Launching and owning a business is not easy. Many who do have had zero experience working in companies and being accountable to “a boss”. Those are usually young founders and serial entrepreneurs. This brings many pros and cons. Then there are those who have always worked for others and long wished to work for themselves which also has many pros and cons.
As a career marketer with a background in both the big corporate world and early stage startups I figured, “I got this”. I understand how a company functions, the basics needed to operate it, the essentials for marketing it to my audience and the critical needs for closing a sale. GREAT!! I’ve got this. (insert face palm emoji)
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
A great idea isn’t enough. Think through not just the “What” and the “Who”. A critical piece (and likely the crux of your success) is understanding and executing on “the HOW”. How will you operate the business? How will you find your target market? How will you fulfill orders? How will you measure success? There is a seemingly endless list of “Hows”.
Yes, a business plan is always a starting point but that is the outline and just a start. You need to have a handle on these key questions before diving in. Now if you are like me, detail-oriented, you will quickly find yourself going down the rabbit hole on each point which can be overwhelming and that’s ok. If the rabbit hole gets too deep, pull back and ask yourself, “Does this business model make sense or do you need to rethink things?” I guarantee you will need to rethink, do multiple iterations before you feel like you have nailed it. But you will also learn (long after launch) what you have nailed is just the foundation for your business. Now you need to make sure it is scalable to support growth.
Create a Timeline with Milestones
This is key. Create a timeline with measurable milestones. Think of milestones as your check-in point. When you get to a milestone, you should be answering these important questions:
- Did you hit your milestone? If yes, great! Make note of what went right. If not, do you understand why you didn’t hit that milestone? Were there blockers that stopped you from achieving it? If so, were you able to correct them/remove them to get back on track?
- Is this milestone the right one at this juncture of the business? If yes, great! Move on to the next.
If you find you hit several milestones ahead of schedule, hit pause. Were these milestones you created a lay-up for yourself? Were these real milestones or easy wins? Stay honest on this! Conversely if you didn’t hit your milestone, don’t get discouraged. Pause and understand why. Answering this question and understanding all that is behind it is key to future success.
Milestones are your chance to stop, breath, peel back the onion, learn and learn before moving on.
You Can’t Do It All
If you are like me, you are your own boss and staff. ASK FOR HELP!! Friends, your professional community – you are likely surrounded by people you know and trust that you can seek advice and counsel from. There are also tons of resources out there, from VAs, Freelancers, Hire By project folks out there who are also in business for themselves. They are very talented and not a big investment at all. But be fair when negotiating. Personally, these resources have been a lifesaver for me. Having several years’ experience in hiring and mentoring talent, I was able to find some amazing help. Having a VA for example has allowed me to stay focused, on point and get a few hours sleep! LOL. My VA company is Randiss & Co. If you are in the market, I highly recommend them.
No matter how much you plan, plot and prepare, there is always unforeseen issues that crop up. What those things are and how they could impact you depends a lot on the type of business you are launching. My husband refers to it as a constant game of WHACK A MOLE, and he’s right! Regardless, you have to be flexible. There are going to be forces out there you just can’t control. In the words of Aliens everywhere “Resisting is Futile”. You will hit snags and bumps. What you thought to be the perfect strategy may not be right for you after all. Or implementing a new selling tactic which worked elsewhere may not work in this scenario. You need to be flexible and willing to change courses, thought process and act on it. It is not a sign of failure; it means you are listening and understanding the signals. The more flexible you are in the “How” things work or are playing out, the more successful you will be. You will start to anticipate issues in advance and be better prepared.
You know what I am going to say right? ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY!!! But this is waaaaaay easier said than done. It is rare that a new business launches with immediate success. More often than not it is a slow build. If you stay focused and follow the signs along the way (your milestones) you will get there. But be realistic in your expectations. If you are, you will achieve your success. However, there is the chance that you had the right idea but not at the right time or not the right operating model to make it happen. Know when to stop and re-evaluate. But give yourself time. One day, one week even one month isn’t enough time in most cases to know if your business will work.
Owning a Business is Not for the Faint of Heart
I consider myself pretty savvy, of strong character and one that doesn’t buckle easily. But boy is this hard! Long sleepless nights, constantly questioning yourself and yes, even doubting yourself. For one thing, if you own a retail like business and you are the “face” of your brand, you have to be prepared to put yourself out there. And yes, there will be negative comments from customers and not everyone will like what you have to offer. That stings; it’s like someone calling your baby ugly! You will take it personally; it will hurt and you will take each failure or stumbling block as a personal attack. But keep it in check. If you are lucky enough to be surrounded by a great support system like me (friends, family, spouse, partner, etc) lean on them. It’s ok to show your human and to feel all these emotions. Just don’t let them overrule you or cloud your judgement. You can choose to cave into every little snag and take every negative comment as a personal attack. If you do, you won’t be long for this business ride and more importantly it will chip away at you mentally and emotionally.
Stay on course, believe in yourself like you did when you first came up with the idea. Remember you will stumble and fall along the way. Ask for help, it isn’t a sign of weakness.
And breathe. You’ve Got This!
(and now I’m off to go take my own advice!)
Founder, Glam & Glo