8 Lessons Learned in 8 Years as an Entrepreneur

By: Amanda Barna and Michelle Henry

The past eight years have been full of excitement, uncertainty, opportunities, challenges and lots and lots of learning. We have learned more in the past eight years than in any other time period. Given that CMOR has just celebrated our 8-year anniversary, we thought this would be a good time to reflect on 8 lessons that we have learned in our eight years of being entrepreneurs.

  1. Follow your passion. You spend a lot of time at work. When you own your own business, you tend to spend even more time at work. If you are going to commit and take the risk of starting a business, you have to love what you do. All the money in the world is not a substitute for the feeling accomplished in an area that you are passionate about.
  2. Change is good. In order to survive in any business, you have to be able to accept that what worked 5 years ago or even last month, may not work today. You not only have to be able to accept change, but you have to thrive on the challenges and opportunities change brings with it. It you are not growing or changing as an organization, you are dying.
  3. Give back. We would not be where we are today without the support of many individuals and organizations. Having the opportunity to participate in the Athena Powerlink Program in 2012 was a game changer for CMOR. The community leaders who volunteered their time to help us make CMOR more successful have had such as lasting effect on CMOR. We would not be as successful as we are now without that program. We, in turn, appreciate the importance of being able to give back to the community that has been supportive to us. Whether it is mentoring a new entrepreneur or a young professional or supporting a community organization, we are always looking for ways to give back.
  4. Build relationships, not just collect business cards- When we worked at the University of Akron, people just came to us with projects, we had no need to network. When we started CMOR, we quickly became overwhelmed with the number of opportunities to join groups, attend events, and network. At first, our goal was to meet as many people as we could. As our business has matured, our focus has changed from the quantity of people we meet to the quality of relationships that we build with them and their organizations.
  5. Having the right team is key. You have to have people on your team who are dedicated to the company’s mission and understand that working for a small business means that you have to wear many hats and what you come to the office thinking that you are going to do for the day can change in an instant.
  6. Focus on what you do well and identify what makes you unique-. This is a lesson that we learned just a few years back. CMOR specializes in providing public opinion research services to academic, healthcare, and community based organization. For the first four years of operation, we were constantly looking for ways to expand our business outside of our focus areas. We were spending time and money trying to expand into other areas instead of expanding in areas that we already had expertise and strong connections. We still do projects for companies and businesses that fall outside of our target audience, however, we no longer spend our time and money going after those projects and clients- we wait for those projects to come us.
  7. Don’t let failure hold you back- The last 8-years have not all been rosy and successful. We have made many, many mistakes along the way. The key has been to use these failures as learning opportunities and not see them as insurmountable obstacles.
  8. It’s OK to say no. When we first started CMOR, we were so excited just to be in business that we said yes to everything. We were afraid if we said no to anything that it would hurt our business long-term. If a client needed a large project completed on a small budget, we did it, which resulted in us ending up in the red on a couple projects. Over the last couple of years, we have started saying no, and it is one of the best decisions we have made. The services and products that we offer as well as our time are valuable, and in order to grow as an organization, we needed to no longer undervalue ourselves.