy another ride makes you rethink certain things and see them a little differently. I can bet that New Yorkers who voluntarily went out today enjoyed themselves as much as I did.
Central Park, Manhattan, 01/07/2017
And of course I started to think about my entrepreneurial journey and realized that running my business is not so much about self-employment as it is about self-education. Successful entrepreneurs are not necessarily those who are the most creative, most hard working or most talented (although it does help), but those who never stop learning. Take famous school dropouts, for example. Bill Gates created programming language for one of the world's first personal computers. Mark Zuckerberg invested his time in a social media side project. Steve Jobs fell in love with calligraphy. Oprah Winfrey was busy redefining television shows and David Karp decided to build software for businesses before he was old enough to go to college. These are examples of regular people in the irregular pursuit of learning – about new fields, trades, skills and about themselves.
I’ve been a full-time Co-Founder of Parceed for 2 months and I can say with confidence that no school or job could teach me as much as Parceed did in such a short period of time. Here is what I learned:
- Business doesn’t care what your profession is. If your team is strong in marketing and data science this means that you still have 998 skills to learn. You may say “why not hire people with other skills?”. This is usually the best way to go, but hiring often takes time, costs money and sweat. Hiring the right person, especially in the beginning, means you should trust her like you trust yourself which may also be a challenge. And even if you hire the team, you should still have a good understanding of what it is that they are doing, so you will have to learn anyway. No learning should be off limits. I will learn how to dance ballet if this is what’s required to move forward.
- Even if you led and worked in teams for decades working with others in your company will be different. People who work with you from the early stage are not there for the money, job stability or fame. They are risking their wealth, family and friends to go through the turmoil that has all chances to fail. They will be more candid, more critical and more passionate. And the higher the stakes the more real they get. So, don’t expect people who you work with to be anything like Sue from the product dev team who is always smiley and cheery. Sue would never have joined you in this crazy idea to build a company. Learn about people, what motivates them, what their values are, where they are coming from and who they aspire to be.
- Business is about getting out of your comfort zone. I learned that if I start feeling comfortable with what I’m doing I should train someone to do what I do and move on to something new. Because the most horrible thing that can happen to you as an entrepreneur is being in this limbo where your business is running OK but is not really going anywhere.
- Being an entrepreneur means learning something new about yourself every day. If someone told me that I would be editing contracts, drafting legal agreements and building cap tables two years ago I would have never believed it. Much like I would have never imagined myself selling Parceed T-shirts on Times Square. Just kidding. Although it could be a valid monetization strategy :)
I remember 5 years ago I was bragging about landing a managerial job at a hot startup company to Jacob Goldenberg, my professor of Systematic Creativity in Business at Columbia University, the course I will never forget. I was so happy I got that job and I couldn’t stop telling him all about it. He listened to me very attentively and responded: “This is great, Tatiana. But don’t get trapped in a generic managerial job because this is how you will stop learning. And learning will help you realize your potential.” He was right after all, desire to learn has been pushing me to move to another country, to grow as a professional and a leader and start my own venture.
And here is my 2017 resolution: I will not stop learning!