26 Lessons from a 26 Year Old CEO By Shama Kabani
On April 25th I turned 26, and a few weeks later my web marketing agency turned two. What started as a single person mini-business, has turned into a 27 person global web marketing firm in just two short years.
I’ve been immensely grateful for the opportunities life has presented me with. And, as I look forward to the future, it would only be fair to look back as well.
Here are 26 lessons I have learned as a young entrepreneur and CEO:
A written vision of what you want your company to look like in 3 years is important. The pen (or keyboard!) has power. It isn’t enough to envision your goals in your mind. You must have a blueprint on paper. Every decision you make, ask yourself: does this help me get closer to my vision?
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Learn to listen to your clients. When we started, we were only offering social media consulting services. But, clients quickly demanded more. We eventually ended up serving as their web marketing department. The marketplace will tell you what it needs. You have to listen, and then deliver.
Half the job is keeping up. The pace of technology will only continue to quicken. It doesn’t matter what your industry is, you have to keep up in order to constantly leverage it for your business.
Always think in terms of value — not price. Always judge based on the value something or someone brings to the table. Price is arbitrary.
Only hire people who have fire. This is especially true if you are running a small to medium sized business. In a large corporation, there is room for many types of personalities and people. In a smaller business, passion is a must in every position. Hire people who are driven to do well and see your business succeed.
If you must fire, be graceful and professional about it. This is hands down the worst part of being a CEO. It is tough to let people go, but for the greater good of the business, sometimes it must be done. It doesn’t matter if you are firing or being fired, don’t burn bridges.
Learn to forgive. Things happen. People change. You can’t move forward in business — or in life — if you can’t forgive and move on.
Cash flow is crucial. This is especially true in a recessionary economy, and if you are growing quickly. Work with clients to get payments upfront.
Balance is overrated. Aim for joy. When work is fun, you don’t feel the need to take as many breaks. Balance in today’s world looks very different than it did just 20 years ago. Embrace it.
Don’t underestimate the power of PR. The power of the press may now be in more than just the hands of journalists (umm…social media, anyone?). Learn to be a friend to the press.
Treat your team well. People will follow a leader who treats them with respect. Learn to value your team’s input, and always reward them for a job well done.
Focus is the most underrated skill that you must master. 90 percent of the time, what is on your computer screen is not resulting in a positive ROI. Learn to focus on what truly matters in your business. Then, do it consistently.
Multitasking doesn’t mean greater productivity. Don’t put “good multitasker” on your resume. Numerous studies have shown that multitasking decreases brain power.
Age isn’t just a number. Age does matter. Managing a Gen Y employee is different than managing a baby boomer.
Appearances matter. I just interviewed an intern who showed up in an outfit more appropriate for an 8 a.m. class. I had to wonder how he would represent us in front of clients. Whether we like it or not, appearances matter. Dress appropriately.
Learn to view situations objectively. Just because you would or wouldn’t do something, doesn’t mean others are the same way.
Life is short, and very easy to take for granted. Sounds like something you’d read in a self-help book, but true nonetheless. Life is temporary, and the only thing that matters at the end of the day is how you treated those around you.
Pets make the workplace better. I propose that every office should have a mascot. Ours is a little Maltese-Poodle mix named Snoopy. No day is a sad day.
A support network is crucial. As much as you try, you can’t do it alone. Building a personal and professional support network is imperative.
Give luck its due. Luck has played a huge part in my life. I don’t deny it. I am just grateful for it.
Hard work is a given. Struggle doesn’t have to be. I’ve learned that there is always work that will need to be done. The task list is never complete. So, just enjoy it!
It IS lonely at the top. And, yes, the view & the food are both amazing.
Ignore the trolls. They like the power the anonymity of the internet gives them. Don’t pay them any attention.
Be picky when choosing your friends. My friend list (and I don’t mean Facebook) is short. Surround yourself with people who inspire you.
Karma exists in business and in life. The old adage says “what goes around, comes around.” The older I get, the more I see this being true. Think twice before you act.
Being a CEO means being a CVO. CVO stands for Chief Value Officer. Always ask yourself: How can I create value for our clients? Our prospects? Our internal team? The answers will guide you to building a better company.
Shama Kabani is the award winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, a full service web marketing firm in Dallas. She is also the author of the best-selling, The Zen of Social Media Marketing; and hosts her own web TV show at Shama.Tv. Shama is the face of today’s digital world, and represents the best her generation has to offer.
Co-Founded by Natalie MacNeil and Scott Gerber, Y.E.C. Women is an initiative of the Young Entrepreneur Council (Y.E.C.), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The Y.E.C promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.
26 SHORT TERMS FOR 26 LESSONS LEARNED: WRITTEN VISION -- LISTEN UP – KEEP UP -- THINK VALUE – HIRE WITH FIRE – DIPLOMACY - FORGIVENESS – CASH FLOW –BALANCE - PUBLIC RELATIONS – REWARD TEAM – FOCUS -- NO MULTITASKING -- AGE MATTERS – APPEARANCE MATTERS – OBJECTIVITY -- LIFE IS SHORT – PETS -- SUPPORT NETWORK – LUCK -- HARD WORK – SACRIFICES – IGNORE TROLLS – BE SELECTIVE – KARMA EXISTS -- VALUE FOR OTHERS
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