3 lessons from 3 years in business
Today is my third birthday… well, my business’ birthday.
Rather than share tips about copywriting or marketing, I thought I’d leave you with something different today. Here are the top three things I’ve learned about being in business over the last three years.
I hope they are useful for you, or at the very least chime with your own experience...
1) Network (noun and verb)
Network, network, network, network, network, network. NETWORK.
Nothing is more powerful than a human connection.
Forget the Facebook business groups. Forget posting witty industry insight on LinkedIn. If you’re not also building connections with people, if you’re not forging relationships offline, business is probably going to be pretty challenging. A varied network full of good people is like having the team you didn’t know you needed.
A network of people around gives you:
a sounding board for new ideas
your own set of professional cheerleaders
a listening ear that just gets it when you need to talk through a problem
much, much more
Of course, networking often does bring introductions, referrals and – frankly – sales. Though I would urge you not to network with any of these goals top of mind. There’s nothing worse than having a conversation with someone and feeling their eyes and ears scanning you and what you’re saying for a clue that you want to buy what they want to flog.
Be a courteous networker; ask people about their work, their challenges, how they got into doing what they do… be a human! If you do that, you’re much more likely to find that you create the network described above. And that, from what I’ve learned, is valuable in its own right.
2) Discomfort is an everyday occurrence
Being in business is full of challenges. It’s more challenging than anything I ever did as an employee. Those challenges crop up on a more regular basis than when I was employed, and the stakes are about a thousand times higher. Well, maybe not a thousand times, although it feels that way sometimes!
Whatever it is that you find challenging about work, when you work for yourself, you’ll have to confront it sooner or later.
Some of the things I’ve found challenging have been:
calling people (what? You mean people still use the phone to…phone?!)
knowing when to follow up with a prospect
knowing when to speak up
knowing when to shut up (!)
walking into a room full of strangers
balancing my working life with the rest of my life…
Everybody’s list is different. Mine changes day by day. The most important thing, is to know what you find tough and figure out a way to make it less scary. As a business owner, you can’t not deal with discomfort. Be open to different possibilities, experiment, and find what works for you.
Because when you do, and you find a way to deal with a challenge that’s been haunting you?
It feels amazing.
3) Consistency, in all things
Consistency is key.
Of course, consistently producing consistently great work is important. How else will you delight and inspire your clients?
It goes further than that. You need to be consistent in all areas of your business. What I’m not saying, is that you need to be perfect.
Nobody is perfect.
Consistency is about showing up come rain or shine. Whether that’s in your…
keeping in contact with prospects, clients, collaborators, partners and suppliers
your approach to client service…
…the list could go on!
Like I said, nobody is perfect in any of these areas. And if they tell you they are? I’d say don’t trust them! The people who get the most from business, from what I’ve witnessed, are those people who are consistent with their business.
At the very beginning of my journey, circumstances meant I had to dial the attention I was giving my business way down. While this needed to happen, the aftermath of those few months taught me the consistency lesson, and they taught me it fast. What definitely wasn’t fast, was the time it took to re-establish that consistency. I had to start all over again. I felt the ripple effect of my inconsistent networking, marketing, and prospecting for months afterwards. From sales to handling your accounts, establish a way of working that suits you and your business and stick with it.
Self-employment: learn something new every day
To use a hackneyed expression, every day is a school day. Despite the cliché, there’s plenty of truth in that statement.
The best thing I’ve learned over the last three years, is that working for yourself provides an abundance of learning opportunities. Not only about your chosen industry. Self-employment often teaches you things you didn’t know about yourself. There’s scope to learn about other industries, ideas and new ways of thinking. For anyone who loves to learn, self-employment truly does deliver an embarrassment of riches.
I’d love to know what have you learnt about being in business? How long have you been going and if you had to distil your three top lessons, what would they be?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org let me know.