This is the first time we’re mentioning it on any of our outlets, but September is actually the One Year Anniversary of Idea Lemon. It sounds cliche to say, but it really is hard to believe a year has passed. It seems like just yesterday we were scrambling to host our first Experience event (called a Drop In at that time), wondering days before the event if anyone would show, then before we knew it we had 16 people, two photographers, and an awesome Guest Thought-Leader (shout out to Zach West) engaging in a powerful discussion about the convergence and permeation of Social, Local, and Mobile marketing.
12 months later, here are 12 things I’ve learned in my first real go-round as an entrepreneur, Co-Founder, and dude who’s just trying to give people a chance to do something more:
1. You Can’t Be A P****, You Need To Have The Tough Conversations
The creation of Idea Lemon as it’s known today came from Martin and me. Many people don’t know this but originally there was a third co-founder as well. As the responsibility of Idea Lemon turned from fun side project to serious, ‘let’s-make-this-thing-for-real’ responsibility, the 3rd co-founder’s initiative and involvement began to decrease, while Martin and I expected it to increase. Frustration grew on our part as a result, and we finally got to the point where we realized we had to have the dreaded conversation. We were so worried we’d come off as aggressive and inconsiderate, but as it turned out, #3 wanted to back out as Idea Lemon became more of a real deal, and meandered further from the original concept. Basically, if there’s a conversation you’re afraid of having, chances are it’s on the other person’s mind as well, so don’t be a p**** and just do it.
2. The Best Co-Founder is NOT Your Best Friend
I arguably spend more time with Martin than I do anyone else, including my girlfriend. When we started Idea Lemon, Martin and I were friends, but we definitely weren’t best friends. We were pretty tight during college working together on a number of projects as part of our marketing club, and after graduation maintained a bond, but we didn’t hang out every weekend, nor every two weekends, and not even every month. To each other, we traditionally had a ‘hey we haven’t seen each other in a few months, let’s grab beers!’ or ‘let’s catch up over lunch!’ relationship. This is what has made our working relationship with Idea Lemon work so well. Because we were never best friends, we’ve never used our friendship as a crutch and copped out unexpectedly, or slacked off. It’s because of Idea Lemon that he’s now one of my closest friends.
3. If You Want To Make Progress, You NEED A Co-Founder
This one is so true to the Idea Lemon mission of cultivating ideas by bringing people together. The number of times Martin and I have kept each other in check, rationalized pie in the sky ideas, and picked each other up are far too many to count. If Idea Lemon were just me, I’d be sitting on a stack of unsold professionally printed and bound Ambition Journals. Check that, I wouldn’t even have thought of the Ambition Journal. When you try and do it solo, everything stays in between your ears. When you have a partner, you make progress simply by having a resource to bounce anything off of at anytime.
4. It’s Stupid To Try and Plan For, Or Call Out A Tipping Point
As entrepreneurs, we so badly want our businesses to hit that tipping point. What makes a tipping point a true tipping point, however, is something that happens naturally where you don’t realize it until well after it’s happened. Last December, we held our Going Viral Drop In with Len Kendall (again, Drop In was the name at the time), and we saw our ticket sales go higher than before. We said to ourselves, if we hit “X”, we’ll have tipped. We actually did hit “X” and afterwards I recall saying to Martin, “Dude, I think we tipped.” Hey, December 2012 Rajiv--F*** off. You didn’t tip, and one year later you still haven’t tipped. Don’t waste your time trying to predict or identify a tipping point.
5. Keeping Level Head Intact Is The Only Way To Survive
You can get cocky riding the highs, and wallow in self-pity during the lows, or you can maintain an even keel and understand that this is all part of the process. I was in a state of ‘I’m getting frustrated’ recently, and before I knew it we had coverage in the Chicago Sun Times SPLASH Magazine and PureWow on back-to-back weeks, and had all sorts of people who wanted to connect with us afterwards. Nothing that ever comes so easy is worthwhile, and nothing that challenges you makes you worse for the experience.
6. The Best Way To Get Something Done Is To Do It
In My entrepreneurship class my senior year of college I learned this approach from my professor, Patrick J. Murphy: Ready. Fire. Aim. At the time I was so gung-ho on the world of marketing and market research I honestly thought it was a little bit of BS. The thing is, for an established brand like a P&G, with so much equity and money on the line, you can’t afford to go Ready. Fire Aim. For a startup though, you can’t afford NOT TO go Ready. Fire. Aim. There is so little risk in trying things out and seeing what sticks that it’s in your best interest to say “F*** it, let’s try that.” You almost have to go Heath Ledger Joker on the world and say, “Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars...you know? I just do things.”
7. Don’t Believe in “Don’t chase the girl while chasing the dream”
I’ve read a lot of different blogs and articles that say this is the time to focus on you and not worry about relationships or dating or any of that because they are just distractions. In many cases, those blogs are right--girls can be distracting. But if you find the right person, they will motivate you to chase the dream even harder.
8. I Always Believed I Could Help Change Lives, And I’ve Finally Figured Out How
For as long as I can remember, one of my strongest qualities has been having an ability to connect with people. A motto I like to use is, “throw me in the water, and I’ll swim with the sharks.” Meaning, I can make friends with just about anyone. In the past six months, through the personal branding workshop we teach, “Nailing The Elevator Pitch: Discover Your Inner Awesome,” Martin and I have been able to help people realize their motivation in life, and really transform them as a result. Here’s one review that almost made me cry:
I seriously walked into class with just an inkling of a business idea. I walked out of class believing it's not only totally possible, but crucial to fulfill my life's potential. Raj and Martin are creative, warm and brilliant. They have a gift for drawing thoughts, feelings and information out of the participants to help them discover their core potential. They do this in a very non-threatening way. I'm a lot cooler than I thought I was!
9. The More You Take In, The More You Give Out
Whether it’s breakfasts, lunches, coffees, beers, events, workshops, or get-togethers, you become so much more knowledgeable and expand your network so much more simply by absorbing as much as possible. In turn, you can be that much stronger of a person and have better direction for your business.
10. I Know Who I Am
Before Martin and I taught our first personal branding workshop, we had to uncover our own motivations first. I realized that I’m passionately curious with an innate goal to improve as a person everyday.
11. Figuring Out Money Is Really Tough
Not just planning budgets, but tracking where your money is spent. A $3.87 latte here, a $2.00 pack of paper plates for an event there...when you make these purchases repeatedly the money adds up, and we haven’t done a very good job of recording our cash flow.
12. If This Never Pans Out, I Have No Regrets
Well, I might regret that it didn’t pan out. But Honestly, I’m having so much fun, meeting and helping so many people, working really hard, and taking part in such a unique and fulfilling experience, it’s hard for me to stop smiling. Don’t get me wrong--I’m busting my ass, but at the end of the day if nothing comes of this, I’ll be okay with having an unforgettable experience.
Thanks for joining us on the ride in year one. I’m looking forward to what lies ahead in year two. In closing, here’s a Hoodie Allen song that inspired the title of this post:
Rajiv Nathan is the co-founder of Idea Lemon with a background in digital and mobile strategy. He is passionately curious, a people-meeter and lives by the motto, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take."