The Best Things I Did When Building & Running My Business.
I previously wrote a blog post about the mistakes I made in business, highlighting the things that I had experienced which physically and mentally derailed me from making progress in the way that I’d envisioned when I started along the pathway of self employment.
And to show that it’s not all doom and gloom, I’ve put virtual pen to paper with the intention of also sharing the best things I did for my businesses too.
Building a community
It cannot be underestimated how important it was for my own business to connect and get to know other business owners. You’d be pretty darn surprised by the resulting connections you make from knowing other people who run their own ventures, whether or not they are in the same industry as you or not.
I came to realise over time that it wasn’t always what you knew but who you knew that made a lot of difference. A whole load of difference in fact. Yes yes knowing facts, figures and how to do certain tasks in your business were required but the connections fleshed it out, bought new attention to services and products and spread the love far and wide about what your business offered.
This happened gradually over time, through attending events, marketing conferences and social media so it didn’t feel like it was a ‘work related’ task and a lot of people I met became friends over the course of time too.
A win-win situation in my eyes!
Worked out the ‘niche’ for the business
It’s so important to know what you do/ offer and why, also known as identifying your niche. It may sound a little cliché but trust me, it really is important to know what it is you do that stands you apart from other businesses, also known as your USP (unique selling position but that sounds a little too formal for me).
Think of it this way; what would you say to Richard Branson if you found yourself with 30 seconds to pitch your business to him? How would you get across the uniqueness of what you offer and sell? What makes you different from the person waiting to talk him once the 30 seconds are up? What will he remember about you?
I mentioned in the previous post that not fully understanding my business niche actually derailed what we offered until we sat down and worked it all out. It wasn’t easy at the time but it jolly well got easier as time went on as we focused on products and services that linked to our ‘unique selling position’ rather than trying to be a Jack-of-all-trades business.
Faked it till we made it
I’m not saying false promises were made to customers or other business owners but rather the feeling of empowerment and control it offered to be doing something that looked like we were running a busy and successful business when in fact there were days when all we heard were crickets in the background. The fakery part was more to do with how I felt about running my own business, starting from scratch and touching every available piece of wood to stop anyone finding out I also felt like a little fraud!
These times were more prevalent the early days and so to counter-act these fraud feeling, more effort was put into working out the business niche, products, going to trade shows and seeking out new inspiring products to take on board, as well as attracting new clients/ customers. Over time it all became so much more easier to handle and it certainly helped the business further down the line.
In.. and then out again
I’m referring to the financial side of running a business here.
By getting used to regularly making records of expenditure, utilities and money coming into the business, whether through a basic spreadsheet or a comprehensive accountancy software package, it was so much simpler to see where we were spending too much money, how often we ordered certain stock items in and how much money we had coming back to the business.*
It also helped to see whether certain opportunities would be financially viable to engage with, especially when it involved an outlay of considerable sums of money at the start, or whether we’d be better off investing the money in another way.
* I’m not going to lie and say this was always the case; I’ve made it well known in previous blog posts that I’m not a fan of accountancy and it really was an effort to sit down and input all of the outgoings and incoming funds. And there were a few times of giving myself a massive kick up the bum about it when financial returns were made just before the deadline was up… seconds to spare sometimes! I never enjoyed the feeling of stress this caused but it took a MAJOR effort for me to change my habits, mindset and behaviour and start managing the accounts more effectively, which ultimately lead to less sleepless nights… who would have thought it!?
This is probably more relatable to life experiences rather than business but there were a number of times when an opportunity arose that looked like a tempting cream bun with extra layers of cream and jam on top but I ultimately decided against taking it due to the a bad feeling I had about the person or offer on the table. And in all cases my gut feeling was correct.
You will know what feels right for you and your business, and if there’s an internal voice holding back from agreeing to a potential opportunity, listen to it. I’m so glad I did! We avoided being financially ‘ripped off’ (a technical term!) by others as well as distancing ourselves from engaging with some unscrupulous characters who were primarily motivated by the financial rewards they'd receive and not about us as a business owner investing in their event/ opportunity/ venture.
In the spirit of being honest, I’m not saying my internal voice was present at every opportunity that headed our way; there were times when I went ahead with certain opportunities only for these to not work out in the way they were marketed or promised. But usually another opportunity presented itself to us which was a better deal overall so the ill-feeling towards said person who I felt had mislead us was usually over-ruled by the positive opportunities that lay ahead with someone else.
Being strict with work- life balance
This took some getting used to as, without a doubt, starting and building a business is totally life consuming. Especially so when your business partner is a family member, like mine was. Over time we realised that all we ever discussed was ‘work’ and nothing else, and as well as boring the pants off ourselves, we also bored the pants off every other family member who had the misfortune to be in the same room as us. Not great when you start to feel everyone edging out of the room when you enter, or their eyes glaze over like they’ve been possessed by some weird entity when you veer towards “so we decided to use this supplier today…”
It took effort but over time, and with some strict boundaries in place, work related discussions became less of a issue outside of the ‘office’ and we could revert back to typical mother-daughter dynamics at other times.
Knowing when to stop
This links to the above point but knowing when to stop working, or even thinking about work was one of the best things I did for myself when running my previous business. All work and no play makes Lisa a sad person, as it would everyone else.
It came back to this question: why build a lifestyle business when it’s all consuming to the point if you’re not able to live your life?
The strategy I initially implemented was dedicating certain tasks to specific days and sticking to these as best as I could. If I completed all tasks then I knew I was done for the day. No if’s and but’s or coconuts, I worked towards a strict work-life balance that helped me in the long run.
And then there was the time when after I'd tried all of the above and still didn't feel motivated, energised or thrilled by my business and after a whole-lotta soul searching, I made the hard decision to stop. Quit. Halt. Desist from continuing; in fact I wrote a blog post on why it's not such a bad thing to quit something when it just doesn't sit well with you any longer.
I certainly did’t feel like I’d let myself and my business partner down because I knew in my heart that all avenues had been taken and whilst we were in a good position, I was not emotionally vested or mentally geared towards taking things even further.
There are probably many, many other ‘lessons’ I learnt, and am currently learning from being self employed and building my own little lifestyle business, but at this moment in time, these are the ones that served me very well over the years.
I’m sure that in another 12 months these may still be relevant, as well as accepting that I’ll learn so much more along the way too. And I'm happy to say that I'm pretty open to learning as much as I can as long the way as I know I'm at least tip-toeing towards what matters to me the most.
Do you have any pieces of advice that have and are serving you well in your business?