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Why starting my own business at 25 was a huge mistake

June 12, 2015, 3:00 PM UTC
Courtesy of Carolyn Rodz

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Why is it important for women to take risks in business? is written by Carolyn Rodz, CEO of Market Mentor.

When I started my first business after leaving a career in investment banking at the age of 25, it was the biggest risk I’d ever taken. In hindsight, however, it wasn’t risky enough. My company, a digital marketing firm, failed.

When I started my second company, also a digital marketing firm, at 28, after paying off my debt and building up enough courage to throw my hat in the ring again, I wasn’t afraid to spend money on the right consultants, or to invest in building my network. This time, I put everything on the line; this time I had no fear of failure — and I succeeded.

My business concept was roughly the same both times, but here’s what I learned during the first time around made all the difference: you have to commit to your purpose. There is no dabbling, there is no playing it safe, and there is especially no time to wait for success. If I wasn’t clear on what I stood for, and more importantly if I wasn’t confident enough in that purpose to shout it from the rooftops, I was never going to achieve the results I was looking for.

So the second time around, I made a deliberate decision to take risks on the things that were integral to the growth of my business, and contributed to my long-term vision. I risked time when it meant getting an opportunity to be in front of a really important prospect. I risked my personal equity to ask for big favors in order to go above and beyond on a notable project. I invested significant, and initially scarce, cash flow in employees and office space so that we could build up our team. I risked bringing in a partner so that I could balance out my big ideas with someone who maintained focus on the nuts and bolts of our company. I believed in my vision and I wasn’t afraid to let the world know it.

Risk-taking is a practice I now consciously integrate into the culture of my business. Once our team commits to a strategy, we go all in. If we fail, we acknowledge why that failure occurred (avoiding any finger pointing) and use it to work smarter in the future. We praise boldness, and “play it safe” only as a last resort. As a result, I’ve built a company that is clear on its purpose, authentic in its actions, and not afraid to stumble now and again.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: What are three things you look for in a resume?

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