4 Tips For Creating Success in Small Business
It’s hard to be successful.
If success it was easy, everyone would be rolling it. The truth is, it’s hard to run a small business regardless of the type. Ask anyone who owns a restaurant, a landscaping company, a real estate agency, or a veterinary clinic. Ask anyone who makes a living as a writer, or a plumber, or a hair stylist. Anyone who is self-employed. Are you one of these people? Are you struggling to keep things going? You’re not alone!
One of my favorite quotes is this: Experience is something you get ten minutes after you needed it. Even if you have a great mentor, a great coach, a solid support team, and sufficient resources to do whatever it is that you do, you still have to figure it out as you go. You still have to jump in the deep end every day and learn how to swim, especially in the early years. You can and should seek guidance, but the only way to fully learn it is to do it. As they say: experience is the best teacher. Here are 4 tips to help you along the way.
Realize that Hard and Bad do not mean the same thing.
Hard: adjective. Difficult to do or accomplish; fatiguing
If you are considering going into business for yourself, whether part-time or full-time, you need to know a few things. Arguably the most important thing to know is that it’s going to be hard, but that’s okay. You’re going to work harder and struggle more than you ever have, but that’s okay. It’s the nature of the beast. Hard does not mean bad. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. It just means you have to want it more than anything else.
One of the reasons it’s hard is that you are often isolated and alone. As social creatures, we rely on one another for input on everything. When you are running the show, there’s no supervisor to turn to for guidance, no one to offer an opinion or give you feedback. This can be scary, and it can be stressful. It’s important to build a network of professional contacts that you can engage with, and it’s really important to find a mentor of some kind. A mentor is someone who has done what you are trying to do, and can give you expert guidance. These people may not be there for you in the moment, but they’re there for you to follow up with later, and that’s a huge help.
Don’t rely on the friends and family network for feedback
When you need honest, objective advice, don’t expect to get it from your friends and family. Their job is to support you, not your business. They are going to be concerned about hurting your feelings, and will often be incapable of telling you what you need to hear. That’s why you need to be part of a peer group. There are a lot of Facebook groups for whatever it is that you do, and strangers who know your line of work can give you invaluable insight into your situation with blunt honesty. They have the expertise to help your business, and the emotional detachment to tell you the truth.
It takes some time and experience to develop the thick skin required to hear the truth without being devastated by it. We need to know if we are making a colossal mistake, and it can hurt to find that out, especially when we have put our heart and soul into something. However, if you want to put your very best out there, and maximize your chances of success, this is something you have to learn to embrace. This is especially true when we are trying to do our own marketing and create our own advertisements.
Some people are naturally inclined to be structured, and some people are naturally inclined to be chaotic. It’s important to know which way you are wired. If you are a chaos person, you will have to work extra hard to be successful. It’s still doable, but you have to create some structure for yourself.
Structure is important in a business for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, you need to keep track of every penny that comes and goes through your business, and that’s no easy task. I’m fortunate in that I enjoy bookkeeping, and I’m naturally very organized (some call it OCD, but I know where everything is, and my books are always up-to-date). If you struggle with this, you need to either design a strict regimen that you hold yourself to, or you need to hire someone to do it for you. Taking a bucket filled with a year’s receipts, credit card statements, and bank statements to a CPA and hoping to get your taxes done is not the best way to handle it. If you don’t know how to use QuickBooks, which means inputting every expense and income item, and reconciling all of the accounts each month, you need to do yourself a favor and learn how. Take a class, or find someone to teach you. It’s important.
Other structure points are important, too. You need to make lists of things that need to be done today, this week, and this month, and make sure you use and update them. You should create a checklist for recurring tasks so that nothing gets overlooked. Use a calendar on your phone to remind you of upcoming things. Don’t rely on your memory to keep your business running.
Commit to Continuous Improvement
Society, business, technology, and processes change constantly, and you have to evolve with it or you will get left behind. There are a lot of resources out there that will help you get better at everything you do. There’s no reason to be an army of one, blundering around learning every lesson the hard way. Seek out other people who are doing what you do, and build a network of professional contacts. Share notes, share experiences, and help each other grow. You can find professional groups on MeetUp, Facebook, and other online forums. Your local Chamber of Commerce can also guide you toward local resources.
Another great way to learn more about running your business is to subscribe to podcasts. If you don’t regularly listen to podcasts, you are missing out on a huge free resource. Find a podcast app for your phone (I use Stitcher, but it can be any of them), and browse the Business topics until you find Entrepreneurs. In this category, there are some terrific weekly podcasts like Finding Mastery, StoryBrand, and Entreleadership, just to name a few. You can even listen to past episodes, which I highly recommend doing. These podcasts are filled with interviews of successful people, and you can learn a hundred lifetime’s worth of experiences by listening to them, and tweak your own business practices with what you learn.
Life, which includes running your business, is a journey. It’s all about taking each step, and making it better than the step before it. The destination is important, but the process of getting there is where your focused energy has to be applied. Always be willing to learn, and never assume that you know everything that you need to know. Now then, let’s get to work! (You can start by subscribing to this blog in the box below).
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J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.