The first 3 months of life, a business demands all of your time, pretty much 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You will be sleep deprived and stressed, but there isn’t anything else you’d rather be doing. After about 6 months, your business will start to become a bit more independent. It will still demand much of your time and energy. But you know that your effort is totally worth it. At 8 months, it will start to crawl around a bit on its own. With any luck, it will be growing rapidly, and you will be struggling to keep up with all of its changes. Once it gets to toddler age, it will be walking on its own two feet, speaking for itself occasionally, and finally sleeping through the night – most nights.
Owning your own business, in so many ways, is like being a parent. You must care for this thing you’ve created, nurture it, and give it wings to fly. I’ve learned more in the past 15 months of owning a business than I’ve learned in the entire 18 years I’ve been working, and I am honoured to have the opportunity to share with you here, some of what I’ve learned.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Painting, lifting, hauling, cooking, cleaning, assembling, proofreading, or just listening; friends, family and colleagues are always eager to pitch in. Online friends are equally as helpful – you have a whole network of people available to you here. Ask for help when you need it. And don’t forget to amply reward those that do help.
You have to spend money to make money.
The old adage is so true. Don’t be afraid to spend money on your business. It’s an investment in your future. Know your goals and make informed choices about when and where you spend. But don’t be a cheapskate. People will notice.
There is life beyond your business. Shut off the cell phone, close the laptop, and look around you. See those people? They are your family and friends. You need to remember them too.
Hire the right people.
You can’t do it all yourself. That’s why you hire people. But make sure that you hire the right people. Don’t just look for someone with the right skill set. They must have share similar values and their work ethic must be compatible with yours. They must be trustworthy. And most of all, they must have a great attitude. How can you be sure? There are no guarantees, but definitely check references – that’s a great way to get a sense of how someone will fit with your business.
It’s your party.
As you journey through the world of self employment, you will encounter more than your share of nay-sayers. These people will question your every move, from how you spend your money to who you hire to what projects you choose to work on. You need to learn how to ignore these people, for they serve no purpose in your business. You do not have to defend your decisions to anyone but yourself and your business partner if you have one. The party poopers are not invited to your party.
Call your Mom.
Some days are just going to be downright crappy. The world will seem like it’s falling apart. You’ll want to run right back into the safety and security of the very cubicle that made you miserable all those years. When it happens, call someone who you count on for support. For me, that’s my Mom. It’s taken me 37 years to figure this out, but she almost always knows what to do to make things better.
Let your business evolve naturally.
There is no model for a perfect business. Be creative, roll with the punches, and allow your business to become what it needs to become. Don’t be afraid to make decisions. If they aren’t the right ones, you’ll know soon enough. Don’t be afraid to change your mind often. Every day, keep trying. Then try some more. As long as you keep your goals in sight, you will get there.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.