Six Business Lessons Learned from Real-Life Experience

Lessons to be Learned

There are a great many lessons learned in business from those with years of experience. Especially when they share valuable nuts and bolts that will save time, resources and emotional energy. When I interviewed Pat Iyer on the Women at Halftime Podcast, minimizing risk and self-funding were a couple of aha moment takeaways, but there were also some other nuggets for anyone in business. Pat started her legal nurse business when she was in her early forties, which is officially the start of halftime! (See: How do You Know You’re At Halftime?)

After being asked to write a book for staff development on nursing diagnosis, she and two others wrote a self-learning module that was very well-accepted. After being convinced to turn it into a textbook, Pat then gained the courage to approach attorneys to offer to review cases as an expert witness. That provided the seeds of her business. Pat then connected her network of trusted contacts with attorneys and her business was launched. She ended up having 200 expert witnesses under contract to review cases.

See What's Working

Pat saw what was working, which started the seeds of her business. That is the first lesson learned from this situation. It’s important to look around and see what’s working and what could be developed with what you may already be doing. This helps answer the nagging question, What else could I possibly do?, thinking about a side business or transitioning from a day job to an entrepreneurial venture.

There are two additional lessons learned from this scenario. The first is to create a business that doesn’t rely solely on one person to create billable time. By having 200 expert witnesses under contract to review cases, Pat could make money while she slept! What resources do you have in order to do the same? What product or products could you sell without showing up? In a small way, my downloadable sheet music and licensed songs do this for me. Eventually I plan for my online courses to generate most of my revenue, which frees me up to pick and choose which live engagements to accept. It takes planning, structure and a good organizational system to make this happen, but it definitely has the potential to pay off!

Lessons Learned Deborah Johnson

Develop and Nurture a Solid Network

The third lesson is to develop and nurture a solid network of professional contacts. For Pat to have 200 expert witnesses under contract meant that she had a quality professional pool to hire from as independent contractors. How are you developing your professional network? Developing quality relationships takes time, energy and focus. Trusted referrals are also a great way to expand your reach. I have worked for many years, obtaining many jobs in the music field from referrals. Friends trust friends.

The fourth lesson is to hire the right people, especially in today’s landscape of employee rights, discrimination and varied economic climate. To scale growth, a small business or entrepreneur has to hire help, and what is hired needs managed. Pat found it was better for her to hire those with life experience, maturity and age in her type of business. The people you hire are representing your business and she understood that well. Age doesn’t always matter, but perspective and maturity does, especially in certain fields including legal and financial.

Speaking of trust, when Pat noticed one of her experts had taken a case from an attorney she had introduced her to and not notified her, she had to approach that person and call her out. This is similar to a speaker or musician taking a job that was originally their agent’s contact. This issue comes down to trust, as most contact information for hiring anyone is readily available online. Fortunately, Pat and her expert witness worked out an agreement as there was a misunderstanding. But when trust is broken, it is very difficult to regain, both personally and professionally.

Intelligent Risk

The fifth lesson learned is to risk, but risk intelligently. The biggest risk Pat and her husband took was on borrowing $1 million in the early 80’s for her husband’s welding business. They had to sign a personal guarantee for the money. That means everything they owned could be taken away if they defaulted on the loans from the small business administration. They were so optimistic! However, they didn’t really think through the fact that in the early 1980’s, interest rates were at 22%. That meant they were paying 24% a month interest, paying two points over the current interest rate. For the financial whizzes out there, you know it already…the company was doomed before it even opened its doors!

I remember this era of high interest rates very well. This will date me a bit, but Greg and I were newly married and we were looking to purchase our first home. There was no way we could qualify at the exorbitant interest rate, with his one main income and I had gone part-time, pregnant with our first child. We were able to get in a very small run-down starter home with a carried loan that had been a family rental for years, then fix it up and move forward. Starting conservative is what we did and it’s what Pat did as well in starting her new venture as a ghostwriter.

When her legal nurse business was generating over $1 million in sales per year for at least five years, she decided to sell it and pursue the life as a ghostwriter. This is so she can now spend her winters in Florida and summers in New Jersey. One thing to note is that during all those years working, she had written, coauthored or edited 48 books, doing this even while working as a legal nurse consultant and running her business. (see: Pat Iyer)

No Job is Completely Safe

Our last takeaway, sixth lesson learned, is to not quit a job to jump full into starting a company unless you have the full resources to risk.  Start slow and minimize the risk, especially if you have enough savings to cover you going part-time or if there is another wage earner in the family whose income is adequate to cover the difference. Pat sold her business and not only generated enough cushion to start something new, but had invested in their office building, which will continue to bring in rental revenue.


Lessons Learned Deborah Johnson

Even though you may think your present job is safe, we all know that mergers, acquisitions, closings and layoffs can affect businesses of all kinds. So there’s no way to have a completely risk free life or risk free business, but we can sure minimize it. If you have an entrepreneurial spark, it’s very hard to ignore it. It leads to a lot of dissatisfaction, resentment and anxiety. So don’t spend your time being unhappy because of your work environment. There are ways to make solid changes gradually and pursue your dreams. The six lessons learned here will help you start and calculate your plan, hopefully giving you the confidence to make your next move! Start now! (See: The Market Value of Your Strengths at Halftime)

Six Lessons Learned

Lesson One: See what’s working then follow the path.

Lesson Two: Create a business that doesn’t rely solely on one person to create billable time.

Lesson Three: Develop and nurture a solid network of professional contacts.

Lesson Four: Hire the right people, then commit to manage them.

Lesson Five: Risk, but risk intelligently.

Lesson Six: Don’t quit a job to fully jump into starting a company unless you have enough resources to risk.

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About the Author:

DEBORAH JOHNSON, M.A., creator of Hero Mountain™® and President of Los Angeles National Speakers Association, is an international award-winning music artist, author, speaker and National Media Commentator. Deborah provides principles to produce a successful second half, creating momentum and getting unstuck, reaching expansive goals and a desired lifestyle. Up for multiple GRAMMY Awards and spending over 20 years in the entertainment industry, she's an expert on how to constantly reinvent yourself in a gig-economy. She is also the recipient of the 2018 Women's Economic Forum Exceptional Women of Excellence Award. Deborah is the author of Stuck is Not a Four Letter Word, Bad Code and Women at Halftime. She speaks and performs in both live and virtual events.