Starting a business can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. But it can also be one of the most challenging. There are countless things to learn and many pitfalls to avoid when you first start a business. As someone who has been there, I want to share with you the 5 things I wish I knew when I started my business.
#1 Business Ownership is Lonely. Community makes it less lonely.
When you start a business, you become the boss. You no longer have coworkers to chat with or a boss to turn to for guidance. It can be a lonely experience, and that loneliness can take a toll on your mental health. That’s why it’s so important to find a community of like-minded business owners who can support you, offer guidance, and help you feel less alone.
I’m an extrovert. I love people and going into an office for me was both career focused and social. When you work for someone, you dream of the day that you are accountable to no one! Then when you have that freedom, you realize the sounding board from working with others was a nice perk. No one prepares you for how lonely it feels to be embarking on something totally new and not having someone to bounce ideas off of, or provide you with some much needed “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
For the most part, I was good at self motivating. Creating goals and going after them…but when it came time to do things that were stretching for me, it was easy to make excuses, fill my time with other things, or simply ignore that thing that felt scary. Heck, why not avoid it? There was no one to hold me accountable. As a result, there were many things that took much longer than they needed to, simply because I was scared.
Get Yourself an Accountabilibuddy
Years later when I joined a community of small business owners just like me, I finally found a safe space to be vulnerable and share my struggles, fears, and frustrations knowing the others in that group could relate. They became my sounding board, accountabilibuddies, and shoulders to cry on. To this day, I am committed to that group. I build my schedule around our meetings because it is such a priority to me. I also have a dedicated accountabilibuddy. If you’re unfamiliar with my self-created term, it’s exactly as it sounds. A buddy that holds you accountable and ideally that’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. I commit to that accountability meeting every week, rain or shine. We tell each other what we’re working on and you betcha, if I’ve managed to slack off that week, I get super motivated in the hours leading up to our next call. I highly recommend joining a community and finding yourself your own accountabilibuddy to combat the loneliness of being the boss.
#2 It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint.
First let me say, this is an area that I still struggle with and am constantly reminding myself that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. In America, we are enamored with the hustle culture. But what that produces is burnout and I gotta say, when I’ve experienced burnout in my own business, it’s so much more disheartening. Here’s this thing (your biz) that you’ve built out of a passion, or love, or calling for something and yet you get to a point where you just can’t do it anymore. Not good!
This idea of go-go-go is a no win situation. I’m not saying that you should not challenge yourself, your team, or your business, but do so within reason. What I try and build into my yearly goals are times for what I think of as exhales. These are built-in timeblocks I give myself to catch my breath. Time to put a pause on the growth and the driving to see what’s working and what’s not. It’s time for me to cut out early and go for a bike ride and not feel bad about it.
Once upon a time I was a marathon runner and the biggest aha I had was standing at the starting line of the first one and realized that the biggest growth really came from everything it took to get there. I needed to do better to enjoy the journey. The same thing is true in business. There is no finish line, there’s only the journey. Pace yourself and enjoy the ride!
#3 It’s OK to Ask For Help.
Whenever the topic of the 5 things I wish I knew when I started my business comes up, without hesitation this is the first thing that comes to mind.
Before launching Confluence Business Solutions I had gotten this message that in order to get help you have to pay for it. Nothing is free. So for years, the only help I got was what I could I pay for and as a bootstrapper early on, the funds were very tight in the help department. This furthered my feelings of isolation and loneliness and even more so saw others as vending machines, not as loving people that would be willing to impart their wisdom. My growth was slow because I wasn’t willing to ask for help that I couldn’t afford to pay for.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that everyone should roll out the red carpet for you and you should expect a free pass. What I am saying is that there are plenty of people that want to share things to get you started, or to give you a leg up and they won’t charge you a dime. The entrepreneurial community is full of generous professionals that are just as passionate about helping others as they are about making millions of dollars. You have to know where to go to find them and you have to be willing to ask for it.
I remember the first time another sales and marketing automations expert said “steal my idea” I was shocked! That’s the person you want in your corner. The person that says there’s more than enough for us all to eat, because there is.
I charge for one-on-one marketing strategy and coaching/consulting, but I also give away a ton of value. I do not want another baby business owner to ever feel the way I did when I first started. If I can be a resource to you then perhaps you become my next client, or my next strategic partner, or my next accountabilibuddy, or who knows, but it’s ok to ask for help!
#4 Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable.
I’ve said this a million times, “I’ll be less stressed when…”. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the tradeoff that discomfort is part of the process. I don’t mean out of your mind stress. I’m talking about the stuff you take home with you every day.
The reality is, you’re the top of the food chain, so all the decisions are yours to make. All the expansion, contraction, decision making, risk taking is all yours. You can make $100 or $1000,000,000,000, all your doing is desensitizing yourself to discomfort.
What I learned, thanks to a generous mentor was to get comfortable being uncomfortable. You’re never not going to be uncomfortable, but you can learn how to manage the way that feels. As your business grows, the risks you take increase. That can be money in/money out, or personnel, or client satisfaction etc, so find what works for you.
For me, when I heard that mentor who was decades ahead of me in life and in business say, you have to be willing to sit in the discomfort of knowing that it might not all be ok, but you can learn from it and even start again I realized that as much as I don’t want that kind of failure, I do want to be better at understanding that this is normal.
#5 Set Good Boundaries.
I’m a people pleaser at heart. So over the years, I’ve really struggled with wanting to make everyone happy, even if it was at my own expense. Then someone said something to me that really changed my perspective on how I interact. You teach people how to treat you.
The same thing is true in business. If you say your business hours are Monday-Friday 9-5pm and your answering emails on the weekend and responding to requests after hours, your setting an expectation to your client that’s contrary to your office hours and giving them permission to expect more of this in the future.
As much as we want the customer to always be right, we also have to make sure we protect the most valuable commodity in our business, ourselves. If we break our own rules we teach others that our rules don’t matter and then when it comes time to reestablish those boundaries, the results can be messy.
This is again one of those areas that I am far from perfect at, but constantly working on! I encourage you to learn from my struggles and so many others that just want everyone to be happy! 🙂
Starting a business is never easy, but with the right mindset and the right support, you can overcome any obstacle. Remember these 5 things, and you’ll be well on your way to building a successful and fulfilling business.