Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most honest of them all?
I certainly am when it comes to what it’s really like to start running your first business from scratch. In many ways, it’s hard to believe that I’m just a couple of months shy of my one year in business milestone. Then again, in many other ways, it feels like it’s actually been years.
Who I was in February 2015 is a completely different person to who I am now in February 2016. It sounds like a bold statement but running my own show has made me a taller, stronger and better person than ever.
Cue that drum roll please because you’re about to read about the 12 most important lessons I learned over the last year and hey, it hasn’t all been pretty.
- Being good at what you do doesn’t mean you know how to run a business
Anyone who starts a business believes they are good at what they do. However, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re great at running a business. Initially, the thought of considering business structures, learning how to invoice and reconcile my accounts, generating paying customers (emphasis on the word paying), networking… whew! It’s safe to say my head was spinning very quickly.
- Fear is inevitable
When you look at your bank account and slowly, slowly, those savings start trickling away, there will be panicking… lots of panicking! Keep going: acknowledge your fear but don’t allow it to cripple you.
- It will be hard – like really hard
While we love those ‘it happened overnight’ stories, they’re just not realistic and happen very rarely. Anything worth doing takes time to build. Expect to be frustrated, angry and so on – it’s all part of the journey.
- Everyone is not your customer
After a couple of months of working 24/7 and not seeing anything for it, you’re just not in the best frame of mind. And suddenly, you start seeing anybody who’s talking to you as a potential customer. They are not. Know your target market and speak to them.
Don’t wait for your body to force you to stop. Scheduling in days off and regular breaks throughout the day is just as important as your to-do list.
- If you don’t take a break, your body will force you to
Here’s the thing about workaholics like me: often, we’re addicted to nailing our goals. Once we’ve hit one target, we aim higher and higher and higher. Then one day, our body reminds us we’re not actually superhuman and suddenly, we’re bedridden. Don’t wait for your body to force you to stop. Scheduling in days off and regular breaks throughout the day is just as important as your to-do list.
- You need a real mentor
Do you know how your besties said that idea of yours was totally fabulous while you were all watching Sex and the City re-runs and sipping on delicious cocktails? That’s exactly why you need a mentor, especially if you’re completely new to business. They’ll help you to narrow down your ideal client, articulate your ‘why?’ and tell you to point-blank when your ideas suck.
- Celebrate the wins
If you’re ambitious, it can be a real challenge to stop, take a breath and just celebrate a win. I’m not talking about the ‘oh, Oprah wants to chat with me’ scenario: I mean small wins that’ll get you to your bigger goals.
- You need to let go of the past
So, after handing in my resignation before starting the business, my boss at the time turned mega nasty and her big piece of advice to me was: “careful how you behave or you’ll eventually become unemployable.” I carried that with me for a long time… and then one day, it didn’t matter – she didn’t matter! After all, her bitter words only further drove me to where I am today.
- You will lose some people along the way
When you look at the clock at midnight on a Saturday night as you continue typing away on your laptop, suddenly, a random thought will set in: what happened to so and so? Yes, taking this leap of faith will challenge the relationships that are most significant to you but remember, if people can’t support your new direction, it’s confirmation you’re both moving in different directions.
Regardless of what happens, deep down, you need to believe that you are closer than ever before.
- Belief is the key
Grab that Cher song Believe and switch out the word ‘love’ for ‘failure’. Regardless of what happens, deep down, you need to believe that you are closer than ever before to that big break that’ll make all the difference. Write it on a post-it note, stick it on your wall in the office but ‘belief’ is that big word that counts.
- Sacrifices of all kinds are inevitable
Whether it’s time spent with your family and friends, or not being able to buy that new gorgeous jacket you’ve been eyeing for months, sacrifices are inevitable. Starting a business involves dedication way beyond the 9 am to 5 pm daily grind. Prepare yourself to be challenged both mentally and physically.
- It’s all worth it!
If you are passionate about what you do and have landed in the right place, you’ll realize that the above lessons are all blessings. Each day, think about what you’re grateful for (eg: making a living out of doing what you love) and what you’d like the universe to send your way.