Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in leadership development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Andrew Safnauer, Founder of NineFive Partners, located in Fort Mill, SC, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am an executive coach for founders and entrepreneurs. My clients range from people looking to transition out of their career into their own business to owners wanting to scale up to founders who need an accountability partner and sounding board.
Tell us about yourself
It's been a pretty crazy career arc to this point. I started in radio as a production director - I wrote and made commercials. After 13 years and a number of moves, I left to open my own audio production company. Along the way, I worked with clients around the world, won an Emmy, and still do work as a voice actor today.
Over the years, I got involved in a few other businesses - I was a partner in an auto dealership, my daughter had an idea for an education app we developed, and I was part of a team that launched an apparel brand. Because I had so much real-world entrepreneur experience, I started being asked to help others walk through their process. That mentoring led to some classes to make myself more helpful as a coach, which finally morphed in 2021 into me taking on clients outside my immediate circle.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Building a totally new network in apparel and manufacturing when I had no experience or knowledge of the industry. I asked a lot of questions, and people were very generous with their time and sharing information.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Loneliness. Many times the process is a slog. Your friends who have 9-5 jobs don't understand. When you wake up at 2 am, your brain turns on, and the worry starts - it's difficult. You have to build a network of people you can confide with - or find a coach that can help. Encouragement to keep going from people who understand what it's like is great fuel.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Take care of yourself - and by that, I mean plan to exercise. I have gotten up at 430 for the past 9 years, which totally sets up my day. An early morning workout is my first win of the day; no one can take that from me, no matter how the rest of the day shakes out.
- Find your people. You need a group to talk through problems, celebrate wins, and encourage each other. This is not just joining BNI or some networking group - these are real relationships built with other owners. Be intentional in connecting with people. Wise council from others is invaluable.
- Realize you don't know everything and can't do everything. There are never enough hours in the day. Build your team (this could be outsourcers or friends and family). Prioritize what needs to get done and delegate stuff that doesn't maximize your value. Trust others, listen and always be willing to learn (is that three more?!).
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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