So. You’ve been thinking about starting your own business for a while now. You’re taking it seriously, and you’ve done some work scoping out what your business is going to look like, who your customers will be and what you will do for them. It’s a very exciting and nail-biting time just before you launch.
I’ve noticed a few things working with small business owners for seventeen years, and being a business owner for the last seven. These are my tid-bits of advice to give you an idea of what will change when you become a business owner.
If you want to be a business owner, here are some things you’ll need to get your head around, and fast…
1. You need to get comfortable with complete, not perfect
When you’re working for someone else you (probably) have guidelines, policies, procedures and someone to review what you’re working on before it goes live, or is shown to the outside world. You may not have even realised what a comfort it was to be able to collaborate to get things just right before you called them complete.
Something you’ll need to get comfortable with is that you need to value complete over perfect. As a business owner there are just so many things to be working on, especially in the first few years. And you won’t get everything right. You’ll send proposals with typos, send an EDM too early, you’ll send out a price list with last years prices on it. And it will be ok. Your customers and audience will be ok with the fact that you’re a real-life human being. If you make a mistake, own it. And own it quickly. Find the best way to communicate your errors and move on to the next thing confidently.
2. Overnight Success is BS
I’ve worked with many founders who’ve had their businesses described as an overnight success. The commentators forget to mention that the “overnight success” the media likes to report on was a culmination of many years of hard graft. Successful businesses are made that way by business owners who take small, consistent, regular steps towards their goal. They do the hard tasks, the boring ones, they work weekends, have hard conversations and really get to know themselves. They continually innovate to reflect the needs of their customers or audience, and eventually it all clicks into place. If your idea is going to grow into something special, you’ll need to work at it consistently before it gets good.
3. Your Friends and Family won’t be your customers
If you’re starting a business thinking that your friends and family will be your customer base, you’re kidding yourself.
Most of them will really WANT to support you. Others won’t want to support you, for a variety of reasons – jealousy, wanting to keep the friendship separate, lack of understanding of your business or industry, etc. The best thing you can do is try not to take it personally and move on. You may even lose some friends when you start your business – you’ll have less time available and you’ll probably be more choosy about who you spend your time with.
When you’re telling your friends about your business idea they will tell you it’s awesome. And they really WANT it to be awesome. But most people aren’t comfortable having hard conversations with their mates, so they’ll turn into accidental yes people. Unless your friends and family know your industry or are in your target market, then what they think about your business doesn’t matter.
What your family and friends can do to support you is just to be there. Sometimes you’ll be too busy to hang out, sometimes you’ll be broke, and sometimes you’ll be feeling ecstatic about something that you achieved and you’ll need someone to celebrate it with you. Having a great support network makes a huge difference to an entrepreneur, but that support may not be in the form of a becoming your customer.
4. There will be risk
If you’re not comfortable with risk then don’t start a business. And if you’re not comfortable with the unknown, don’t start a business. Pretty much everything about starting a business is unknown. Until it’s not. Then there’ll be some new unknown to work through. It’s pretty much a never ending cycle of learning new things and overcoming challenges.
It’s ok to be shitting yourself.
You should be nervous. Especially if you have a family to contribute to or a mortgage to feed. A good dose of nerves is essential if you’re going to start your own thing. Expect to be uncomfortable and then you won’t be suprised.
5. Starting a business will probably mess with your mental health
I’ve worked with hundreds of business owners and met hundreds of others. Something that comes up suprisingly often is mental health. Starting a business is exhilarating, scary, exciting and ballsy, because it will take you so far out of your comfort zone. Becoming an entrepreneur will mean you need to get to know yourself, really know yourself. You’ll experience rejection, loss of confidence, confidence boosts, success!, frustration, boredom, confusion, elation and more. The way you react in each of these situations will be new to you, and something to learn from.
My mental health has definitely suffered since launching Peach seven years ago. I’m in a good place now, and I’ve learned what works for me and how to stop my mental health issues before they arise. And many of my clients and collaborators tell me the same thing. Being in business is tough, and you need to have a plan to manage your mental health from the outset.
I believe that nothing will impact your business more than your mental health.
Your state of mind dictates so many parts of your business, the way you make decisions and the way you present yourself. Being mentally well is really important for entrepreneurs (and everyone else), and it’s something you should spend time, energy and resources managing.
If starting a business still sounds like what you want to spend your time doing, great! We have lots of tips and tricks on this blog, and you can connect with us and other small business owners on our facebook page. Feel free to post questions there and we’ll do our best to answer them quickly. If you’re looking for more support, you might like to consider a mentoring session with us. It’s at least an hour where you get to ask anything at all about starting your business. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more :)