It’s sad to say but true…Most of what you learn about starting and running a small business before becoming an entrepreneur is dead wrong! You can spend years figuring this out on your own (like I did), or you can read this article and benefit from my mistakes…
No matter what, you learn more by doing than by just about any other method. And after 12 years of doing the entrepreneur thing in 5 different businesses (naturalist trainer, veterinary software trainer & management consultant, copywriter and marketing consultant, real estate investor, and now SuccessStream) I’ve definitely learned a thing or two.
While I’d rather learn from my success, there’s no doubt I’ve learned the most from my mistakes. So I’d thought I’d save you the struggle and share 10 of my top business-building lessons. Some were told to me, others I learned the hard way. Enjoy!
1. Owning a business and being self-employed are two entirely different things. When you own a business, you make money even when you’re not working. And you can go on vacation without everything grinding to a halt.
When you’re self-employed you’re it. If you aren’t working nothing gets done and you don’t make a dime. It’s more fun, and more secure, to own a business than it is to be self-employed —even if it does take a bit more planning and effort to get there.
2. Do at least one marketing activity each day. And do it at the start of the day so you can be sure it gets done. This could be writing an article or blog post. Calling a client to
check in. Sending a card. Updating your social networking page.
Whatever it is just do it, and you’ll be one more step ahead of most of your competition.
3. Test the market before you create the product or service. Too often people spend months, or even years, perfecting their book, seminar, widget or whatever. Then they launch and discover hardly anyone is interested. In the beginning it’s best to create your promotions first. Then produce on demand if anyone buys.
4. It’s your business, so you make the rules. If you don’t want to work nights and weekends…Don’t. If you don’t like answering phones or emails…Don’t. These days, there are almost as many business models as there are businesses. And with the introduction of Virtual Assistants, you can always hire out the tedious parts without having to actually hire an employee.
5. Change is difficult, but almost always worthwhile. And often the changes that come with bad news or hard times are the most worthwhile ones of all. Just remember, the first time you try something new it’s probably going to be hard, scary and uncomfortable. But it always gets easier.
6. Personally pulling in every client one-by-one is a long, slow road. When I first launched my old copywriting business I didn’t go after clients one at a time (it would’ve taken forever to build a business that way on my budget).
Instead, I connected with other marketing consultants, Web designers and graphic designers because their clients needed my services. That way any one connection might result in 5-10 new clients.
Public speaking and writing/publishing (online or off) are also great ways to attract many prospects with one action.
7. Focus on your strengths. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time trying to work on my weaknesses. And I still do in my personal life. But when it comes to my business it only makes sense to work on what I’m best at and leave the rest to someone else.
8. Outsourcing is like dating…You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. Overall, I’ve found it easier (and cheaper) to hire independent business professionals versus employees. Mainly because their work has a direct impact on their own business success.
That doesn’t mean finding good people is going to be easy, but don’t give up. They’re out there. And when you find someone stellar you’ll be thrilled you didn’t give up the hunt.
9. Never go it alone. It’s much easier to build a business with support. That doesn’t mean you need to bring on a true partner. But strategic partners, mentors, mastermind groups, coaches—even just someone else you can call on the phone periodically for an exchange of ideas—are invaluable.
10. Schedule time to work on your business, or you’ll always end up working in it. Set aside at least one hour per week to work on your marketing, write a business plan, create a promotion, find new service providers…Anything other than putting out fires, answering emails and servicing clients. It’s the only way to move your business forward.