December was not a good month for me. Nothing too terrible. Just an unfortunate run of sick children, sick husband, sick myself and a struggle to try to work in every spare minute available to make up for time off due to sickness and crèche closure over the Christmas break.
While it wasn’t all bad, the end of the year came and went and I was just feeling a bit, meh! This month brings the anniversary of my first year in the business. I should have been celebrating this fantastic milestone but the month started with me feeling deflated and finding it hard to get time to work, and to motivate myself when I was working. I half wanted to just let the occasion pass me by, and then I thought back to all the amazing experiences last year and the valuable lessons learnt. Taking the time to reflect on these has really helped my celebrate my successes from last year and set my focus for the year ahead.
What I’ve learned in first year of business:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Since I’ve started my own business I’ve been bowled over by the generosity of people and how many other entrepreneurs in particular, have been willing to go out of their way to help me. This is something that will stay with me, and inspires me to help others where I can.
2. Know your WHY, WHAT, HOW
Having a solid grasp of your values, your motivations, and why you started your business, and a proper business plan, are essential in keeping you on a good path. Make sure you have them all written down to refer back to regularly and as needed. It can be easy to get a little lost in the multitude of possibilities and directions for your business, or to rush towards the quickest return on investment. At times, sticking with what you believe in is HARD, so you have to be very clear on what it is you believe in!
This approach has been fantastic in grounding me and bringing me back to basics when I’m feeling a little unsure of my next move.
3. Get out of your comfort zone
For many, this often involves a fear of networking or public speaking. This really resonates with me, and the idea of both would previously have brought me out in a sweat. I have had to find my own way with this, one that is authentic for me. For me, that means seeking to help others where I can and building relationships and ‘networking’ that way. As for public speaking, I do my homework; tell myself to channel all that nervous energy into excitement; take a few deep breaths, and dive right in! Here’s one of my first public speaking gigs since founding Strength Within.
4. Networking is essential
I remember before I started Strength Within, a wise businesswoman told me that the first year is all about networking. I didn’t really believe her and now here I am laughing at my naive former-self. It is absolutely all about networking! You need to get out and start talking to people – doing your market research; getting comfortable talking to others about what you do; connecting with others. As per point 3 above, take the time to reflect on how this works for you. Even the most introvert among us need to connect with other people…you might even find yourself jumping at the chance after a day of working alone!
5. Find your tribe
I know it’s a cliché, but...
There will always be naysayers and those that bring you down. Surround yourself with people and groups who support you, lift you up and give honest, constructive feedback. The Women’s Inspire Network is one such place – a fantastic group, full of positive and supportive Women and Men, and there are plenty more groups online and in person. In the early days when it’s just you in your business, it’s also crucial to have some close support to help out. In my case, my husband can confidently add Strength Within CTO and Chief Editor to his CV for last year!
6. Comparison is the thief of joy
There is a fine line between market research and getting sucked into looking at what your competitors are doing that you are not…often you don’t realise what’s happened until hours have passed and you’re now stressing about deadlines and wondering why you feel like sh*t – COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY.
See point 2 above on how to get yourself out of this!
7. ‘Bouncebackability’ is crucial
If you set up your own business without a resilient mind-set, you could very quickly find your mental health suffering. Previously I would have considered myself to be a pretty resilient person, with significant change under my belt – but starting a business brings another welcome perspective to this for me. For example, having spent most of my professional career regularly dealing with vendors, I honestly didn’t appreciate the value of a quick ‘no’ over considerable time invested with no positive outcome.
8. Promote, promote, promote
You need to get comfortable with promoting yourself and your business – if you don’t, no-one else will do it for you. This is one I struggle with, and regularly ask myself “how is anyone going to know what you are doing, if you don’t actually tell them?” That usually snaps me out of it!
9. Know your numbers
Another massive area of growth for me. Of course you need to know your budget, expenses, sales, profit, profit margins etc. But, it is also important to learn about your conversion rates among other things (see, still learning!). Turning ‘interest’ into sales is hard work so the sooner you know e.g. how many people you need to reach to generate interest, how much interest you need to generate sales etc. the better. Another point on this, and learning from my very unproductive December, is to build in a contingency plan for quiet periods or times when you are not able to work.
10. Stay open to opportunities
Ending on a positive! Be absolutely be clear on what your business is about. But, build in a little buffer time and also allow yourself a little exploration – you never know where it will take you. As you meet new people and build relationships, you learn about so many fascinating people and stories and it can be so very worthwhile to meet for that coffee or have that call.
What would you add to this list?
With these reflections under my belt, I’m really looking forward to what 2018 will bring. For me, it’s going to be getting laser-focused on the services I offer, building real value for my clients and scaling to meet the growing demand. I’m looking forward to reflecting on these exciting times ahead as I reach another anniversary next year.
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