Starting A Business – Top 5 Things I’ve Learned
1. Find a mentor to advise and encourage you.
I’ve had two mentors as I walked through starting up my own business. The first mentor was my friend Dave who is also Empowered’s graphic designer. In the early days, as I fumbled through learning different processes, he was able to encourage and advise me in different areas that kept me on track. We walked through my first website build together, and through trial and error we figured it out. I’m not sure how well I would have done by myself.
The second mentor I had actually came in the form of a website designer whose business model looked similar to what I was dreaming up for Empowered. I actually reached out to him through LinkedIn, but never heard back. In the meantime, the business had grown to the point where I needed great infrastructure, so I purchased a few courses from him. Even though I wasn’t directly mentored in person, the advise and education from those courses helped me to remain encouraged and helped me to build my infrastructure.
2. Having the right business infrastructure is crucial for success.
Two tools have revolutionized my business: 17hats and Basecamp. Before I talk about them, though, you have to realize that if your business is successful you are going to outgrow your initial infrastructure. If you’re like me, that meant I was trying to build a business and build websites simultaneously.
That led to a lot of conflict for me, so I decided to take a brief hiatus this past summer and strictly work on my companies infrastructre. This pause in working in the business felt a little discouraging, but once I rebooted everything, I realized that I did the right thing. Don’t be afraid to stop and build out your infrastructure. Your clients or customers will reap the benefits from doing that, and so will you.
Now, 17hats and Basecamp. These two tools are amazing. 17hats literally allows you to set up systems so 17 different things are happening in an automated fashion. When you are a small business owner it’s important to set up systems like this so if you have dual roles you can accomplish many tasks in less time. In the long run, if your business continues to grow you may need the help of actual people to fulfill these roles, but this is a simple and low cost way to run a small business with low overhead.
3. Surround yourself with a support system.
Business can be grueling. There are highs and lows. There are failures and successes. When you experience all of those things, it’s important to have a support system. For me, this is my wife and children. They also happen to be a major motivation for success.
When you ride the highs and lows of business it is really important to have people who love you and care about you. Who can encourage you and build you back up? Sometimes if you try one more time, you’ll get things rolling in the right direction. Either way, find people who are FOR you, and your success and allow them to hold you up when things are down.
Finally, you want to be able to have peoople to CELEBRATE milestones and victories with. Nothing has been sweeter than celebrating small victories with my family. They see the hard work, they see the sacrifice, and they deserve to see the victories.
4. Do the right thing everytime.
We have two core values at Empowered: honor and partnership. (check out our philosophy on the home page) You won’t have a business meeting with me without hearing those two words. We want that to be how people feel when they are doing business with us. Sometimes that means we take a loss.
Early on, I was sitting down with a client and I made the mistake of being SO amped about the potential of signing them, that I mispoke a price for a service. I knew immediately that I did it, but I had to own my mistake. It seems fundamental to say, “of course you should have owned that,” but lets me honest, that’s not how all businesses work.
Ultimately, I signed the client and to this day they are only being charged for what I quoted them. I learned a valuable lesson about patience and having the right mindset during a client meeting. And I’ve earned trust with the client because I’ve kept my word. We could use more businesses where slight of hand isn’t present.
5. Understand the balance that works best for you.
Sacrifice is inevitably a part of starting a business. Sometimes that means taking your work with you on vacation, finding a service in an area with no service to make sure a client is happy, and the list goes on. The big thing is that balance looks different for everybody. The world tries to push what the “ideal” balance looks like for people. But we typically know best.
For me, it starts with communication and understanding expectations from my family. If I communicate well, and there is an understanding and agreement we are typically really good.