Reaching seven years in business is a massive milestone given the alarming business failures stats. I have done it and gone onto bigger and better things. These are my survival lessons for running your own business, writes Angela Henderson.
With the survival rate of micro businesses teetering around 60%, making it to the seventh year and beyond juggling a full-time job, two children, a husband and depression is a big achievement.
As a woman in business, there are a few complications (children, household responsibilities and self-care) that came my way, but I weathered it and today work with other incredible people in business helping them navigate their way to ongoing success.
One of the biggest challenges I see small businesses have is lack of business nous. So many leave the corporate life, surrounded by a team to support them, to going out on their own and they don’t know what they don’t know. In corporate life you did not have to know everything, you could delegate, redirect and outsource because the budget allowed that.
Entrepreneurship is different. Way, way, way different.
You go into business with a great idea; a solution to a problem that you have the skills to solve. That is the easy bit. It is all the other things you must make work in business that ensures your growth and profitability. Such as administrative skills, systems and processes, customer service, finance, bookkeeping, web development, social media, marketing … You might tick some of the boxes but chances are not all. The thing is even if you do tick all the boxes, who really can do all of the things you need to do in business well all THE TIME?
Quite often, when you start a small business, you begin with little capital (like me) so being able to engage a team to help with all the business management side is not possible.
So, begins the frenzy of business growth. The long hours trying to get everything done. Family and friends looking at you like you are crazy because you should just go get a job (after all, it is more secure). Losing clients because you are trying to be everything in your business means something must give. Worrying about how you will pay rent because you have no time to market. Getting sick because you are burning the candles at both ends. Goodness … I am tired just thinking about it. Feeling like a loser because you cannot do everything.
Something must give. At about the 18-month mark, that something is YOU. So how do you stay sane during this time … this very crucially important time. The first couple of years is what decides your business longevity. How you cope and the lessons you learn.
This is what I learnt running my own business and helping others set theirs up
STOP – sometimes you have to stop and rest. While the urge to push through to meet a deadline is strong, it will ultimately crush you; something will give – your health, relationship, your mind. Take some time to do something for you – go for a walk, catch up with a friend, take off your shoes and go stand on the grass.
ASK – for help. Ok, you may not be able to afford to pay someone so look for someone in the same boat as you and swap skills. Exchange skills. Collaborate.
NETWORK – you have to leave your office otherwise you will go crackers with only yourself to talk to (that is called insanity). Networking is one of the best PR and marketing activities you can do. It helps promote your product or service.
PLAN – get the basics in place. Yes, it may mean it takes a little longer to get going but in the long run it means things will flow more smoothly. Look at your marketing – what type of website you need, who your target audience is, your mindset, developing systems and processes, and nailing your branding.
MISTAKES – oh my … I’ve made a few. Have you? I bet you have. Not returned phones calls, missed a deadline, forgot to do something because you are juggling 15 things. Mistakes are opportunities to do better next time. Oh, and it only becomes a problem if you keep making the same ones.
SELF-CARE – Make time for yourself – your physical and mental health. As women, we tend to put everyone else first. So even after working for 10-12 hours to get a job done, we leave our little bedroom office to make dinner, drive kids to sport, do the grocery shopping, get the washing in … I am not saying men do not do these things but in my experience (and according to many studies), women do the bulk of domestic chores. Take some time for you … even 60 minutes a day to read a book, take a walk, ring a friend or watch an episode of The Voice.
Do you have any lessons you have learnt from running your own business?
Angela Henderson is a small business consultant, author, entrepreneur, blogger, mental health clinician (15+ years’ experience with a master of social work degree) and mother. She helps small business owners navigate the challenges of building a successful business while maintaining a life.