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Productivity / Professional development

6 things I’ve learned from 6 years in (this) business

I recently celebrated my 6th Biz Birthday. It’s a funny number – not one that we think of as being substantial or anything special, but to me it's meaningful.

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I recently celebrated my 6th Biz Birthday. It’s a funny number – not one that we think of as being substantial or anything special, but unlike previous years, it was one that felt worthy of a mention.

Starting a business is a pretty tough gig at the best of times, but I kicked off this one with a mix of desperation and determination, following the closure of my first business a couple of months’ earlier. Personally, I don’t recommend starting a biz with no money, when your self-confidence has been shattered by failure. But I am living proof that it is possible, and that no matter where you’re coming from, running a small business can be an extraordinary, life-changing experience. 

Here’s some of what I’ve learned…

Success is what YOU define it to be

There is so much noise out there telling you what business success looks like – million dollar business models, 6-figure launches, 60 hour working weeks, hustle, hustle, hustle… 

This doesn’t have to be your truth. For me, success means that I can care for my family, home, community and personal wellbeing in a way that fits with my values and life goals, while doing great work with people I enjoy working with and who value what I do. I’ve loved being able to slow my life right down after the craziness of a corporate career, even if that has had meant living with a bit less money coming in (and we won’t talk about the financial losses from the first biz!)

What’s important to remember is that your ideas about success aren’t set in stone. Like everything else in life, you’ll go through stages – times when your business is only one of the many moving parts in your life, and times when you feel you need to grow or stretch yourself. Earlier this year I realised that the reason I felt out of sorts and a bit lost in my business, was because I had actually achieved the dream I set 6 years ago. It was time to explore, dream some new dreams and redefine success for myself again. (I’m still working all this out… watch this space!)

Whatever you do, don’t let others tell you what YOUR success should be!

Get your basics right

Your business needs to align your passions, skills, knowledge and experience in such a way that you SOLVE PROBLEMS for others who VALUE what you offer enough to pay you what your products, services or ideas are worth. 

As a marketing mentor, I see so many small business owners get disheartened (including myself with my first biz) because they are promoting their “thing” with all their hearts, when the real problem lies with these basics. Maybe they’re not crystal clear on who their target market is, maybe what they’re doing isn’t something that needs a solution, maybe their pricing is not quite right, maybe their offer requires a little tweaking. 

Choose your WHO, know your WHY, provide SOLUTIONS, honour your VALUE, and the rest will follow. 

Trust breeds trust

Working in a service business is all about relationships, and as you would know from your other significant adult relationships (e.g. marriage, friendships), trust is the foundation on which solid relationships are built. 

For me, this means making it as easy to deal with me as possible. Yes, I set boundaries and ensure that my trading terms are clearly outlined from the outset. Yes, I take a deposit on major projects. Yes, I follow up overdue invoices promptly.

But I have not attracted so many wonderful clients who are a sheer delight to work with, who value my skills and pay on time (!) by second-guessing their motives and insisting on burdensome contracts or strict conditions.

Sure, you might get burnt, but you know what… you probably won’t. 

Listen to your heart as well as your head

Like many small business owners, I’m a thinker… I like to solve problems and use my brain to analyse and sort through solutions. But over the years I’ve learned to trust my instincts more, because it’s been my heart that has held the best answers.

Many of us have learned to value logic over our feelings to make decisions. That might make the most money (or not), but profitability is probably not the only reason you’ve chosen to run your own business. Most of us are also doing this to bring more enjoyment, freedom and meaning to our lives. Those are only going to come from the heart. 

So take some time out every day to tune into what your heart has to say. A quiet walk in nature, meditation, time out with a cuppa. It will help you love your business a lot more.

You are not alone. So don’t spend all your time on your own

Isolation is bad for business and it’s bad for you. Yes, I know you think you’re more productive without distractions, you can do everything you need to do online, and who’s got the time and budget for endless networking events anyway? 

I really believe that small businesses can help save the world. I mean what’s not to love about being available for your family when they need you, lower environmental impact from not commuting, and helping others by doing great work that you’re passionate about?  

To me the missing puzzle piece is community. 

I’ve learned that the more we work together and support each other, the more likely it is that we will create the change we seek. Community co-working, in-real-life mastermind groups, the occasional coffee with your clients and colleagues… these make something good even better!

Take time to pause, be grateful and celebrate!

Taking time out to STOP and reconnect with your WHY, and CELEBRATE your achievements allows you to reset. Having a Vision and Goals are important, but without this pause, it can often feel like we’re not truly successful, due to our constantly shifting goal posts. It’s also really important to check in that we are still working towards our bigger dreams rather than chasing the latest “bright shiny object” that can steer us off our true path.

Practising gratitude allows us to experience more joy in our business. Sure, we might not be “there” yet, but we still have so much to be thankful for. 

We are not doing the ordinary – we have chosen to get off the treadmill of “normal life” and carve out our own destiny.

Now that deserves celebration!

Cath Connell

is passionate about helping micro and small business owners take a more 'wholehearted' approach, and build a successful business WITHIN a life. She is the founder of Wholehearted Marketing, a boutique marketing consultancy providing 1:1 consulting and mentoring, training workshops, practical resources and hands-on support. Connect with her on Instagram.

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