When building a new start-up, there are lots of ways you can go wrong. As the CEO and co-founder of TSE Worldwide Press and United Yearbook Printing, I’ve learned many important business lessons throughout my professional journey, and I hope you can learn from them as well.
My first piece of advice has to do with the importance of hiring trustworthy employees. When you’re just starting out, the key thing is to delegate everything that can be delegated, that way you can focus all of your energy on the tasks that will help grow your company. New business owners tend to hire people they already know, like a best friend or a family member – however, it’s very important that the person you plan to partner with truly understands your professional expectations and boundaries. Their professional relationship with you should be vastly different than their personal relationship with you, and they should be aware of that (via a written statement of expectations). If they believe they’re being hired as a friend rather than an employee, they may not work with the same consistency or reliability as they would for another company, since they may view their involvement with you as being low-stakes.
If you’d like to look for talent without pulling from personal relationships, I’d especially recommend testing out different staffing agencies. For example, if you’re looking for an administrative assistant, consider partnering with an agency that has a large pool of administrative assistant applicants. While certain agencies may have a buy-out rate, I think it’s still a great resource. You could also recruit based on referrals. My most successful and coachable interns are often the ones with the best referrals, and these people tend to promote up and succeed exponentially in my company. Remember, it’s more important that you take the time to interview lots of people rather than quickly fill a position, because if you make a mistake in your hiring decision, the person you’ve brought in is going to cause a lot of damage to your company.
Second, it is vital for young business owners and entrepreneurs to have a realistic mindset. New businesspeople sometimes think that they’re going to become millionaires overnight, and the thought of wearing nice clothes and driving nice cars is what motivates them to start their new business. However, having such glamorized and exaggerated expectations is dangerous. Building a company from the ground up is hard work and, from the very beginning, you need to build your vision on the foundation of passion.
So, ask yourself, am I passionate about this industry? If I weren’t paid for several months, would I still be happy doing what I’m doing? When I first started out in the printing industry, I found that the old saying was true: “When you start a business, you’re always the last person to get your paycheck.” But I still found so much joy in doing what I was doing, because I’d found my niche. I’ve become really good at what I do, and as a result of that I’m able to help authors and self-publishers produce the publications of their dreams – being able to turn other people’s dreams into a reality is my passion. So, as you begin your professional journey, find what you’re passionate about. When you build a positive reputation due to the combination of passion and skill, the money will come after.
Third, it is important to find a mentor. Once you have heightened your chances of success by hiring trustworthy people, keeping a realistic mindset, and finding your passion, then the next thing to do is to pursue a reliable business mentor, a person who has already weathered the storm you’re in now. My father was my mentor before he passed, and I would say that his role in my company was critical for the early success that we experienced. He also taught me lots of valuable business lessons, which I have been able to apply after his death, and that have helped me sail through the storms of adversity. So, for young entrepreneurs, having a mentor is critical because they will encourage you, keep you accountable, and give you lots of advice. In your professional life, you’ll come across many situations where you don’t know what to do, and you’re going to need someone who’s walked the path before you.
In the end, though, the ability to set boundaries and establish professional trust is what will ultimately determine the success or downfall of your company. Professional trust means that, in the business setting, someone promises to do something at a certain time, and they consistently and reliably deliver according to that promise – no one on the pipeline is exempt from this responsibility. Consumers invest in companies that provide consistent services, and so manifesting this value on the inside, among you and your employees, is the best place to start. Trustworthiness should be a priority from the very beginning. Professional boundaries, then, means that there is a real separation between personal and professional life. If you allow too many external situations (e.g., home life, a hard breakup, etc.) to seep into the workplace, they will not only affect the individual, but also the work environment as a whole. So, setting up emotional boundaries and creating designated “safe spaces” is crucial. Ultimately, your employees need to be able to demonstrate reliability within the boundaries of the business rather than reliability on their own terms. This is the overlap of trust and boundaries.
Thank you for taking the time to read this! You can connect with me on Instagram (@sarahytse) and Twitter (@sarahtse) and, if you’re interested in learning more business lessons, you can read my book, “7 Years on the Front Line“.