Solo Series: Coffee Shops and the Crazy Ones by @PaulRoetzer

The Marketing Agency Insider Solo Series is for the entrepreneurs who are on their own, and looking for answers, inspiration and community. It’s content for the brave souls who are just starting out, and those who are poised to take the leap. You are not alone.


Where did your journey begin?

Panera-Rocky-RockyFor me, like many entrepreneurs I’m sure, it was a local coffee shop. Just a couple miles from my house, and in the shadows of the traditional marketing agency office and life I had left behind, I spent my early days as a business owner at Panera, absorbing unspeakable amounts of free coffee refills and taking advantage of the entrepreneurial essential — free WiFi.

It was November 2005, and I was on my own (professionally) for the first time. I didn’t have a single paying client, but I had a plan, a six-month funding runway and a dream of building a new breed of marketing agency.

I spent the next four months, before hiring our first employee and moving into an office space, working on creating a scalable infrastructure that could accommodate my growth goals. I sought out reliable service partners, researched technology solutions, plotted employee recruitment and retention programs, developed our services and pricing model, built the agency website, met with my existing contacts, and found new networks and organizations.

It was the most exhilarating time of my life. Everything was an unknown, and I loved it that way because it meant that anything was possible.

I learned a lot about myself and about business in those first few months. Here is a collection of the most important lessons:

  1. Find great partners who share your vision, passion and values. When you’re small, and even as you grow, you will rely heavily on the knowledge, expertise and networks of your trusted partners.
  2. Have a funding runway that gives you the ability to make decisions that are in the best interest of the organization over the long term.
  3. Don’t ever let desperation dictate your actions, no matter how difficult things become. Regret is a painful burden to carry in business and life. Do what is best for the organization, not what is easiest.
  4. Always be willing to bet on yourself. If you don’t have the confidence to believe you can make it, then neither will your employees, partners or clients.
  5. Be crazy enough to believe that you can change the world. Change is inevitable, it might as well be you that pushes it forward.