The importance of keeping a paper trail

JULY 10, 2014

Photo by Emily Long

Clichés abound when it comes to young entrepreneurs. Flip through fashion magazines and you’ll inevitably find a young twenty-something with beautiful hair and an indescribable glow, touting the merits of “finally having my dream job and doing what I want.” When I started my company a little over a year ago, optimistic business plan in hand, I hoped for all of that and more, but knew – or thought I knew – everyday life wouldn’t be so easy.

Coming from the world of global marketing, I was used to living in a bubble of product development. I had little prior experience working with clients face to face. In fact, I was used to being the client, and a demanding one. I expected the hardest skill to learn and master would be cold calling, putting my professional self out there to persuade prospective clients. Working in a bubble was my past, and I now had to take the next step and speak up. A good idea isn’t much good at all if you don’t go out and get people to join in. A number of failures and a sizeable amount of success later, I had a pretty respectable list of clients and partners I was proud to work with. The time had come for a valuable life lesson.

As an intuitive thinker, I tend to trust fully or not at all. Sometimes, I’ll push my intuition back, drowning its voice out when I have a bad feeling about something I truly want to move forward with. I had spent nearly a year putting all of my efforts into landing a prestigious client. When our initial deal was signed months after our first meeting, I was ecstatic and relieved. I was proud, as were my friends and family. It could have ended there, on that high note, but life threw a useful lesson my way. Over the course of eleven months during which I planned every detail to turn the project into reality, I forgot to recap some information by email. Not a problem, you might think, since I had confirmed everything during a meeting with my soon-to-be client. That’s what I thought, too, until my client decided to take advantage of it, later refusing to pay my company since they couldn’t find a written trace of elements we’d approved together…and suddenly decided they hadn’t approved them at all. It was a slap in the face. More than that, it was a punch in the gut. I couldn’t imagine how such a large, internationally renowned corporation could, simply said, try to rip me off.

After the initial reaction of hating myself for not writing that tiny piece of information down, I sat back and pondered the important things this unfortunate situation taught me. Having your own company is like walking through a haunted house. Sometimes you’ll laugh, other times you’ll scream – you never know what is coming your way. Embrace it. You have instincts for a reason: listen to them. A gut feeling should always be taken seriously. Finally, I learned not to beat myself up over a distressing professional situation. At the end of it all, you end up learning more than you lose. You learn about how to be a better person, manage stress, and test your strengths. I still don’t have the perfect hair of my fellow glossy-page entrepreneurs, but the one thing I do share with them is the most important of all: faith in myself, and in the bumpy path I’ve decided to follow.

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