Take your time. Read through the list and see if you had or still have any of these beliefs. No shame in being honest, all of us have probably had at least one one of the listed items pass through our minds as we begun to conduct and operate our business. So much has changed over the course of a few years and over various industries that we cannot continue to hold onto outdated beliefs, especially as business owners. Everything goes through cycles, phases and re-boots. Holding onto what we think is right is because it’s what we’ve known all long is the equivalent to throwing money away. And no one I know is in the business of doing that.
Your customers can and will find you — The Great Recession (I love still calling it that) turned many people into obligated self-employed persons. People started their own businesses because they had to in order to continue to earn a living. Skipping over the personal metrics of what that all means — you are not the only person doing what you’re doing or offering what you’re offering. I don’t care how well your website was designed, how quick you launched the business or how much money you invested. You don’t exist until you let people know you’re in business. Which means, you have to find your customer, not the other way around. Ideas: marketing — traditional and online, networking, community partnerships and word of mouth.
There is no “free” money out there for small business owners – It seems like it’s no money out there, but there is. A lot of the times, it’ll be in the form of a contest, and other times it can be a private grant. Either way, if you want to raise money that you’ll never have to pay back again, just be willing to put in the time. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I suggest staying away from the SBA and Grants.gov. Most business owners aren’t professional grant writers, cannot afford a grant writer, don’t have the time and energy to read through the mess they call eligibility requirements and will not meet the guidelines imposed to receive the government funding available.
The customer is ALWAYS right — If the customer is always right, then why are they coming to you? No, seriously, think about it. If the customer had all the answers and knew where to find all the resources, why are they knocking on your door? This is not said to inflate our own egos, but just to help put things into perspective when we’re questioned by a customer or client about our capability and knowledge. We never want to approach them defensively, but with a bit of enlightenment. A reminder, so to speak, that we can do what we do because of how long we’ve been doing it, how trained we are at doing what we do and what we know about what we’re doing.
If it worked then, it will work now — Nope, nope, never. The problem with this belief should be obvious, but maybe it isn’t. If you haven’t heard it before, let me share it with you now: The only constant in business is change. Your customers will change, your prices will change, your hours of operation will change, your employees will change and yes, how you do and conduct business will change because the economy and market are always changing. Don’t believe me? Fine, don’t change. Come find me in six months to a year’s time.
Working smart outperforms working hard — Uh, no. You can work smart, but you still have to work hard. There’s no way around that. And we’ve all heard it before: Work smart, not hard! Let’s be honest, someone had to work hard to come up with that, so what does that tell you? There really is no substitute for working hard and working smart just means you’ve taken all that hard work and created a system for it. That’s truly what it is. Yes, many of us have been working hard only to spin our wheels and get nowhere. So how do we avoid that trap? Direction. Work hard towards something, not just for the sake of working hard.
It’s easy to hold onto what we know and what we believed was working for us when there’s so much new untested crap being thrown our way. However, we have to be wise and responsive enough to separate what sticks and what sticks to the fan. The times are always changing. We need to make we adjust, set sail and flow with it.
When I attempted my first solo venture at 24, I was wide-eyed, hopeful and frustrated. Yes, all of it. Don’t ask me how, I just was. I was frustrated with the economy and job market because no one was hiring inexperience hopefuls, degreed or not, but I was hopeful because the economy was also producing a generation of aspiring entrepreneurs who were tired of waiting for their reject letters or pink slips. And I figured because I fit into one of those two categories, I could build something for myself from the ground up too. Ha! So cute, really I was. Cute, but more clueless than anything else. But it took some faltering, failing, starting over, giving up, coming back and failing some more to figure out a reason to the rhyme.
I use to think that it was inexperience that was against me. What the hell did I know in my 20’s – more importantly, what the hell have I done in my 20’s that worthy of going into business for myself? I also thought it was lack of formal education. All I had under my belt was a bachelor’s degree that was nowhere near the realm of business. Who was going to take someone supposedly in business seriously who never studied business? It could’ve been I lacked confidence in what I could offer because I was still figuring all that out and testing the waters. Or, maybe I didn’t know enough people or wasn’t putting the word out as often as I should have. It could have been any one of these things, it could be all of those things, it could be NONE of those things. Business, whatever the industry, is quite often a hit-and-miss game. You’re gonna miss more than you hit, but you gotta keep throwing to see whether or not you’re gonna hit. Very much like a game of darts, I suppose. Despite all of that, there were some really trivial things I should have known (or wished I was told) before I ever stuck my foot out there.
Be an asset –whenever possible as often as possible. People remember what you do for them, not what you tell them. You can yap all day, every day about how you got a business, but if that business isn’t relieving someone’s aches and pains, no one cares. Be an asset to those who aren’t even a client or you wouldn’t normally take on as a client. When you start building referrals that build your business.
Don’t do it for free if you’re not going to do it right — Pro Bono is fine and all for the experience, but if you’re going to half-ass it, don’t even bother. Even free shoddy work speaks poorly (and loudly) of you. You may need the work or the experience, but not at the expense of your name.
Never diminish your work ethic — It’s tempting to, especially with all the tools and apps available to kind of automate stuff for you. Uh-uh. Won’t fly. Repeat business comes down to how well your business was delivered the first time. It doesn’t matter if that was your first client or your 15th, the delivery should still be the same.
You cannot rush time — Man, oh, man. I’m completely guilty of this one. And this is probably one of the reasons why I failed so many times. I wasn’t trying to cut corners, I was just trying to push things along a little faster. I don’t equate anything to luck (I’m more of a “fortunate” kind of person) but timing is a huge factor. As in, everything needed its time. Time to build, time to develop, time to promote, time to test, time to grow. If you don’t give elements in business their respective time, you’re building on shaky ground. Ask me how I know.
Seek help –On occasion, it may be mental, but on most, it’s actual help. Find someone you trust (trust being the most important word in that statement) who can help you find the resources you need for whatever. Whether they’re helping you research funding options, getting you touch with their website developer, or someone who can refer clients to you. There should be at least one person in your camp. Seek them out.
Make the investment in yourself – It took me a while to take this piece of truth to heart, because I only heard it, but never fully absorbed it. When people speak about making the investment in themselves, they mean taking time to become more valuable, more attractive to conduct business with. For me, I took this as an understanding to go back to school, attend business workshops and gatherings and network with like-minded people. Sometimes it cost me money, sometimes it didn’t. But the fact of the matter was, I always walked away from every experience having gained something that later helped me. A new contact, new information, an untapped resource – something. But I had to make the investment first.
Your efforts and/or business won’t disrupt any industries – and that’s okay. In whatever you ARE doing, just make an impact. Add value. This goes back to number one in regards to being an asset. Mark Zuckerberg rocked the social connecting industry, but he also made an impact (initially). Focus more of being of essence than on being front page news. All that builds after you’ve done something noteworthy.
These weren’t big lessons, but it would’ve been nice had someone just whispered them in my ear from time to time. But we learn and acquired everything we need when we need it — I may not have needed to know this then, but I know it now.