Diana Sonis and I had the pleasure of presenting Danielle LaPorte (of White Hot Truth) as our first speaker in 85 Broads Entrepreneurship Forum Spring Calendar yesterday at noon. The jam session was very successful; we had a great turnout online and many excellent questions were asked during the QandA session.

Danielle is truly one charismatic and inspirational speaker. What she has to say speaks volumes to the bare truths out there; her presentation was succinct but powerful, memorable and relatively easy to apply.

The Problem

Before she started with her presentation, she mentioned that the reason why most people are unhappy with their jobs is because:

We’re not being intentional with what we’re good at. We don’t focus on our innate and true strengths. These are things you do that strengthens you. Stop doing things we’re mediocre at. Our weaknesses are things that makes us feel drained.

I find that extremely true. I’ve always had this mantra that people can only contribute back to the community (in a creative and value-added way) if they do what they’re good at or what they’re passionate about for a living. Unfortunately, most of us are trapped in the path that we unintentionally set for ourselves ever since we graduated from college with that first job that we took. After 3 jobs in different companies (small, mid-sized and now large), I cannot say that I have a successful career so far and neither am I proud of what I do for a living right now (as a management consultant with a Big 4 Accounting Firm). And that’s because I feel like I am ‘faking’ it. I’m not doing what I’m naturally good at. I’m not even doing what I’m remotely interested in. And this is how I know that I need to pursue that “dream” job of mine and fulfill my entrepreneurial spirit and hunger.

Definition of an Entrepreneur

Sure, one could say that an entrepreneur is “someone who doesn’t want to be told what to do.” But really, it’s just anybody who just wants to start.

Danielle went on to present the 5 Best Business Advice (please refer to my previous blog article) that she’s ever received but also highlighted several other excellent points. While I will not recap her entire session (her live recording can be found on the 85 Broads members website under “Videos”), I wanted to point out a couple of points she made that struck a chord with me.

F*ck Your Principles / Don’t Burn Bridges

Although Danielle lists these as two separate business advises, to me they somewhat go hand-in-hand.

First, she’s asking us to let go of our so-called principles. Our ethics. And most of all, our egos. A lot of times, people get side-tracked or too hung up over something because either their ego or pride was hurt.

Personally, as an entrepreneur, I’ve seen a lot of relationships being hurt this way. Failed deals, negotiations, miscommunications, misunderstandings, and disagreements about what’s the right or wrong thing to do. Danielle says it best when he pointed that “Seeds of resentment today = Toxic stuff tomorrow.” Let it go. If things didn’t work out the way you thought it would, pick another route. Pick your battles. You are not a saint either.

Which leads to her second advise: minimize burning ties with people. In your lifetime, ask yourself how many people you started out having a good (even great) relationship with and seeing it turned sour? Regardless of what had happened or whose fault it is (unless they attempted murder, robbery or rape), it never does you any good to “tell them off” or have a heated diatribe. It’s just not worth it. Save your energy for something more productive. Besides, as Danielle puts it, the world really is a “small town.” I’ve personally crossed paths with people from old jobs that I never thought I would see again, and sought help from old college friends who are now successful entrepreneurs.

“Bridge preservation in work relationships is about basic kindness and dignity to all parties. And that’s always a good thing.”

Do Not Wait For Traffic. Monetize First!

The “build it and it will come” model is very risky. Find things that you can monetize as soon as possible in the first 12 months of your business. The next 2 advice is crucial for your start up:

First: Focus on what makes you the most money the fastest (money in the door is worth everything)
Second: Do what you need to do to make the most money

For instance, if you are already getting clients or people buying your products, etc, don’t worry so much about getting your website up, perfecting that logo and tagline, getting that brochure or marketing material out, or writing that book. Focus on serving your customer or delivering your product first and all other secondary matters later.

Outsource Non-Core Tasks

Danielle brought up a really good concept of VA – Virtual Assistance. It’s surprising how many of us budding entrepreneurs don’t even know this service exist out there and how incredibly helpful it is.

Basically, a VA is an entrepreneur who provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients from a home office. Or in other words, it’s outsourced help and it could be domestic or international. For example, someone in India can be hired for $10/hr to do research, handle paypal, take care of administrative work, etc for you.

While I did not hear what Danielle has to say about this, one resource that I have personally found very useful is http://www.elance.com. There, you can find thousands of freelances from around the world at a wide range of rates. Everything is quite transparant, from customer ratings to annual earnings, number of projects served, etc. A smart thing to do is to outsource a lot of small and tedious jobs that is time consuming and that drains you so that you can focus on the core activities of your start up.

Here’s a set of selected questions from the QandA session with Danielle:

Q: When do you know when’s the right time to leave your corporate job and take the leap?

Firstly, don’t quit your day job. You may be working 70 hours a week starting your company with a full day-time job, but this is a necessary transition. It may take you up to a year until you have saved up enough money to take the leap but DO NOT DO IT until you can support yourself with a stable income. Danielle know how it feels like to be stressed out to make ends meet and it will take your focus away from your company.

Secondly, set a date to “suck it up” (take the leap) and stick to it. Entrepreneurs eat risk for breakfast so you’ve got to be prepared to do it. But before that, make sure you have an advisory board in place. Mentors. Coaches. A marketing plan.

Q: What are your thoughts about VC funding vs. bootstrapping your way through? At what point do you know when to seek outside funding?

From personal experience, I would strongly advise you to hold out for as long as possible. Scale back if you have to. Raising funds is distracting. And it’s addictive to spend other people’s money. It becomes a painful experience when 40% of your time is devoted on raising funds as opposed to building and growing your company. I wish I had never raised capital. All I want to do now is to grow organically.

Q: Do you ever lose focus or faith in the process? If so, how do you get back on track?

No, I never lose faith. Life has given me so many occasions to trust and have faith that everything will turn out ok. I’m a big fan of “The Brutal Facts” by the author Jim Collins of “From Good to Great” (here’s a good summary of that chapter). You need to take care of yourself but I always think what’s the worse case scenario? I’ll waitress to feed my kids. But then life goes on. I do sometimes lose focus when I put things on the backburner. But now, my focus is to get my work out to the world and be financially free.

Q: How to Drive Traffic to Your Site?

(i) Write quality stuff. Get to know who comes to your blog. Be consistent in your posting and style. Raise visibility and serve the community.
(ii) Get other people’s content via interviews, guests post, linking websites. Use twitter and facebook.

If you liked Danielle’s session, please join us on May 11th at noon to jam with Rick Smith, who will be presenting another E.Forum webinar entitled “Bootstrapping to Success.” Register here!