12 Lessons I have learned from 8 years as an entrepreneur.

Adam Albrecht
7 min readApr 24, 2024

When I set out on my entrepreneurial adventure 8 years ago I had a lot to learn. So I became a student of entrepreneurship in the same way that I became a student of Journalism, Psychology and Bratwurst at The University of Wisconsin. I read books, magazines, and blogs. I talked to friends who were entrepreneurs and business leaders. The non-standardized tests started in April of 2016 when I launched the advertising and ideas agency, The Weaponry. And I am still tested every day.

8 years later, I can’t imagine my career without this chapter. I have learned a lot about what it takes to launch and run a business. It turns out there is a lot more to it than printing up a batch of business cards and cool company t-shirts. (Although you should do those things too.)

I wanted to share 8 lessons I have learned along the way. Because 8 ideas from the past 8 years seemed well-balanced. But I had too many lessons to stop at The Ocho. So here are 12-ish lessons I have learned that you should know if you are thinking about starting your own business, or if you already have a business and you now need to get your fecal matter straight.

12 Lessons I have learned from 8 years as an entrepreneur.

1. Don’t quit your day job*. This is the most important lesson. Start working on your new business as a side hustle. Use your nights and weekends to study, plan and create your business. Use the income from your day job to fund your embryonic startup. Start generating revenue from the new entity. Then, as your startup indicates that it will be able to replace your required income, you can transition out of your full-time employment. But allowing your startup to grow as a side hustle will take a lot of pressure and stress off the early stages of entrepreneurship. From my first paid project to leaving my day job was 5 months. But a year or 2 of side hustling is not crazy. It is time well spent. *Note: This lesson is only for people who currently have day jobs. If you don’t have a day job the next 11 lessons are for you.

2. Good people are gold, Pony Boy. Business is the ultimate team sport. A great business is simply a great team of people running great plays. Find the right people. Treat them well. They will make the company and the culture amazing. As an entrepreneur, you get to pick your entire team. It’s one of the best parts of entrepreneurship. That and picking the dress code.

3. Good processes make it happen. Your systems and processes enable success, reduce friction, and organize the organization. Determine your organization’s way of doing everything. Write it down. Share it broadly. It ensures that everyone in your organization knows that you always pass the Dutchie on the left-hand side. Don’t worry if the process isn’t perfect. You can always improve it when you discover a better way. Read The E-Myth by Michael Gerber and Traction by Gino Wickman to help you dial this in.

4. Great creative thinking is key. As an advertising and ideas agency, creativity is what our clients come to us for. This has to be great or nothing else matters, like Metallica said. However, all entrepreneurial organizations should focus on creative thinking. It is how you get things done when you don’t have all the resources you wish you had. And it is how you beat competitors who always do things the same old way. Because creativity creates competitive advantages.

5. Great customer service is a must. This is why your clients stay. Always think about your service, and how you can make it better. We want to treat our clients so well that they never want to leave. And we want to make sure they hire us again when they leave their current job for a new opportunity. This has happened more times than I can count. And I am relatively good at counting.

6. Business development is critical. You have to put focused effort into expanding your business. There is natural attrition that happens in business, even if your product and your service are great. The economy plays games you can’t control. So do a dozen other influences. Businesses that forget to find new customers eventually die. Sometimes they die slowly. Sometimes they die all at once. But the net result is the same.

7. Trust is everything. At the beginning of your entrepreneurial adventure, people will take a chance on buying from your new entity solely because of you. The company will have no real track record or history of doing what it says it will do. But you do. Be a trustworthy human. That personal trust will be the bridge that gets early customers to try your offering before you have real proof that your business is as good as advertised. (Also remember to advertise that you are good.)

8. Build in a fair profit. It’s not enough to have paying customers. You have to understand the cost of your goods or services. Then you have to build in a fair profit. Which means if your offering costs you $100 to deliver, you must charge $5, $10, $20, or $100 on top of that to make sure the business makes a fair profit. That profit is what keeps the business sustainable. Some customers and most procurement departments will try to beat the profit out of your business. Don’t let them. Know what you need to make, know your value, and stick to it. Like a cocklebur on corduroy.

9. Share the success with your team. Business success is team success. You have to recognize and celebrate the contributions of everyone involved. When you do, a good team is eager to create even more success. That stuff is addicting. Like Dot’s Pretzels.

10. Relationships are extremely important. The personal relationships you create help create your success. Those include your relationships with your team, clients, partners, vendors, bankers, brokers, accountants, lawyers and the media. But all your relationships matter to business. Because you never know where your next referral will come from. And you never know who you may need as a character witness. Or who may be carrying an extra kidney that you may need one day. And don’t neglect your relationships with your family to make the business work. My relationship with my wife Dawn has been the most valuable relationship on my entrepreneurial adventure. And I get to spend more time with my kids now as an entrepreneur than I did as an employee. Which is perhaps the biggest win of all.

11. You have to keep experimenting. Business success is an interesting combination of running tried and true plays and trying new things that create new advantages. It’s kinda like the way you have to keep things spicy in your romantic relationship. Businesses that keep experimenting with new technology, new offerings, and new models survive changes. So stay on your toes. (If you have toes.) Watch the horizon for change, both in your industry and the broader economy. Expect that the future will be different than the past and you will be prepared for the strange changes. Like David Bowie said.

12. Create a newsletter. This is a great way to stay in contact with your community, which includes team members, customers, partners, supporters, potential customers, potential employees, the media, fans, and your parents. Add value through each issue. Share your news and successes. Social media channels are beyond your control, and it can be challenging to get your message in front of your audience there. But a newsletter is your own media outlet. It is like an express train to your audience’s inbox. Choo Choo! We use Mailchimp for our newsletter. There are many good options you can find using the Googler. You can sign up for The Weaponry newsletter here to see how we do it.


13. Learn to spell entrepreneur. When you become one you end up writing the word a lot. At least you do if you have a blog sharing your experience as an entrepreneur. To spell entrepreneur, remember that all of the vowel holes start with ‘e’ and you come last. Which is how I remember that there is a ‘u’ after the last ‘e.’

Key Takeaway

Starting your own business is an exciting and rewarding adventure. It enables you to design your own life. It combines the thrill of competitive sports with the satisfaction of having a positive impact on your team members and your community. To start your journey, do some prep work. But then get going. You will learn what you need to know along the way. Remember to always bet on yourself. It is the safest bet you will ever make.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Originally published at http://adamalbrecht.blog on April 24, 2024.



Adam Albrecht

I am a growth-minded entrepreneur and author of the book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? I share what I'm learning on my journey. And I try to make it funny.