What’s your story? ? I don’t know about you, but I did not plan to be in the career I am in today. I began my journey 20 years ago as a wedding DJ and moved on to becoming the CEO of a digital marketing agency, specializing in search engine optimization. It wasn’t a traditional path, but not many entrepreneurs follow a conventional route.
I was just out of the Air Force and trying to save money for college. I got a job as a wedding DJ in Las Vegas, where I lived at the time. I was booking weddings but I knew I could be booking more events if I could figure out a way to market myself better. This is where the entrepreneurial instinct kicked in.
Most entrepreneurs start their businesses because they encounter a problem and try to figure out a solution. I knew that there were hundreds of brides coming to Las Vegas for their weddings and if I could connect with them, I could have an endless supply of business. Being over 20 years ago, this was in the early stages of internet search. I tried advertising in wedding magazines and I even worked on-air at a local radio station in an effort to increase my profile and generate business. Both efforts led to a modest degree of success.
But as nearly all entrepreneurs know, reward is born out of risk. Here’s what I learned on my entrepreneurial journey:
No Risk, No Reward
Taking risks isn’t all smooth sailing.
Eventually, I decided to take a risk and hired someone to build a website. Disappointed by the number of unique visitors to the site, I asked my web developer why the site wasn’t getting more views. He explained that his expertise was building websites not bringing traffic to them. This was my first a-ha moment when I realized the skill sets of website building and traffic-generating were very different. (Here are some other mistakes that entrepreneurs make when building their websites.)
Entrepreneurs are generally curious and that curiosity leads to discovery. I plunged headlong into the world of SEO to try to figure out how to drive traffic to my website. Slowly, I began to crack the code of driving traffic, and as traffic increased, I began to have other vendors reach out to me to advertise on my website. One day, I received a call from the head of catering at a renowned Las Vegas hotel who wanted to advertise on my website. I took another calculated risk, and instead of just charging them to advertise on my website, I told them they could advertise for free if they included me as one of their preferred vendors. This risk paid off.
While taking a risk requires serious consideration and calculation, it could very well pay off in the end and generate more business. The key is to be strategic.
Be a Life-Long Learner
I consider myself a lifelong learner. In fact, one of the guiding principles of my company is “Stay nimble, never stop learning.” These principles were honed from the very beginning, as I evolved from being a wedding DJ to an SEO expert.
It’s important for entrepreneurs to value innovation and pivot quickly if necessary. Continue to learn and seek out other experts in the industry. Go to conferences and share best practices with like-minded people. Continue to ask questions and remain curious. Eventually, that curiosity becomes a passion and you become an expert in your field. Even to this day, continue to ask questions. Business is a continual learning process. We have to have a learning mindset and be willing to adapt to the changes.
Cultivate a Learning Mindset
Here are four tips for developing a learning mindset:
1. Look at every interaction you have as an opportunity to learn. Even if you are at the top of your field, there will always be new things you may not have thought of.
2. Practice mindfulness and be intentional about paying attention to circumstances and opportunities around you.
3. Embrace learning by taking courses, reading books and attending conferences. While my journey started out by reading an online book on SEO, I eventually wrote my own book to share what I learned over the years. Be open to sharing the knowledge you’ve gained.
4. Find someone who inspires you and learn from their knowledge and experience. Having a life coach has been invaluable for me as my business grows. Ultimately, I sold my wedding website and took a few more pivots to where I am today.
Whatever stage you are in your career, don’t give up on your dreams. It may not happen the way you envisioned, but if you are adaptable and have a learning mindset, your dreams can become a reality.