10 Things I’ve Learnt from Owning a Business

Apr 04, 2015

What I've Learnt from Owning a Business - I'm not sure there's enough room in this blog post!

But seriously, shall we talk business? Owning a business is so exciting! I could talk for forever about business and all that I’ve learnt and experienced over time, but I’ll stop myself right now and get to the top 10 points...

Setting up a business is easy

Although quite a process, it’s very easy. You get yourself an ABN (Australian Business Number), name your amazing business idea, register it and get yourself a Facebook page (and eventually a website). To get started in business, all you need to do is follow the prescribed list of ‘to-do’ tasks and you’re on your way. It’s actually quite scary when you realise just how easy it is to get started.

Unfortunately, most people who start small businesses realise that once they’re finished getting everything set-up and the adrenalin dust finally settles, they have a lot of hard work to do. Fortunately, if your business was created from your passion, it will never feel like work. Making products and developing and testing services takes time to finesse and deciding how much to charge people is often a long-term game of trial and error. But before you charge anyone anything, you have to FIND those people and put your products and services right under their nose. This takes time, dedication and planning.

Starting a business is easy. But building a brand is a HUGE process.

What is a brand?

A brand is many things really...
It’s your business name.
It’s what distinguishes your business from every other similar business.
It’s your business’ reputation.
It’s the ethics behind your product or service.
It’s people’s PERSPECTIVE of your business (and boy will these vary).
It’s intangible – or as David Ogilvy says “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.”
It can be strong or it can be weak.
It’s a promise.
It’s quality.

Building a brand can take a while. It’s something that you have to build and earn over time. It has nothing to do with how much you sell, but rather the effect of those transactions and how you market it to the world. Are you thinking of buying an existing small business? The most valuable thing you’ll buy is the brand, not the physical items.

There are incredible highs

Oh yes, the highs come quickly and often. There are still days where after an hour in the office, processing bookings and speaking with clients that I walk away elated and passionate. I feel so proud of what I’ve achieved and where the direction of the business is going.

Here are my top 3 ‘big high’ moments across my businesses:

  • Wicked Waiters winning the Lismore Business Awards in 2012
  • Receiving my Tiffany & Co bracelet from my direct sales company
  • Being the #1 consultant in Australia through my direct sales company.

There are incredible lows

The reality is that sometimes, things suck. Being in business is not always glamorous, parties and fun times. There will be days when you’ll wonder what the heck you’re doing and why you’re doing it to yourself. There will be nothing booked in your diary for this month. Staff will stuff you around with a moment’s notice and there will be days where despite the overwhelming desire to stay in bed, you have to get up and front up. Such is life, but always KEEP MOVING FORWARD.

Networking is kind of important

Want to get that brand building fast? Network. And by network I mean, GET OUT AND TALK TO OTHERS IN BUSINESS. I am so fortunate to be part of several networking groups. One that meets face-to-face each month, with women from all walks of life from varying businesses; one that is specific to my industry; and other online networking communities with women in business from all around the world.
Networking can benefit your business in so many ways. Not only can it increase your business and referrals, but the personal development opportunities are endless and inspiring. Share what you know with others and let them teach you too. Apply what you’re learning and be open to new ideas.

Support each other, promote each other and respect each other – by doing these three things, you and your business will flourish. True shit.

Competitors are not enemies!

Oh boy did it take me a while to work this one out. They’re not... they’re really not! Back in my direct sales days, I would frown at anyone who did any other adult party plan other than mine. I thought they were out to steal my business and take potential clients away from me. Wrong.

In the early days of Wicked Waiters I met Bree, a fabulous gal who runs ‘FN Hot’ in Cairns. Same business, different town but over the years, we have worked together to produce some amazing ideas and share incredible insight into how we each run our businesses. How good is that?!?! More recently, I met a lady who owns a shirtless waiter business in Christchurch New Zealand and we too have been busy chatting.
Competitors serve three amazing purposes.

They keep you on your toes and up-to-date with your industry. They push you to always do better!

They are the best people to network with. Who else understands your industry better than them? What a great opportunity to explore new ideas and talk your business language?!?

You never know when you may need them. There is going to come a time when you’ll run out of stock, or not be available for your clients. There will be times when you may need to send your clients their way and therefore you want to ensure that your relationship with your competitors is positive so that they send clients back to you too.

Yep, this is a bit of light bulb moment hey? It will feel unnatural as your approach your competitors waving the “I come in peace” flag, but trust me, you will both be better off for it.

Everything is learnable

Being in business can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a small home-based business like me. Not only do I have to advertise, book and organise events - there are a shite-load of behind the scenes stuff that needs doing too such as, website maintenance, payroll, taxation, book keeping, rostering, employment, insurances, events, training, marketing, managing social media, advertising and heaps of other stuff too.

Do you think I knew how to do all of this before I started my business? HELL NO!!! Was it (and is it) overwhelming? HELL YES! But guess what? Everything is learnable.
Repeat => EVERYTHING. IS. LEARNABLE.

Ask for help. Take advice from people in your networking group. Go to seminars and courses. Don’t be scared to admit you need help. Practise, practise, practise. Everything that I can do now is because I committed to learning. Simple.

You’ll be loved AND hated

I’ll start by telling you a huge secret... you’ll never please everyone. Which is disappointing really, because i’m a chronic people pleaser. But it’s true. Some people will be like “oh wow, you own THAT business, that’s wonderful....” and others will whisper behind your back. Not because you’ve actually met them and done anything to upset them, but because you’re successful and do a freaking fabulous job. Some people fear success. Sad, but true.

Sometimes you’ll have people approach you and want to know all about your journey and story. Others will hide behind their computer screen and do quite the opposite. Some people will say that you didn’t deserve to win that award, whereas others will support and congratulate you. There will be times where you’ll have to make unfavourable decisions and you’ll cop a lot of crap; and there will be times when everyone thinks you’re fabulous. But at the end of the day, just know that love and hate is a delicate balance and the only thing that matters is YOU. Know what you’re doing and where you’re going on the path to great success in business.

There’s no such thing as a ‘week off’

Okay, well there is, but only if you pay someone else to take over. Otherwise you do what we do and that’s take the phone and all other communication on holidays with us. Having said that, effective planning, communication and organisation makes it easy to manage a week away with minimal business interruptions but there will always be something that will require your attention.

We choose our time away carefully and in-check with our bookings. We always try to go away only during quiet periods and always ensure that our staff know what we are doing and how best to contact us. We change our voicemail to let people know that we are having a short break, but are still checking and responding to enquiries every couple of days.

Switching off is just as important as being available in your business. When you switch off all technology and work-related tasks, your creativity kicks in. Inspiration grows and you can develop some wonderful new ideas and practises for your business. It also allows you to reset your mind and body and have a little self-care time.

An effective team = an effective business

I think the heading says it all. Having amazing staff is the back-bone to your business. If you’re a one-woman show, then of course you already have an amazing team! But for some businesses, having staff is essential and your business is a reflection of your staff. The more involved and passionate they are about your business and representing the brand, the better your business will be. Incentivise your team. Train them well and above all else, walk the talk yourself.

So there you have it... the top 10 things I've learnt from owning a business. I wish I had known some of these things before I started my businesses. Have your started your business journey yet? I warn you that once you start, you just can't stop!

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