Sometimes you just need a kick in the pants to start an idea in motion. Perhaps it’s an unexpected life event or perhaps as simple as something that’s been brewing inside you that says you’re ready for a change. These are pivotal moments in our lives. We can either choose to retreat and hide or to take a leap of faith and make a change that will steer our lives in a different and new direction.
Oddly enough, I’ve learned these moments are a rare gift in need of careful consideration. I recently found myself at this crossroad and decided to venture out on my own to begin fulfilling, in a more formal way, my life’s passion for helping small business owners who face uncertainty about ‘the numbers’.
Over the last 25 years, I have worked for and with many types of businesses. I have worked with small business start-ups looking to build a solid financial management footing for future growth as well as with larger well established firms needing someone to analyze and refresh old and tired financial practices that are now stuck because “…we’ve always done it that way!” Let’s be clear, I’m not a big-city corporate type with a “my way” attitude. Rather, my passion is in working directly with business owners in small and medium-sized companies who are simply looking to contribute to the local economy while earning a descent living.
But I digress… Having essentially seen it all – the good, the bad, and the outright ugly – I now find myself pouring my time and energy into my own start-up. Possibly just like you right now.
Having just launched my own business, I thought I would share some ideas about what I think are important considerations when looking to become a business owner.
- PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE and BELIEVE – With one month in, I have tackled and done things I never could have imagined doing just a few weeks ago. I’ve put myself out there having extended my name and skills to potential clients – despite being scared to do so. From driving to places I have never been to walking into a room to meet new clients whose situation presents a skills gap or a time crunch they really need to address. I’m in those rooms because I know (and believe) I have an ability to help.
- HAVE A FLEXIBLE BUSINESS PLAN – I truly believe a business plan should never be set in stone. Sure, you need an initial plan, but consider your plan as more of a guide. Be prepared and accepting of changing your plans when the situation warrants. As such, a business plan should be a flexible and perhaps ever changing document. Draft it, nurture it, change it as needed, and watch it grow!
- NEVER STOP LEARNING/INVESTING IN YOURSELF – I believe you should think of education as a life long journey. Be the consummate student. Learn from every day experience and the new experiences you have every day. Take advice. Listen to others. Accept that you can always learn something new. And, above all, learn from your mistakes. These are inevitable events; they can serve as invaluable teaching tools.
- KEEP IT SIMPLE – A business doesn’t have to become overly complicated to be successful. I have worked in some wonderful companies where the business model started (and remained) as a simple and very workable idea. They kept it real and grew it daily.
- NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK – Kind of like #1 but certainly worth emphasizing. Don’t underestimate good old fashioned networking. Talk to everyone you meet. Here in Nova Scotia, as in many places I figure, working at creating and fostering relationships is paramount. I know that social media is a powerful tool and I understand its place as part of a complete business strategy. But, don’t fall into the trap of only sitting behind a computer screen to market your business. Get involved in your community and talk to people (yup…I repeated that!) As a companion to your online presence, good old fashioned networking will keep your business growing and your clients coming back.
- BE A SOLUTION – Try to think of your business as a solution to a problem or as a way to fill the gaps some business owners have – such as a lack of skills, available time, or necessary goods. Don’t focus on trying to sell something. Focus, instead, on how your abilities can help your clients fill a need. Serve your clients’ needs first – and yours will follow nicely.
- UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW – So, you’re starting a new business and have to tackle a zillion things that all need to be completed yesterday. Sound familiar? You will very likely be exceptional and many of those zillion things. But trust me, be very cognizant of the flip side by being just as sure to recognize the things you don’t know as well. When that happens, never be afraid to reach out to friends, family, colleagues, and others for help. For example, I know accounting / bookkeeping and I have a ton of experience at it. But, I also know that I have little experience with things like building websites, making logos, uploading files to social media, etc. That part is a work in progress. For now, I’m reaching out to others and learning lots (and I’m enjoying the journey.)
- FIND TIME TO RELAX – Running a business is not 9 to 5. It is seven days a week (sometimes more) across the full 365 days a year. But you need to have a life too. Set boundaries. Turn off your phone. This will avoid burnout and over-stretching your time. After all, your time is the most valuable commodity you have. Create a work life balance by setting and sticking to a schedule that includes time for yourself and your family. This will ensure you put your best foot forward for those around you and continue loving what you are doing. There’s an old saying about how to save money. ‘Pay Yourself First’. To me, the motto for always enjoying your new money making venture is similar… ‘Care for Yourself First’. That’s my recipe for long-term success.