September 2013

By: Jennifer Havice

The decision to start up a business is a lot like the one to bring home a puppy. Even if you’ve put a whole lot of thought into it, planned for every possible eventuality, chances are you’re going to have a lot of sleepless nights at the beginning.

Fledgling businesses, like puppies, take a lot of work. Take your eyes off of them for a minute and suddenly you’ve got a mess on your hands that no one else wants to clean up.

I should know. I’ve raised several puppies so far and more than one small business.

Each time, I have to remind myself of all the things I wish I had known the first go around.

You need more patience than you thought possible

Patience is a virtue and highly underrated. Gaining traction in a business takes time. Lots of time. Each time I get frustrated thinking my business has not achieved enough, I force myself to stop and reflect on everything that’s been accomplished so far.

Facebook, Twitter and all those shiny gadgets we spend time on have programmed us for instant gratification. Success with a small business rarely happens immediately even when we think it should.

Not everyone is hitting it out of the park (even though it might feel like it)

Take a stroll through social media land and you’d think that nearly everyone is on the brink of climbing Mt. Everest or winning a Nobel Prize. We all want to put our best foot forward and share our accomplishments. This goes the same for businesses.

The reality is closer to a paler shade of success. Chances are the neighbor can barely scale the climbing wall at the gym and your nearest competitor just managed to make rent this month. It’s time to stop comparing yourself to everyone else.

Outsource More

Outsource. I quickly realized that spending inordinate amounts of time on things that I had no interest in doing and clearly did not have the skills for was hurting my business and frustrating me to no end.

Sometimes it makes sense to spend money for services you can accomplish yourself, especially when that activity will take you three times as long. Trying to slog through activities not in your wheelhouse takes you away from working with clients and growing your business.

Make sure you’re offering what people want

It’s so tempting when you get started to think more about what you want to provide than what people actually want. The problem is that there may be a disconnect between the two.

I’ve found that I’ve had to modify my services from time to time to keep pace with what my clients need. Doing research and being open to feedback can be the difference between getting ahead and falling behind.

Don’t be afraid to lose a client

This has been the toughest lesson to learn. Getting started, I didn’t want to turn anything away. The problem is that when you don’t define your niche well enough, the business coming in may not be commensurate with your skill set or temperament.

I quickly realized it’s not enough to know what you want to be doing, you must clearly articulate it to your clients and potential clients. This may mean that you turn off or turn away some people, but that’s okay. If it’s not a good match, chances are no one will be happy no matter how hard you try.

It’s not easy, but…

Running a small business is tough, scary and more than a little frustrating at times, but if you can stick with it, the rewards more than make up for the strain. The same goes for puppies. Except with a small business, you never have to worry about it chewing up a couch cushion or that cute new pair of heels.

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