What It's Like to Start a Business in Your 20's Part 4: The Learning Curve
It has been three months but it feels like I only started yesterday. My first three months were packed with lessons about running business so I wanted to share some of the best things -- big and small -- that I learned.
1. Always ask for a second opinion or feedback from a trusted source.
I quickly learned that it can be hard to see your business objectively when you're so close to it. I knew I needed a couple of people to run ideas by occasionally and to ask for feedback on what I had done so far. I decided to have a close friend to ask, another business owner I respect with senior industry experience and then one without. I found out that things I thought were weaknesses were actually strengths, such as the fact that I run the business and provide all the services myself. Thankfully I asked a "trusted adviser" for some feedback and he pointed that out as an advantage I have (control over the quality of services I provide) as well as something that makes me stand apart from others.
2. Your friends and family really do want to help and support you.
I've always been a big believer in keeping business and personal life very separate. It was new to me that my business was personal so it meant that I had to mix it up a little bit. Of course my family and friends offered to help any time, but I was hesitant to take them up on it because I didn't want to ask too much. Running a business alone means you need an extra set of hands, eyes and ears sometimes. After I experienced the "seriously stretched too thin" moment, I finally got a little more comfortable asking for and accepting help when I needed it (although I'm still working in it!)
3. Trial and error, rinse, repeat.
Nothing will ever be the final product. I have already had 3 types of rack card brochures, two major website edits (as of tomorrow) and countless different marketing "catch phrases". The more I try out the more I find what does and does not work. Going back to lesson 1: ask for feedback! There were things I thought would *wow* everyone but sometimes didn't and something very simple would get a bigger reaction. You don't know until you try! One major change I already made was with my client intake. I started out my business with a service contract but then found it was more appealing to be a no-contract service in majority of cases. Now I only require a contract for repeat, long term clients.
4. You can't please everyone.
This one seems obvious but it applies in so many more ways than I ever thought. Not every client will be the right fit for your business and, as hard as it is to turn down business, I quickly learned that it is okay to say no and refer elsewhere. Not everyone will agree with where you choose to put your marketing efforts, or what your fliers say, or what services you offer -- and they will tell you so -- but I learned to trust my decisions and learned the politest smile/nod combo for those situations. There will be many more of these and it is hard not to take it personally some days because I am the business. However, I have learned and continue to learn that everyone had their opinion and I can filter what is constructive criticism to use and what to let slide.
Tomorrow is my final blog for the week and the last time I will be getting personal (for now). I'll be doing a "Friday Introduction", one of the blog trends of small business owners, where I give some fun facts about myself outside of the business.