3. Money… Money… erm… Money?
An obvious one. You start a small business, you are unlikely to make money (at least not reliably) in the first few years. Anyone who has done a bit of research into starting a small business has undoubtedly learned this. I have very little disposable income these days and yes it’s par for the course but it’s not an easy thing to adjust to.
It’s so easy to get bogged down in the money. To let every decision you make centre around your bank balance and the overwhelming anxiety associated with not bringing in a reliable salary. But this is exactly when you need to remember why you started this journey. Yes, for some of us money is a big driver, but for most of us, it’s the work itself what makes it worthwhile. The chance to make a difference. There will be sacrifices, especially at first but you knew there would be. Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a step back, give yourself a break and go for a cuppa at a friend’s house instead of splashing out on lunches.
4. Find other start-up business owners to spend time with.
I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Networking is so valuable, not simply for contacts and leads which end up in purchases but also for finding a group of people who are actually going through what you’re going through. Make the effort to get to know more people in your industry, in similar industries and in completely different industries. It will be one of the best things you do. Particularly if your work means working alone a lot of the time.
I have an incredible support network of people who have now become good friends. It’s so helpful to find people who really understand the highs and lows, the need to celebrate the tiny victories and grieve over seemingly insignificant losses. People who know what it’s like to be a photographer/science communicator/wood worker/wedding cake baker/singer/jewellery maker but are now having to learn to be an accountant, marketing manager, health & safety officer, social media manager, web designer and more all at the same time.
These people are my business family. The ones I can turn to and know that they get it. The ones I can get help from when moments of self doubt come at me like a freight train and during the times I’m on the “I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-I’m-kidding-myself!” ledge and need talked down. They inspire me, remind me how far I’ve come and how to take the next step to keep moving forward. I do the same for them when they need me.
It makes a huge difference. HUGE.
5. Customers are everything, but they are not everyone.
Your customers come first. I read somewhere that “your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card and how you leave others feeling after they have an experience with you becomes your trademark” (Jay Danzie). I couldn’t agree more. You are the only person who represents your business. Every single interaction is important. The impression you make on your customers is vital for your survival.
All this is true. But there’s one key thing to remember. Not everyone is your customer. In fact, very few small businesses have a target clientele that spans across the majority of the general population. It’s highly unlikely that yours does.
Don’t try to impress everyone. You don’t need to. Don’t try to do things that aren’t part of your business strategy unless it makes sense for you and moves your business forward. Be flexible and open to ideas, new customers or ways to progress and evolve, but don’t stress over everyone and everything.