Learning from Each Other’s “Firsts”

Schmoozers

Written by: Zoë Share

In the world of entrepreneurship, it feels that there is a never-ending amount of firsts. The learning never seems to stop, which is one of the things I love about this journey. That being said, one of the things I wish I had taken more advantage of earlier in my entrepreneurship journey was learning from other people’s firsts. In many cases, I’m sure learning from others would’ve saved me some pain and sleepless nights. So, in the spirit of helping others with their firsts, let me tell you a bit about some of mine.

1. First Time Hiring an Employee

I had never really intended on building Schmooz Media into the company it is today; having almost ten full time employees wasn’t the dream five years ago when I was laying the groundwork for Schmooz. My grand plan was to make enough money so I could do what I like to do and not have to take a traditional job. As I learned what my weaknesses were, and noticed what clients were asking for, I started hiring freelancers to support me. That felt a lot less scary to me than hiring a full time employee, because I only had to pay freelancers for the work they did, rather than having to promise them a salary no matter how much work was available. It wasn’t until I started to need someone available regular working hours (9-5) to help me (freelancers often work unstructured hours) that I knew it was time to take the leap to hiring a full-time salaried employee.

The freelancer model really helped me to know who I wanted to hire. It was Laura, one of my freelancers who had been reliable, determined and curious. I basically pestered Laura, planting the seed months before I was ready, to ask her if there was a chance she would quit her steady “real” job to take a chance on working with me at Schmooz. After several phone calls and conversations over coffee, Laura and I had created her first full-time employment contract. It was a one year contract, and we both went in hoping it would work. I could talk about this process for an entire post, but suffice it to say, Laura is one of the best people in my life and one of the best things to happen for Schmooz. I hoped that I could continue finding people like Laura to grow Schmooz, but as I’ll discuss in point 2, great people who share your vision don’t come easily and hiring and the management of a team is one of the biggest challenges in running a business.

2. First Time Firing an Employee

I aim to see the best in people and as a former teacher, want to help everyone succeed, especially when they show a genuine interest in what my company does. This is how I felt about George*. George was another freelancer, and he was a great fit culturally with the Schmooz team, but unfortunately, there were a lot of mistakes in the work he did. Everyone makes mistakes, but when there is no sign of improvement (after being given clear chances) and the mistakes made put your company and your clients at risk, you have to let that person go.  

Before I really lost it, I sat George down and told him that I didn’t want to, in stress and anxiety, yell at him and demand he leave when he made another mistake (as he likely would), and that he could instead choose to go back to the freelancer structure that he had excelled at before. George knew that the choice I had given him was pretty simple, and he went back to being a freelancer, until he found another full time role. George is no longer with Schmooz, but I hope he’s doing great. This wasn’t a bad person, just a bad fit for the role I needed him to fill.

I know that I am lucky and that my first “firing” could have gone a whole lot worse than that.

3. First Time Wanting to Break up with my Business

I remember the first time I had a really bad month with Schmooz, bad meaning that we lost a significant amount of money. A combination of bad timing (someone quit), poor client expectation management and taking on more than I could personally handle led to a sense of despair and overwhelm that I did not handle well. More than anything else, I wanted a way out and I wanted for things to be easier. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders and I knew that some of the decisions I had to make were going to force me to have to be stronger than I thought I was capable of. To be honest, I didn’t know if I had it in me.

What I’ve learned since is that most entrepreneurs (and probably everyone in this world), has moments where they want, what they perceive to be, an easier path.  There have been many more times since then that I’ve wanted out of being a CEO. As much as my passion for what I do is strong, I am human and I lose direction sometimes.

I have also learned that giving up on my dreams is not actually the easier path.  If the business is truly failing and if that lack of income or stability hurts my family, I would walk away, but for many of those other things, I have risen to the challenge and found myself happy with my business and direction again. For those of you who are going through the first “let me out” period right now, I promise you that if you work hard and let others help you, your vision will become more clear, your direction will be more focused and you can reach your goals.  

While your vision and idea may be unique, the path you are walking down in the early days of a new venture can be similar to your contemporaries. I urge you to reach out to others so you feel less alone as you grow your business. I promise to do the same, because whether I like it or not, there are still going to be lots of business firsts (and personal firsts) to come.

*name and personal details have been changed

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