Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Robyn Bolton, Founder of MileZero LLC., located in Boston, MA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
MileZero is an innovation consulting firm that partners with executives at medium and large companies to confidently use innovation to repeatedly grow revenue. My clients tend to be executives that have P&L responsibility in almost every industry imaginable - healthcare, food and beverage, industrial goods, education, media, and telecom.
Tell us about yourself
I started my business by accident. Several years ago, the firm I worked at was acquired, and I decided to leave. My goal was to take the rest of that year as a sabbatical to recharge and discover what would be next. Most important was getting out of consulting! I interviewed at a bunch of places, but nothing really excited me. My friends kept calling and asking for my help, and I kept turning them down but finally caved. Eventually, I realized that by "helping out," I had created a viable consulting practice!
Two things motivate me each day: (1) my clients, who are all smart people deeply committed to growing their businesses by serving their customers, and (2) my frustration with the fact that nearly 30 years after the publication of The Innovator's Dilemma, companies still struggle to innovate.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My mind immediately went to metrics like revenue, number of clients, etc. But, honestly, my biggest accomplishment is learning to be patient with the business and with myself. I'm an impatient perfectionist, so I want everything to happen now, and I want to be perfect. Neither of those things is ever true, so it's been a learning and growing process to stop freaking out about the ups and downs of business and to start forgiving myself when things don't work out exactly as I think they should.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Managing the emotional rollercoaster of entrepreneurship. I always wondered why people said that entrepreneurship was so hard. After all, there are so many books, articles, and gurus out there telling you what to do. Then I became an entrepreneur and realized that the hardest part isn't managing the work; it's managing myself. The highs are higher, and the lows are lower when everything is on your shoulders. You'll burn out quickly if you don't find a way to manage your business and your emotions.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Make sure you have the financial flexibility to support yourself for 6-12 months. Everything will take 2-3 times longer than you think. Make sure you have the cash to sustain yourself.
- Create a support circle of people who have been in your shoes, can empathize and advise you, and who will give you a pep talk and tough love. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, and it's easy to get stuck in your own head. You need people who will pull you out.
- Believe in the importance of your work. You won't love your work every day, but you need to believe it's important to stay motivated and persevere through the tough times.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
You need to be brave to start a business. You need to be even braver to close one down. If your business isn't working out, if you're struggling and more anxious than you've ever been, it's ok to close your business. You didn't fail. You learned. And, honestly, I'd say you are more successful than 99% of people out there because you took a risk and did the work. It's something to be enormously proud of.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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