I’m one of the proud leaders of this amazing gathering place for entrepreneurs. But before this, a few years back, I was deep in the trenches of self-employment, just like you. In 2005, after hearing my pregnant friends complain about their impossible-to-swallow prenatal vitamins, I co-founded NutraBella, Inc. My business partner and I were determined to give women more palatable vitamin options, so we created the Bellybar.
I quickly realised that although I’d gone to business school and earned my MBA, I had a whole lot to learn about building, running and growing a business. My hard-earned degree had only partially prepared me for the complicated, non-stop, often overwhelming challenge of working for myself. Back then, I longed for an “instruction manual,” a curated list of things I needed to know right away to succeed as a small business owner.
Of course, there’s no single, right way to run a business, so no such manual exists. (If it did, everyone would be working for themselves!) However, I’ve come up with six key tips to help make your entrepreneurial journey smoother. I learned all these lessons over time, sometimes as a result of a decision I probably shouldn’t have made. But in the spirit of this generous, supportive QB Community, I’m excited to share what I’ve learned to help you, as you create the business of your dreams.
1. Follow your passion, no matter what. Like me, you probably decided to build your business around something you’re passionate about. Problem is, sustaining that passion for the long haul, especially in the face of ongoing challenges and obstacles, can be hard.
Fuel your commitment daily by reminding yourself why you started your business in the first place. Stay focused on your passion – often, it’s your burning desire to solve a problem or a need you’ve identified. If your first solution doesn’t work, don’t worry. Reconnect with your passion for solving the problem and keep searching for a better answer.
2. Create a rock-solid business plan. Running a business is an art and a science. The art is your passion. The science is your business model. It may seem obvious, but you need to understand your business plan better than anyone else! No detail is too minor, especially when it comes to understanding the finances. Knowing your “money-in, money-out” situation is critical to business success. Bottom line: Understand how your business is doing at every moment, in real-time, so you can make smart, informed decisions.
3. Communicate with partners. A business partner who complements your expertise and skill-set can be like rocket-fuel to your business growth. If you decide to join forces with someone, be prepared to nurture the relationship like you would a marriage, with clear, open communication about values and expectations. Want to take things one step further? Get ahead of potential pitfalls or misunderstandings by saying “yup” to a business “prenup.”
4. Hire smart. As a small business owner, you know you can do just about anything – but you can’t do everything! The sooner you recognise your areas of weakness (or, sometimes, your lack of interest), the faster you can find someone who truly loves doing your least favourite task (payroll, anyone?). But don’t rush to hire – you’ll be glad you took the time to find the right person for the job. Things aren’t working out? Fire quickly, and move on.
5. Protect yourself from the unexpected. In a small business, as in life, things happen that you just can’t control. If you can anticipate roadblocks, you’ll be better prepared to navigate around them. For example, set up systems and processes that allow you to step away from your business if you need to (think flu, sick kids or a much-needed vacation!) without everything falling apart. Remember, your business health is directly related to your own health, so take steps to ensure you can take care of yourself, too.
6. Work for yourself, not by yourself! As a small business owner, it can be lonely making all of the decisions. Everyone knows starting a business is challenging (and awesome!), and many people will be happy to support you any way they can. I hope you won’t ever hesitate to ask for help.
Throughout my business journey, my most valuable resources were other entrepreneurs. Find like-minded people (yes, there are plenty in this community!) who know what you’re going through. Maybe they’re a few years ahead of you. Maybe they’re just starting out. It doesn’t matter. Being part of a smart, supportive small-business network will help you when you need information, inspiration or just a word of encouragement.
Trust me. It really does make all the difference.
Before you go
QB Community members, what’s something you know now as a business owner you sure wish you’d known when you were starting out? Please share what you’ve learned in the comments below!
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"Work for yourself, not by yourself" is spot on! There's real power in knowing what you don't know and building the right support network to fill in the gaps. Ask around, find friends of friends with needed skillsets and take them out for coffee. Post your questions on QB Community! There are plenty of opportunities for new learning, and you never know where they might lead you on your small business journey.
I completely agree with this = "the art is your passion. The science is your business model". If an individual is not passionate about what they do, it can speak volumes. When someone isn't passionate, you can see it. I have always ensured I have stayed passionate about my work, this has made my readers excited about my services!
There are two things I wish I had known when I was first starting out as a business owner - organising is KEY and being yourself is the greatest asset. Being yourself adds personal value to your work and being organised allows you to focus on the creative aspects of your role (the fun part!). However, I am always learning new things!
@carlsorace Carl, because you said that you were a new business in the U.K, I thought you would appreciate this post! What do you wish you had known when you first started out in the business world?
I saw that you customise your invoices so they reflect your business/brand - that's really cool and a great way of making them stand out. Also, have you always had your own business and do you have any tips to share for newbies? I would love to know in the comments below!
I loved this post from Leslie on the six things she wishes she had known when starting out in the business world.
Is there one thing you wish you had known before you started out @Karsty? or do you feel like you are continuously learning?