Those who know me know that I tend to be real. I know this about me. I tend to tell it like it is and sometimes that is brash. I appreciate others that are this way too because for me those are people you can trust. They don’t sugar coat things, they don’t lie or create a fake persona. They just are who they are. This blog post is just that – real. Running your own business is a struggle and that struggle is real. There are so many things that come up in business that no one ever tells you about or prepares you for before they happen. I feel that I had a good idea what I was getting into when I started my own business. That’s why my first thought was to run and go do something else, anything but run my own business. I knew it was hard, long hours, a lot of dedication. Growing up I watched my father run his own farm. He worked extremely long hours, seven days a week. He struggled. He got frustrated but he loved it. He had a passion for what he was doing so much so that at 73 he is still very active. Watching him and my mother I learned what sacrifice was. I learned what it was to work hard for something you wanted. At 45 I have discovered that I have that same passion for running my business. I love it. I am doing exactly what I want to do and I am living the dream. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle.
I’ve learned quite a few things since starting my own business. I share them in the hopes that they help someone who is just getting started or maybe you are one of those seasoned pros but you are feeling frustrated.
1) Know your worth. Early on I priced my services way too low. I think this is an issue for all entrepreneurs as I see it all the time. I was too busy looking at what “the market” would bear and not looking at the fact that I have 20+ years of very unique experience coupled with a masters degree. I was pricing myself as a beginner not the seasoned professional that I am. I have since learned to price for the value I bring. I no longer have a problem walking away from a prospective client that wants to bicker over price. There will always be people who think you charge too much even if your services are way under priced for the market. The best thing you can do for yourself is to know your worth and walk away from a client that doesn’t understand it. You will have far greater issues with those types of clients than just price and you won’t feel comfortable to do your best work. Work is a relationship and it is important for everyone to feel valued in that relationship.
2) Surround yourself with people who make you stretch and grow. These won’t always be people that you agree with or even like sometimes. Those that make us grow are the ones that push us, stretch us or challenge our way of thinking. I don’t mean people who are bent on beating you down or being negative. You know the people I am talking about. We all have that friend who looks at things so different from us. They love us and support us but they are always challenging the way we view things or how we think about things. They will tell us when we are wrong. They push us to do things outside of the comfortable spot we are in at the time. They cheer us on when we do the hard, scary stuff. Find those people. They will be instrumental in making you think different and do different things. In thinking different and doing different things that make us uncomfortable, we grow. There is no growth when you are comfortable and secure. Growth only happens when we are uncomfortable. So get used to being uncomfortable. Do things even if you are afraid. Remember, courage is not the absence of fear.
3) Don’t be afraid to get to know yourself very well. Running a business you will find brings all your strengths and weaknesses front and center. You quickly find out what you are really good at doing and those things that are weaknesses. Don’t focus so much on the weaknesses. If it is something that you can hire someone else to do then hire them. Focus on your strengths and build on that. Get to know you. My favorite saying is, I’m going to just do me as it is what I am good at. Even though I seek to stretch and grow daily, I don’t forget who I am and what I believe in. I simply do me in everything. What does that mean? For me, it means I bring my personality to everything I do, my values, who I am and what I believe in and fight for at the end of the day. My passion, my purpose. I don’t focus on what the competition is doing. I just do me. If something doesn’t align with my values and where I want to take my company then I don’t do it. If I am doing something I should have never started then I stop and turn around. Mistakes help you grow and figure out exactly where your passion and purpose lies.
4) Comparison is the thief of joy. I know you have heard it many times in life but comparison really is the thief of joy in all things, including business. Don’t focus on what your peers or competitors are doing. You don’t know what chapter they are on in their journey. You don’t know the struggles they have went through to get here. Just like on social media, we tend to only post the things that look pretty and make us look good. That doesn’t mean there is no struggle. We don’t see that part. Don’t compare your chapter 4 to someone else’s chapter 15. It will make you miserable. Let others be who they are and you just need to be you. I find the comparison trap sneaks up on you. Whenever you find your mind comparing yourself to someone else in a negative way, stop. The words we speak to ourselves are much more powerful than those of anyone else.
5) Never stop learning. Always seek to improve your skills. Find your niche and do whatever you can to be the best in that area. Find classes, read books, watch webinars, invest in a mastermind group or network with other professionals that do what you do and learn from them. In business, I find that you always must be learning if you want to keep growing and doing well. You hear experts talk about being able to “pivot” in business. The need to change direction quickly. The best way I have found to do that is to be an avid learner. You can always find new skills to learn and there is always someone who knows more than you. Learn from them. For me, I teach others because in teaching others I learn. If you want to be really good at something then teach it to someone else. It automatically makes you study it more, get better at it and find out the ins and outs. No one wants to look foolish to their “students”. I constantly am teaching other small business owners about their businesses and finances. It keeps me learning new ways of doing things, smarter ways of doing things. It keeps me sharp.
What are some things you have learned in running your business that are “a must”? Please share them here with us.