During my first year of business, I learned many things about relationships and business-here are a few:
1. Build/find a support group immediately
When I first started, I relied on business-savvy friends for advice on how to set up and run my business. The advice was good, but it became obvious that I was doing something that they had not done. While it's true that marketing and business skills can transfer to any workplace, I realized that when I made decisions about my business, I felt more protective of my business than I had been while working for an employer. When I began thinking about starting a business, I sought help from the local Small Business Administration center. They suggested that I look into the local Chamber of Commerce, too.
Having the right support from the start is important for getting your business off the ground quickly.
2. Mistakes will happen, forgive yourself and keep going
Starting out, I made some huge mistakes that have impacted my business. From passing out business cards at a networking event with the wrong email address to paying for promotional materials with typos that I didn't discover until months later, errors happened. While I still cringe at the thought of those mess-ups, there's nothing I can do to fix what has already happened. I fixed both situations for the future and realized that it is more productive for Be Ready to forgive myself and move on than to waste energy on beating myself up.
Mistakes are opportunities to learn and find what does work. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself when they happen.
3. Reflect immediately and constantly
Since my first networking event, I have noticed that I learn a lot by giving myself a few moments after an event or meeting to reflect. I usually have my laptop or a notebook so I can write down thoughts I’m having in the moment. Those thoughts have been key to determining my immediate next steps and future planning. My notes often include who to follow up with, and more importantly, why I am following up with them. I also write down how I can increase connectivity between people and companies in my circle. If a question came up that I couldn't answer, it helps me identify needs and weaknesses that I can work on for next time. I also look at what I can offer and where I can grow.
Another area to reflect on is where you are succeeding. A few months ago, we expanded to a new market. There is a need for us in that market and we have the skills and background. We began rolling out the services and products and were ready for clients. But, after reflecting on our successes, we realized that 90% of our business comes from business owners. So, we looked at why were we allotting our resources 50/50 to both markets and what needs to be done to grow the new market without losing or scaling back on our current clients.
Integrating new information immediately and knowing where you are succeeding offers you direction for how to best serve your ideal clients.
4. Continue to learn
I enjoy attending local business workshops and breakfasts, but often my schedule is just too busy to sit in a workshop for a full day. Luckily, I only have to go as far as my laptop to visit my favorite social media accounts and learn something new and valuable.
By checking in on social media, I have been able to learn quick business tidbits, read articles, order workbooks and participate in webinars, when I have time. It's easy to connect from the comfort of my home or office.
What are some lessons you’ve learned from starting your business? Leave a comment below and check back for part 2 of this post.