VENTEUR spoke with Lauren Edwards-Williams, an intellectual property consultant based in Scottsdale, Arizona but originally from a small town in England, about her entrepreneurial journey. She graduated from law school in England, and not long after, was offered an internship at an intellectual property law firm in Arizona, where she took the risk and traveled halfway across the world. Edwards-Williams worked her way up from intern to general manager in three short years. Then in 2019, she decided she wanted to open her own business to do things her way.
The entrepreneurial journey is one of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself while building your business?
The biggest thing I have learned is how disciplined and organized I can be. Anyone close to me will know that in my personal life, I am a bit disorganized. I’m a free spirit who doesn't really like plans. Anyone in my work life will say the opposite. I am very organized and disciplined and have everything planned out.
The entrepreneurial journey is often lonely. Have you experienced loneliness as an entrepreneur?
I have been fortunate not to have experienced loneliness. This is for two reasons: First, when I first opened my business, I had a lot of support from previous colleagues and a mentor who initially taught me the IP world. Second, my husband has had his business for years, a lot longer than me, so he was a great source of knowledge and support for me.
What role has intuition played in your success as an entrepreneur, and why do you think this is the case?
It has played a significant role. Having your own business involves a lot of decision-making, so you must learn to trust your intuition about whether a decision is correct.
How has entrepreneurship catalyzed your healing or expanded your consciousness?
Although it is a lot of work, being a business owner is so freeing and has allowed me to experience life in a way I don't think I could have otherwise. For example, I have been able to travel more because I can operate my business anywhere.
What is the most significant difference between how an entrepreneur sees their career path versus how an employee at a company sees their career path, and why?
I think an employee at a company's career path is more singular, whereas, for an entrepreneur, the career path tends not to be a single focus.
For example, employees tend to have their role, which is what they do at work. In contrast, entrepreneurs typically run different businesses simultaneously, sometimes in entirely different fields. But I don't think either is better than the other!
The Psychological Warfare
Entrepreneurs generally sleep less, work more, and let their health slip. This combination, combined with loneliness, often results in insecurity, self-esteem issues, and low self-worth. Have you experienced any of these issues as an entrepreneur?
I have 100% experienced all of this.
There are days when I work until 5 AM, and I'm up at 9 AM to start the day again. On the one hand, I can count the days off I have had since starting my business. But, on the other hand, when you open your business, it is your baby.
Particularly at the start, like with any child, you put yourself on the back burner and allow your business to take priority.
This, of course, causes your health to slip.
After that, however, you fall into a groove.
It is a lot of work, but the way I see it is that I'm so grateful and lucky to be able to stress about my own business (if that makes sense). I'm not stressing over someone else's dream. It's mine, and it's worth it all to me.
Newer entrepreneurs often equate their success with the success and value of their business. If their business fails, they are a failure. If their business succeeds, they are a success. Have you experienced this warped perception of reality?
I have felt this way and particularly at the start. For example, if a client did not return to use my services, I'd automatically take it personally and think it must be my work product or something I have done personally. I have overcome this now by having more confidence in myself and knowing that I put my heart and soul into everything I do for my clients. So. if one doesn't return, I know that it's not because of the quality of my work, it has to do with their circumstances.
What are your three biggest fears as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage those fears?
1. Losing Everything I Have Built
I overcame this by realizing that the demand for my services is high and is not going away for the foreseeable future.
2. Having My Model Stolen or Being Priced Out of the Industry
I have a niche business with very competitive prices that cannot easily be replicated.
3. The Industry or Rules and Regulations Changing
I cannot control this, so try not to worry.
What are three mistakes you made early on as an entrepreneur, what did you learn from them, and how can others avoid these mistakes?
1. I Didn't Price Myself Correctly
I offered a lot of my work product for free to entice more clients. However, I learned that it cheapened me and made me appear that my services were not as high in quality as others. My advice would be to know your worth and, from the start, price yourself accordingly.
2. I Didn’t Keep Outstanding Records or Have Good Bookkeeping
My first year was quite a headache regarding taxes. Getting a bookkeeper or good invoicing and accounting software to keep everything you do on the track.
3. I Didn't Delegate Administrative Tasks
I spent a lot of personal time keeping on top of everything, all while handling actual client work, too. I advise anyone to get help and delegate tasks in this area.
What are three things you see that are often overlooked by entrepreneurs you encounter, and how can other entrepreneurs be aware of these things from the beginning?
1. Not Placing Themselves Into a Niche Area and Over-saturating the Field
I think now more than ever, the key to success is to find a void in your field that needs filling and that you can serve well.
2. Not Doing Their Research and Staying Up to Date in Their Field
My advice would be to stay up to date with any guidelines, laws, and competitors. Watch what others are doing in your field and learn from them.
3. Not Using Automation or a Particular Technology, Particularly in Fields Where It Is Easier
For example, something as simple as switching to electronic documents for clients instead of having them mail or print and send you documents makes a huge difference.
What are three ways you have managed to boost your productivity without causing burnout?
1. Automation and Incorporating Technology
For example, having invoice software that emails my invoices and sends reminders automatically frees me up for other tasks, but the job still gets done, and probably better!
2. Hiring Where Needed
For example, when I am busy, I find it challenging to stay on top of administrative tasks such as invoicing and meeting deadlines. Having someone else do this again frees me up to do the critical tasks.
Having a priority list (which, again, can be put together by another person) helps immensely. I like to have two different lists – a weekly one and a daily one. That way, I get to visualize what my week will look like, and using my daily list, I can work on the most critical items that day rather than wasting time on other tasks.
How can newer entrepreneurs develop a healthy work-life balance even when it seems impossible?
This is challenging initially because you eat, sleep and breathe your company (that doesn't stop), but allowing yourself to have particular days off or particular times out is essential.
For example, stop working at 6 PM when you can. Also, take at least one day of the weekend off. To enable you to do this, the structure and daily and weekly priority lists will come in handy to keep you organized.
It is also helpful to compartmentalize the day. For example, you could have a pre-work block, a morning work block, a lunch block, an afternoon work block, etc.
What three key pieces of advice would have made your entrepreneurial journey more manageable, and why?
1. Have Confidence in Yourself
I would say having confidence in myself and my abilities. I'm sure many of us suffer from imposter syndrome, so a crucial part of making the journey easier is keeping that resolve and knowing that you can get through difficult times.
2. Know Your Worth
In a similar vein and as mentioned above, I don't devalue myself.
This would have allowed me more structure and prevented me from getting bogged down with tasks that took me from my client work and had me working long hours.
Questions based in part on topics and comments provided by:
- Alicia Nagel, Founder at Alicia Nagel Creative
- Rob Volpe, Chief Executive Officer at Ignite 360
- Kelly Mosser, Entrepreneur, Business Strategist, and Coach for High Performers
- Dr. Diane Hilal-Campo, Mount Sinai-trained, Board-Certified Ophthalmologist