Follow Friday + Nicki’s Personal Updates: 50 Things I’ve Learned in Business

Personal/Inspirational
Follow Friday Nicki

FutureDerm is almost 5 years old. The first two years experienced slow, 50% year-over-year growth. But for the past three years, we’ve doubled in size every year. (Actually, more than that, but who’s counting?)

During that time, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but we are stronger and better for it on the other side. And in honor of this, I thought I would go ahead and share some what I’ve learned:

1.) People really are everything. People are your employees, customers, and shareholders. You learn that it all does come down to relationships, being open and honest, communicating effectively, and genuinely caring about other people.

2.) Walk before you run. Almost all good things start slowly. Start small, and once something works, then double down. And triple down. And so forth.

3.) You have to do what needs to be done, especially on the days you don’t feel like it. There are many parallels between running a business and athletics, but this is one of the biggest ones. Daily discipline is everything.

4.) Work only with people you like. Jim Collins talks about a “no assholes” rule. And while that’s one way of putting it, here’s another twist: How about “no one you wouldn’t want to have a beer with” rule?

5.) Figure out if you’re a speaker or a writer. Stick with one, but force yourself to do the other. Communication is everything in business. I don’t know of anyone who is mega-successful in business who isn’t stellar at either speaking or writing. I personally am naturally a writer, so I send emails and documents as a rule. But I force myself to speak to employees, customers, and shareholders with my written notes handy.

6.) Learn how to hone your intuition, and trust it. I am very fortunate to be blessed with chutzpah that will allow me to approach anyone and ask for help without much fear of rejection, and I’ve been very blessed that amazing people, in turn, have been willing to help me as advisors. That said, I’ve gotten advice from multi-millionaires in and out of the beauty industry to do everything from only advertising on the website, to make it all about selling other brands’ products, to adopting the Birchbox model. At the end of the day, I’ve learned meditation, Reiki, journaling, and the power of prayer to allow me to get quiet, digest all of this information, and trust my own voice in making the final decision. And it’s worked very well.

7.) Learn your Myers-Briggs, Predictive Index, DISC, and Enneagram type. Some people shun these systems, but I only shun their use if you use them as a map rather than a tool. Listening to the info that says only ENTJs can be high-earning individuals or ENTPs are all mad scientists is nonsense. But using these tools to know as much as you can about yourself and the ways you look at the world allows you to better understand your perceptions and how they might be blunted, stunted, or even (gasp) wrong. (And for the record, I’m INFJ, Entrepreneur, Director, and 4w3.)

8.) Read constantly. I read 1-3 new books a week. I read 30 minutes, first thing in the morning, and 30 minutes to an hour at night. I also speed-read. Currently I am reading Beautiful Money by Leanne Jacobs. I just finished The Ego is the Enemy. My all-time favorites are The Success Principles (Canfield), The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster (Darren Hardy), Crush It! (Gary Vaynerchuk) and The Art of the Start (Kawasaki).

9.) Have a few daily disciplines you do, no matter what. I have to do a blog post and 12 sales calls or sales meetings a day. On good days, I’ll feel amazing and work a solid 10-12 hours, and do all of that plus another 12-15 sales calls, do a meeting or two with the staff, make a video for the blog, and connect with clients. I’m like boom, Superwoman, yeah, feelin’ on top of the world! But on bad days, I’m still getting my blog posts and minimum number of sales calls/meetings done.

10.) That applies to health and wellness as well. When I first started the business, I had no idea what I was doing, so I did everything. I ate a lot of fast food and junk food, sat at my desk all day, and I didn’t exercise. From 2012 to 2014, I gained 30 pounds, lost a ton of fitness, and ended up being diagnosed with prediabetes and hypothyroidism. I finally turned it around in 2015 — I saw a dietitian, I started running races, and I committed to no more than 1800 calories a day and at least 10 minutes a day of exercise. Most days, I’m around 1600 calories and 30 minutes of exercise, but when I wake up with a headache and feel like crap, I still am committing to those minima. Every. Single. Day.

11.) Be around people who believe in you. If people roll their eyes when you talk about your dreams, think you’re bragging when you mention your accomplishments, or get pissed off when you’re talking about positive thinking, find new people.

12.) Bless and delete. I used to get really upset when readers would get aggressive with me on social media, but nowadays, I take this one from Gabby Bernstein — I bless and I delete. I let it go, as best I can, and try to move on with my day.

13.) Hire very carefully. The wrong hire is not a bad apple. The wrong hire is like a poisonous root to a tree that spreads like a cancer within your organization. I wish I was kidding. I now put key hires through a series of three interviews.

14.) Know whether you react too quickly, or not quickly enough, and move towards the middle. I love to jump into things. It’s just my reactive nature: Go big or go home! Act now or miss out! But, looking back, this has gotten me into a lot of trouble. I now delay as needed, collect as much data about a situation I can, and react carefully. You need to know whether you react too quickly or not quickly enough, and adjust accordingly.

15.) Take time off. This is always controversial amongst entrepreneurs. I feel like they come in extremes: There’s Tim Ferriss with his Four-Hour Workweek, but then there are your entrepreneurs who claim to work nothing but 100 hour weeks. (There’s a really funny video that makes fun of entrepreneurs for this). At the end of the day, it’s like anything else: You have weeks where you don’t get outside to even see the light of day, but then there are weeks when other things need to take a priority. My rule is, as long as I’m getting the daily minima done, I’m making progress, I’m keeping momentum alive, and it’s enough.

16.) Stop comparing and competing with other people, especially outside of your industry. I know people who are obsessed with what the Joneses are making, how much they’re worth, and how much their businesses are doing. I used to do this, and then I started to realize it’s exhausting and tiresome and, quite frankly, who cares. Keep your eyes on your own prize. We all move at different paces. There’s more than enough good to go around. Your day is coming.

17.) Challenge your negative beliefs. I know an entrepreneur who can’t get past $10K a month in revenue for the life of him. He tries, he pivots, he hires, he fires, he tries again. And still, he can’t get past it. But when you ask this guy about his perspectives on life, he tells you that the world is set up for Millennials to fail, that he was born poor and can’t get ahead, and that his life is largely the result of your environment. And, as a result, he fails, he is fairly poor, he can’t get ahead, and his life is largely the result of his environment. Change what you believe, and change your possibilities. Change your possibilities, and change your thinking. Change your thinking, change your actions, change your life.

18.) Stop tying your identity to the business. I am not FutureDerm. I am the founder and CEO of FutureDerm. Making this key distinction allowed for 400% growth in eighteen months.

19.) Care about people. Don’t care what they think about you. I know exactly who I am. Nobody can say anything negative about me that I don’t either already know to be true or know flat-out to be false.

20.) Understand 20% is responsible for 80% of your business. Reward accordingly. Employees, customers, advisors — 20% of them will provide 80% of the value. Understand and accept this. Treasure them and nurture those relationships above all others.

21.) Keep the indulgences — eating, not eating, exercising, shopping, gambling, drinking, sex — in check. Addictions are the worst. Indulge, but keep yourself in check. Otherwise, your addiction will be running the business, not you.

22.) Just show up. To the meeting. To the event. To the dinner. Not only when you feel like going, but especially when you don’t feel like going. Let your word be your covenant. Just. Go.

23.) 100% is a breeze, 99% is a bitch. I live and die by certain disciplines. It’s a slippery slope for me to miss a day of sales calls, or to drink Coke regularly (I have had one a year, on my birthday, since I was 18). Once I commit, it’s a helluva lot easier than to question myself and have to make the decision over and over again. I just commit, and it’s over with.

24.) Don’t marry someone you can live with, marry someone you can’t live without. This sounds corny as hell, but it’s true. After six months of living with my husband, I would have found it extremely difficult to live or run my business without him. After almost three years, I would say it’s impossible. He’s truly my life partner. That’s the kind of thing you need to be successful. Marry someone who strengthens who you are and who makes your dreams seem closer, like they’re even more within reach — or don’t get married.

25.) Lighten up. It’s business, not brain surgery. Have fun. Lighten up. Take your employees and clients out to dinner once in a while. Have beer at work on Friday afternoon. Laugh at your mistakes. It’s all a part of the journey.

26.) Remember: In 100 years, all new people. Puts things in perspective when I’m getting too serious about the business.

27.) If you’re a spender, save more. If you’re conservative, spend more. People are funny talking about money. Almost everyone is stubborn and believes that their perspective is the right one. In general, people who have a tendency to overspend need to take a good, long hard look at themselves and rein it in. And people who have a tendency to hoard money need to understand investing in some new clothes or a more polished car can breed confidence, admiration, and opportunities from others. Allowing money to flow at a reasonable rate in both directions is important.

28.) When you relax, actually do something enjoyable. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who say they work around the clock, but who waste a lot of time not really relaxing and not really working, web surfing or going on Facebook and whatnot. If you want to relax, do something that is actually fun. Otherwise, do something productive.

29.) Don’t be afraid to make an ass of yourself. I direct this one particularly to the female entrepreneurs who come to me asking for advice, but then often feel the need to appear pretty, polished, or classy in all situations. Kenneth Cole got started pretending he was filming a movie in NYC on Fifth Avenue, selling shoes out of the back of a truck parked on his “film set.” Steven Spielberg famously transformed a janitors’ closet into an office at Universal and went to work there in a suit and tie, without even being hired. Steve Harvey and John Paul DeJoria lived in their cars for a while. You do what you have to do. Sometimes it’s obnoxious or widely frowned upon, but you are not cut out to be an entrepreneur if you feel like it always has to be pretty, polished, or classy. I’m known for calling key executives I want to talk to at 7 AM — an hour before the gatekeepers get in — or on Labor Day and Memorial Day (days executives work, but their receptionists do not).

30.) Persistence gets you the customer. Consistency keeps the customer. ‘Nough said.

31.) Work with people who are 60+ if you can. I love talking with business executives (current or former) in their sixties, seventies, and beyond. They’re experienced, have a lot of business acumen, and often want to share their knowledge with others. Plus, the older generation tends to be more of the “roll up your sleeves and get it done yourself” variety, which I love. I’ve gotten more from a lunch with people in their seventies than I have from seminars and books that were hundreds or thousands of dollars.

32.) Set and manage expectations. Always. Enough said.

33.) Have a key decision maker be someone who is opposite from you, and not afraid to debate (respectfully) with you. I am an INFJ who likes to sell, dream big, and has no issue taking risks. My foil is a 60-something INTP with 30-plus years experience who likes operations, being conservative with projections (he would say “realistic”), and saving/investing profits. A lot of debates, yes — but it’s intellectual, respectful, and the absolute best thing for the business.

34.) That said, you need a mentor to challenge you, a mentor to grow you, and a mentor to encourage you. I have a mentor to call when I am making a key decision (“challenge”). I have a mentor to call when I am in need of some sales tips (“grow”). And I have a mentor I call when I’m not sure what to do at all (“encourage”).

35.) You can always tell someone to go to hell tomorrow. I got this one from Warren Buffett, and it’s so true. Time brings with it clarity, and often composure.

36.) It’s not how you feel doing something, it’s how you feel after. Good life advice, as well as business advice. Sometimes you just get the creeps after a call or meeting with someone — trust that.

37.) Keep dress shoes and a blazer in your car. You never know when you’ll have the opportunity for a life-changing meeting at the last minute. (This has only happened twice in the past five years, but hey, when it happens, you’ll thank me for having the damn heels and blazer handy.)

38.) Always. Be. Kind. Sometimes people ask if I sell Rodan + Fields for a living when they hear I’m in skincare. There are times I am furious about this. But I’ve learned to be gracious, to understand where they’re coming from — and to take a deep breath and to be kind about it.

39.) Get a manicure. It’s sad that this matters as much as it does, but it makes a difference. People have actually commented on my nails — including negatively when they were chipped.

40.) Hang out with other business owners. They get it in ways your other friends simply don’t.

41.) Get up earlier. I hate this one, because my ideal schedule would be sleeping from 3 AM to 11 AM, but, unfortunately, the business world doesn’t work like this. Get up at the crack of dawn and get crackin’.

42.) Ask your employees for their ideas and feedback at least once a month. They know your competencies and incompetencies better than anyone, because they’re exposed to them every single day.

43.) If you have to ask if something your doing is wrong, it probably is. That’s your intuition creeping up. When that happens, delay the decision. Go talk to people smarter and more experienced than you. Take some additional reflection time.

44.) Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Mile by mile, it takes a while. Pace yourself. This business thing is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to stay healthy, you have to maintain key relationships, and you have to be a citizen of the world. Being a business owner is only one thing that you do. You don’t have to do it all overnight.

45.) Simplify, simplify, simplify. If you can make a paragraph into bullet points, do it. If you can make bullet points into a graph, do it. The simpler, the better. At the end of the day, everyone is busy and just wants you to get to the point. So simplify.

46.) Stop worrying about how you’re perceived and work on who you actually are.

47.) Don’t give away your power. I don’t get overly excited when someone compliments me, but I also don’t get overly upset when someone insults me. At the end of the day, I know who I am and that I’m doing the best that I can. It’s a lot to some people and it’s not to others. I keep it in balance: What others think about me is about them, not about me. It’s about what I think about myself, not what anyone else thinks about me.

48.) Have rituals that feel good and improve your life simultaneously. I get up, I read, I drink water, I run. Like clockwork. Likewise, before bed, I read, I pray, and I sleep.

49.) Make monthly goals. I’ve been improving one thing about my life a month since June 2015, and it’s changed my life. I’ve given up indulgences. I’ve started a budget. I’ve lost 20 pounds. I’m running half marathons. My husband and I are now buying a house. It just keeps getting better.

50.) Don’t believe you ever know it all. Despite being someone who just shared 50 tips for business with you, I can confidently say I’m a work in progress, and will likely be a lot smarter and more insightful five years from now.

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