It’s been five weeks since I published a blog post.
A staycation and no proper downtime resulted in brain fog which meant I took time away from my office to clear my head.
And strangely, this time gave me the idea to write 12 things I’ve learned from running my own business.
I’ve been in business for twenty-one years, and there isn’t a day I regret taking that decision.
Through expereince I recognise the point at which I can no longer process any more work or information.
There’s a difference between recognising tiredness and being burnt out.
My years of experience have taught me to recognise the signs and to step away and take a break.
Running a business is hard work; it takes time, effort and commitment.
Even with a modicum of talent, you need to learn the operational side that makes for a successful business.
What are the main lessons I’ve learned?
Establish your foundations
Similar to building a house and more than setting up a business bank account, finding the right accountant and a business plan.
I was clear about my objectives and what my goals were from the start.
Relationships are everything
From the early days of my business, I sought to establish excellent working relationships with key suppliers who deliver our services.
To this day, we are still very much a working partnership.
They need me, and I need them.
Customers are equally vital; without them; we have no one to buy our services, so developing long term relationships is key to a long and successful business.
Our longest serving client has been with us for twenty years so we must be doing something right.
Learn resilience, quick
I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve learned from them. Failures are opportunities to better your skillset.
It’s taught me to be resilient; selling has taught me to develop a tough outer skin with plenty of rejections over the years.
It has been hard, and there have been times when I wanted to jack it in and walk away.
There have been tears of frustration and hopelessness.
But you know what? I got up and turned up at my desk the next day.
I learnt from my mistakes, accepted my faults and moved forward.
The business landscape has changed dramatically over the last twenty years and not for the better.
Today’s business climate is too process-orientated too many forms to complete, bureaucracy has gone mad and very little common sense.
Gone are the days when business was a handshake, and you had a customer for life.
I’ve shared some good laughs with customers and suppliers, and there is still mutual respect.
Regular meetings provided opportunities to develop long term relationships.
Fast forward to today, and companies are obliged to follow specific protocols before hiring a supplier to perform services.
Decisions are made solely on price, don’t be naive to think that its all about service.
I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but it is only ever about PRICE.
I would have won many more contracts if I’d dropped my margins to less than 10 per cent.
Why should I demean my expertise and my service by lowering my prices to win business?
It’s nonsense, and if we stuck to our principles suppliers would hike their prices and work with profitable margins.
Buyers would have no choice but to choose solely on service and product portfolio.
While we have people out there selling on price, this will never change.
Company personnel lack the knowledge and the necessary skills, coupled with entrenched company processes designed to help make decisions serve only to fail.
As a result, company tendering lack crucial details, and decisions are made on the fear of making a wrong decision.
The fun aspect has gone out of business, but I have twenty or so years to compare how it used to be so I can be cynical.
Be passionate about running your own business
Without the fire burning in your belly, and the absolute desire to succeed, forget setting up a business.
Passion and belief in your products and services are paramount if you want to be successful.
I love meeting new customers, my passion and enthusiasm bubble when I illustrate what we can do for them.
I like helping people, especially when I know that my services will save them a ton of time and money.
Learn from your elders
You’re never too old to learn something new. Learn from the past, listen to your elders.
They have a lot more experience and have been in business longer, so that qualifies them to know a thing or two about running a business.
If I need business advice, I have no problem seeking information from a millennial or an elderly experienced person.
Age should be no barrier to learning.
A different perspective can be a great way to view a problem differently.
Which brings me very nicely to education you are never too old to learn something new.
In the last five years, I have studied and gained certifications in SEO optimisation, copywriting and social media marketing.
All add value to the services I offer my customers.
It doesn’t mean you need to go to college or study for a degree, but intentionally learning and reading relatable information will positively impact your business.
Accept when you’re wrong and then put it right
Fortunately, there have been few mistakes that have impacted my customers, but when they have, I’ve wanted to move to Australia.
I’ve learned to take a verbal beating and cringe, but my customers trust me to know I will sort it, and I always do, even if the answer is not what the customer wants to hear.
Stick to your principles when your running your own business.
Especially if you can prove, you are right.
The customer isn’t always right and on occasions, I’ve had to be forceful stating my case when things have gone wrong and are not of my doing.
Back up the issue or allegation with hard and fast evidence, proof of what has gone wrong and that it wasn’t your fault.
The customer will respect you even more for standing on your principles and more so if you are right.
Don’t burn your bridges
I provide an excellent service to a customer and then I’m told my services are no longer needed.
I’ve had an inkling and tried to head it off at the pass other times it has come out of the blue.
They decide to move to another supplier despite your impeccable record of service.
No matter how embittered you feel, however unfair or unjust, be cordial.
I can guarantee at some point on your business journey you will cross a bridge with them.
Ten years later, the very same customer who dumped me chose to work with me again.
Make decisions – when it’s your own business you have no choice but to weigh the scales.
Use your head and not your heart, and don’t make decisions solely for financial gain.
I gather the information I need to make a decision, evaluate the benefits, and if there are more in favour than against I go ahead.
More often than not, it is a gut instinct that drives my decision, and I have rarely been wrong.
If I have an element of doubt, I stand back and re-evaluate.
While there is always a risk, I weigh the scales, stack the pros and cons, then make an informed decision.
Be compassionate and share your knowledge
I like to share my knowledge and expertise if asked.
I believe that helping others is instrumental in making me a better businesswoman and adding to an already creative and dynamic business community.
Nothing gives me greater pleasure than helping someone by offering a helping hand.
Health – we can’t do anything without managing our stress levels and it’s crucial to look after our well being.
If we are ill, thiere are implications when it comes to running your business.
Fitness and exercise have always been an intrinsic part of my wellbeing, and I will not compromise on this.
Work fits around my exercise schedule, and it works for me.
There you have my top 12 lessons and still counting. I hope you can draw from this list and if you have any others feel free to share them