I started my business at 22 with $25 dollars and a really nice briefcase.
I have been very blessed in this business. Recently a media source asked me to share my challenges and advantages of starting a business so young.
Here is my rough list.
1. Disadvantage starting the business having no money for any marketing, not even the budget for business cards.
2. Disadvantage not knowing so many things that would have made running the business easier and built it more quickly.
Just one simple thing, like getting the business cards from all my audience members before they left the speech or always asking for a reference letter from my clients would have been helpful.
(Advantage of not having cards and not knowing the “right way” to sell led to me calling everyone I had spoken for that week and asking what they liked about the program and what I could do better and if they needed other work done and if they knew anyone else that needed a speaker. I would even ask them to call their contacts for me and recommend me, which unbelievably they did!
3. Disadvantage -I wish I had known to form a board for the company and or a group of trusted advisors with experienced business people to act as a sounding board and source of advice, and also to keep from being so isolated and ideally to work with collaboratively helping each other. I would tell anyone starting a business to do this and to ideally join a VISTAGE group.
4. The biggest advantage was my naivete. I didn't know what you were supposed to do, what you could or couldn't do or what was and was not possible. As a professional speaker I ran out into the audience, stood on chairs, did crazy things and asked the audience to do fun things. I found out years later professional speakers didn't do such crazy things, but those crazy things made me unique. I still do impossible things every time I speak and doing that I believe, made my business.
5. The other advantage of starting young is that I didn't know to think in terms of billable hours. I didn't know that I should not put in more work than I was being paid for to do. Ultimately I undercharged and I put in far more work than I was paid for. Again, that was also an advantage because I consistently have gone above and beyond, the work was always at the highest standard which I think helped me get repeat clients and longevity in the very difficult speaking business. (Less than 5% of speakers who work full time speaking as their sole means of income survive more than 2 years in the business.) I still have that work ethic and that desire to be the very best and work far more than I am paid for.
Patti Wood MA, CSP
Body Language Expert