For Business Owners and Business Starters

I want to share with you what I’ve learnt over that past few years in hopes that maybe you can take something valuable from this and apply it to your own business. If you don’t already have a business and are thinking of starting one this is a must-read.

Truth is, there is no right or wrong way to start and run a business. Some people will spend months researching and writing up plans and consulting everyone from their family and friends to experienced professionals in their industry. But I can tell you that I know plenty of people who have started and are running successful businesses that didn’t exactly take the traditional route, including my parents and myself.

Being self-employed is one of the most rewarding things in the world; there’s no one breathing down your neck, no set working schedule and limitless opportunity for growth. That being said, for those exact same reasons there is a greater chance for failure. People have the misconception that owning your own business is glamorous; let me tell you from personal experience, there is nothing glamorous about being self-employed. I don’t want to scare you off or make you think that the perks aren’t worth the stress and uncertainty, I just want to shed some light on the facts that most people overlook because they’re too excited or wrapped up in getting something up and running.

For starters, the fact that there isn’t anyone breathing down your neck makes your job way more difficult. You have to create your own projects, set your own deadlines and keep yourself accountable. It may sound easy, but it’s not. As far as being flexible goes, in the beginning (first 3 years) you will probably be putting in more hours than you would if you had a job and you will most likely be working everyday. Sure, you can take off a weekend whenever you want but you will have to make up for the lost time. Something to keep in mind is that majority of start-ups consist of one person doing all the work; you are the secretary, accountant, marketer, VP, CEO and the one who cleans up the mess at the end of the day. Having to be everything all at once can be daunting, if you don’t divide up your time accordingly you will be overwhelmed with tasks and chaos will eventually ensue.

Let’s talk about opportunities. Well, there are plenty out there but unless you’re starting out with reasonable capital you’ve got to get creative. Marketing is not cheap and it’s not easy, remember there are plenty of other people out there trying to reach the same customer base as you and they might be offering the same product/service at a better price with more years in the business. It’s a competitive world out there for entrepreneurs, regardless of what industry you’re in. You can’t plant a seed, send an email, make a phone call and expect a plethora of clients and cash to come rolling in, it doesn’t work like that. It might be months before you see the ROI on that email/call and you can’t sit around waiting for results; you have to plant seeds continuously, water them consistently and start reaping the benefits of your hard work as it slowly but surely comes along. I want to make it very clear that there is no magic button or formula for success, slow and steady wins the race and believe me when I say sometimes it’s very, very slow.

If you’re lucky and have put your eggs in the right baskets most of your clients and business partnerships will be great. But sometimes you will have to deal with a client that will make you wish you had never taken the leap of faith to start your own business. People can be demanding, rude and completely irrational but those instances should and will be rare. There will be months when you are busy, making a lot of money and don’t have a worry in the world; and then there will be other months where the phone doesn’t ring, the emails aren’t coming through and any clients you do have seem to be disappointing you in one way or another; this is where persistence and resilience are detrimental to your staying afloat. When the wave comes in you’ve got to be ready and strong and ride it until you come to shore (and then do it all over again); but when the water is calm and there doesn’t seem to be a hope (or client) in sight you have to stay positive, keep working and create new opportunities. Please note that I used the word ‘create’ rather than ‘find’.

When I started my business I didn’t have anyone telling me the harsh realities, I had to find that out on my own and I was usually completely unprepared for the lesson. What I have learnt though is invaluable, they don’t teach you this stuff in school. They teach you marketing and finance and many other fancy things but they don’t teach you how to pick up your emotions when they’ve been crushed and they don’t teach you to have faith when you can’t see anything clearly for miles ahead; these things you have to learn on your own. And the learning never ends, the stress and pressure isn’t alleviated, you just get better at dealing with it.

Starting something from nothing is not simple. There will be many moments of fear, doubt and unmet expectations; you will experience extreme joy, bitter defeat and everything in between. Anything worth having is worth working hard for, any path to success is going to meet with obstacles and adversity, but I’d only be telling you half the truth if I didn’t say that owning your own business is a very rewarding and exciting career path; there’s nothing like waking up in the morning and knowing that you’re going to spend the rest of your day working on something that started out as an idea and manifested itself into a company that is yours and on its way to immeasurable success.