What I wish I knew when I started my small business

by on September 29, 2013

This post is sponsored by Visa Business.

Oh, there are so many things I’ve learned since I started my small business just over three years ago. And yes, of course, a lot of it sure would have been nice to know. But that’s just not how the universe works. It’s easy in hindsight to pull the woulda, shoulda, coulda, but the journey is not something that you would ever want to give up on.

This isn’t a post of regret.

I’m so grateful for each and every thing that has cropped up while building my business. As long as you’re learning, you’re on the right track.

But I thought I’d share my own personal lessons – maybe these will help those of you that have just gotten started. Or even those of you that have been doing things for a while. We all have different experiences, and that’s why learning from each other and connecting with other small biz owners is so valuable!

So here are some of things that I’ve learned along the way…

Take advantage of the slow times (because you WILL get busy)
When you’re first starting out it’s hard to imagine things running at their peak and busy, busy. But you will get there. So do as much executing and business planning as possible when things are still a little slow. Market your business by writing plenty of blog posts (a god send when the crunch hits); do a bunch of networking and relationship building; look into accounting tools; learn how to develop productive systems etc. Of course, a lot of learning happens along the way and that’s a hugely important part of the process. You can’t have everything all zipped up and ready to rock, always. But you will thank yourself as you get busier if you do what you can to lay your foundation for running your business.

The right answers will come…
… always, and at the right time. I would often spaz out and decide, OK, I need to learn this now, or I have to get this figured out right this instant and then devote hours (yes, sometimes even days) to finding the right answers. I would often distract myself from what I actually should be doing or where I should be focusing my energy. I have found though that just by setting the intention that I want to find an answer to a particular problem or challenge, options and solutions will present themselves naturally. Sometimes they pop up in my Facebook feed, or in the latest post from one of my favourite bloggers. Things just have a way of working out!

No such thing as wasted time
Even when I’ve “wasted” time searching for answers, as I mentioned above, this was not in vain, as long as I learned something from it. Whenever I catch myself lamenting the time spent on a meeting that leads to nothing, or doing a bunch of research for a potential project that never materializes into anything, or going far down the rabbit hole trying to find a solution when the simplest answer would have taken only a few minutes, or even, yes, doing work for a client and then never getting paid for it, I remind myself that this experience was an important one and will in some way get me closer to where I want to be.

Don’t focus outside too much
I know that when I first started out, I spent a lot of time researching, learning, buying products, training myself in new skills, and pouring over other people’s content. As an entrepreneur, these types of tasks are invaluable, but I spent too much time mired in the thoughts and ideas of others, and not enough time on myself and my business. I should have concentrated more on my own stuff and making things happen, rather than on everyone else. Getting your hands dirty and just going for it is the best way to learn.

The time is NOW
As an extension of the point above, I was also waiting to produce because I just felt I wasn’t at the point where I could start making things happen. So many of us do this… the waiting game. I’ll start producing when I’m an expert that knows every single in–and-out of x,y,z, or when my website is perfect, or my list grows, or my social network is larger, or I have x number of customers. Any of this sound familiar? I have news for you… you will always be waiting. There will always be a way that you can be more “ready” or in a more ideal situation. Lose that mind frame and just get moving and shaking.

Ditch the notion of perfection and needing to know exactly what you’re doing

Things don’t have to be perfect right now for you to move forward. Growing a small business is a process of shift and evolution.

You can change your mind. You can create something to realize that it doesn’t work. I’ve learned that my business will continue to change and that’s a perfectly normal part of the process. Absolutely nothing has to be set in stone, and I don’t ever have to feel like I need to keep on doing things the same way.

You can also start small and take baby steps. Some of my ideas initially were really big. That’s fine, of course, but they were so big and centered on the self-created idea of perfection that they paralyzed me from taking action. I’ve worked to break things down.  Each and every day I work on this notion of perfection. I am a perfectionist and this trait and mindset has really held me back in my business.

It’s OK to take an entirely different direction than the one you had planned, or refuse to let perfection hold you back. Sometimes being a stickler isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Follow your gut
It usually is trying to tell you something. For me personally, I learned to become really aware of when something feels off at a first meeting with a potential client. I have to be honest – any nightmare client situations that I have dealt with in my biz, when I really look back honestly, could have been prevented. Whenever I have gotten the nudge that a client is not the right fit, or that a person is going to be really hard to deal with, these hunches have turned out to be correct. You can say no. Yes, you can.

Above all, I wish that I could tell that scared little me wondering about how I was going to pay rent that it would all be OK. It would work out. It all comes down to trust.

To trust that wherever I am in my business, and what I’m doing, and what is happening, is exactly as it should be. Every mistake, every challenge, every success is part of a grand plan to teach me what I need to know. This trust in the universe is still something that I need to constantly remind myself of, especially when things aren’t going so well on some days. Trust is the ultimate catalyst for feeling at ease with, and loving your business.

It’s never easy starting down the road of entrepreneurship. There are ups, downs, and all-arounds. It’s natural to sometimes feel your entrepreneurial spirit waning. Just know you’re not alone and that it really, truly, will all work out.

To finish off, and for a little dose of inspiration and interesting facts about entrepreneurship, check out this infographic…

Visa Business_September Infographic_090513

OK, biz owners, your turn to share your own nuggets of wisdom in the comments. Let’s learn from and support each other on our journeys of entrepreneurship!

I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy Ceresia October 10, 2013 at 11:45 am

Great article!! I am starting out building my own small business in branding and marketing consulting, and your points really resonate, especially the ‘The time is NOW’! We are our own worst enemies when it comes to the confidence to get doing rather than observing and planning. Great read!


Martina October 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Thanks so much for stopping by Nancy! Really glad the post resonated with you 🙂


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