The Jim Seybert Company was launched in October 2001 because it had to be.  I had no great calling to own a business, no pent-up craving to carve a path through the forest and no real strategic plan. All I knew was that I needed to do something different from what I’d been doing.

Before the 12th year gets too far along, allow me to share 5 lessons I’ve learned along the way:

Lesson One: You Can’t Clone Success

At the end of Year One, I designed a really cool sterling silver paperweight in the shape of big numeral 1 and presented it to every one of my clients. It was engraved “Number One Club.”

That first year was incredible. And yet, not a single one of those clients are still with me. Most of the early assignments involved services I no longer provide.

You can’t clone success. Every day begins with new challenges and opportunities. You only succeed when you apply today’s answers to today’s problems. The most foolish thing you can do is to rely on past solutions for future dilemmas.

Lesson Two: Simple Ideas Work

A month after going out on my own I heard a researcher from Roper talk about some data they’d gathered on attitudes of American consumers on the backside of the 9-11 terror attacks. It had been just shy of two months and the data told a story I felt would be beneficial to friends and colleagues. So – I wrote a short email describing what I had heard and sent it to about 50 people. Just like that. No long-range strategy or continuity plan.

Within 24 hours, I had received numerous replies thanking me for the data . . . and an offer to bid on an assignment, which I ended up getting. Send an email, get business. Next month, same thing. Sent an email, got business. And so it’s been nearly every month since November 2001. The newsletter is mailed to nearly 1,500 people and has an open rate that would make a lot of people jealous.

Simple ideas work. Don’t over-think things or burden them with unnecessary complications.

Lesson Three: Acknowledge Your Achilles Heel

This is one I have to re-learn, time and time again. There are things I am just not good at, and every minute I spend (waste) trying to improve in these areas is time I could (should) be investing in doing what I do best.  Making presentations to service groups and business associations is a great lead generating activity for me. On the other hand, making cold calls and pressing the flesh at networking events is unproductive. Speaking to groups gives me energy and I look forward to it; mingling at a mixer event sucks the air from my brain.

Instead of trying to get better at mingling, I get a greater return on my time spent when I use it to book speaking opportunities.

What’s your Achilles heel? Do you have activities that you need to let go of so you can free up time to focus on your best game?

Lesson Four: Play The Cards You’re Dealt

On the flip side of Lesson Three is the refreshing news that you were born with everything you need to be awesome. There are activities that energize and nourish you, every time. Things you look forward to with giddy anticipation.

My video blog – Driving Ideas – is a good example of this. God made me a natural storyteller. I can’t help it. Verbalizing ideas is something that just comes naturally to me. I also like to drive and for some weird reason, most of my good ideas happen while I’m at the wheel. To capture and remember those ideas, I used to leave myself a voice message. Then along came the iPhone.

The video record feature on the iPhone is very good and I have started to record my ideas as I drive. The result has been a series of YouTube clips that folks can subscribe to – giving me an easy-to-do marketing tool, one that doesn’t take much work at all, and one that energizes me because it comes from my native abilities.

You have a full deck, play it.

Lesson Five: Gravy Trains Derail

Nothing is permanent. Part of me wishes this weren’t the case. Some days I daydream about having a roster of steady clients that never change. No more prospecting. No need to run cash flow projections. Deleting the proposal template from my file library. Ahhhhhhh

How boring would that be? This was a tough one to learn. I think it is for every consultant. When my first long-standing gravy train jumped its track, it took me nearly a year to recover. I’ve since taken a much healthier project-by-project approach. It does mean more prospecting work, but a steady stream of leads keeps me fresh.

Gravy trains derail. Whether you work for yourself or lead a large team of people, get in the habit of running “what if” scenarios. What if we lost our biggest supplier? What if there was a product recall scare in our industry? What if pigs suddenly grew wings and began to fly?

Do the math

11 years and 5 lessons. That’s one lesson for every 114 weeks. I learn slow.