I am not going to lie, running a business is hard work. Obviously the reward far outweighs the hard work otherwise I wouldn’t be here.
I just wish I could have told my future self when I first started out to avoid a lot of hard work, loss of money and stress.
Whilst the list of learnings exceeds 5 simple things, these are the big ones. Here are my five things I’ve learned about running a business:-
1. Work with the right people
When you first start out it is so easy to say YES to everything. And it’s likely you should to get experience, but there will come a point in your business where you can identify WHO it is you want to work to and then you can make a commitment to only work with those people. If you have a bad gut feeling about someone it’s a good idea to send them on their way – and not in an arrogant tactless way.
I’ve been there thinking ‘I am those bitches in the fashion store in Pretty Woman who send Julia Roberts on her way’, but then I stop, I don’t wear shoulder pads and I am also not a bitch about it. By letting go those who don’t tick the boxes of my ideal client, I am making room for the people I can make amazing things with. Seth Godin wrote a really great post about this here.
In addition to choosing the right clients, also choose the right business partners, and I highly advise against working with friends. Again follow your intuition and watch for those red flags.
2. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not
Be honest, be authentic and be you.
Don’t pretend to be bigger than you are. Take those “we’s” off your website. If it’s just you working away in your spare bedroom (like me) then don’t be afraid say it how it is. If you’re a work at home mum who can’t really communicate during the day because of the screaming kids in the background – say that. People will respect you for it, instead of getting frustrated that you’re not returning their calls during working hours.
Yes you may deter some potential clients, but you will also resonate with other clients who can totally relate to your situation.
3. Grow sustainably
For some micro businesses, the idea of moving out of their spare bedroom into the office space with a load of staff to support their amazing ideas may be the ultimate dream. If this is your dream, fantastic! However, don’t do it before you’re ready.
A couple of years back I hired staff, it was perfect to start off with, but then I decided I didn’t want my staff to be in my home, so I decided with staff I must get an office too. Then instead of increasing the hours of my existing employee I hired another junior staff member. With new offices and employees comes new computers, new furniture, lower productivity, it’s all quite costly. I was so stupid.
The words of Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson from 37 Signals “Hire when it hurts”, and before you do that, find someone with the experience you need to collaborate with first. Then when you’re ready hire someone. And make sure it is someone who can do things that you can’t. As much as the dream may be to hire junior staff to train them up (or it’s all you can afford), remember this is going to drop your productivity exponentially as you will need to train them up. If you’re hiring because you’re drowning in work – then a junior is not your solution.
4. Ask for help
If you’re struggling with aspects of your business, and I mean drowning, it might be time to hire a professional. If it’s your poorly performing website, your finances are out of control or perhaps you just need a little bit of business mentoring to steer you in the right direction. Just do it before it gets out of control.
This is one big thing I wish I had of done. If you read my post about my gap year you’ll get more of an understanding of what happened. Looking back on this I really wish I just paid for a business mentor to just kick me in the butt before going out and getting a ‘real job’. In the end I was able to figure it out myself, but not until I got my head out of the business. Before jumping back in I decided to have a business coaching session, she helped me put a few things back into perspective and guided me back onto my path. This was the kick start that I needed.
5. Take a step outside
As much as I love what I do, often I don’t get to experiment and let my creativity unleash. This is so important especially in my industry. I need to stay ahead and if all I am doing is churning out the same old stuff I am not going to grow and learn. I now try to do something new in every project so I am continually learning.
I also try to take time out of my work schedule to do business planning and allocate time to creative side projects. I used to have a day dedicated to this, but since having kids and it’s usually a day with them doing something fun and creative. This is not only a day I look forward to, but it’s huge in my personal and professional development.
Make sure you schedule time to work on your business and help you grow as an individual and professional.
If you could go back in time and tell yourself 5 things about running business what would they be? Leave a comment below!