December was not
a good month for me. Nothing too terrible. Just an unfortunate run of sick
children, sick husband, sick myself and a struggle to try to work in every
spare minute available to make up for time off due to sickness and crèche
closure over the Christmas break.
While it wasn’t
all bad, the end of the year came and went and I was just feeling a bit, meh! This
month brings the anniversary of my first year in the business. I should have
been celebrating this fantastic milestone but the month started with me feeling
deflated and finding it hard to get time to work, and to motivate myself when I
was working. I half wanted to just let the occasion pass me by, and then I
thought back to all the amazing experiences last year and the valuable lessons
learnt. Taking the time to reflect on
these has really helped my celebrate my successes from last year and set my
focus for the year ahead.
What I’ve learned in first year of business:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Since I’ve started my
own business I’ve been bowled over by the generosity of people and how many
other entrepreneurs in particular, have been willing to go out of their way to
help me. This is something that will stay with me, and inspires me to help
others where I can.
2. Know your WHY, WHAT, HOW
Having a solid grasp of
your values, your motivations, and why you started your business, and a proper business
plan, are essential in keeping you on a good path. Make sure you have them all
written down to refer back to regularly and as needed. It can be easy to get a
little lost in the multitude of possibilities and directions for your business,
or to rush towards the quickest return on investment. At times, sticking with
what you believe in is HARD, so you have to be very clear on what it is you
This approach has been
fantastic in grounding me and bringing me back to basics when I’m feeling a
little unsure of my next move.
3. Get out of your comfort zone
For many, this often
involves a fear of networking or public speaking. This really resonates with
me, and the idea of both would previously have brought me out in a sweat. I
have had to find my own way with this, one that is authentic for me. For me,
that means seeking to help others where I can and building relationships and
‘networking’ that way. As for public speaking, I do my homework; tell myself to
channel all that nervous energy into excitement; take a few deep breaths, and
dive right in! Here’s one of my
first public speaking gigs since founding Strength Within.
4. Networking is essential
I remember before I
started Strength Within, a wise businesswoman told me that the first year is
all about networking. I didn’t really believe her and now here I am laughing at
my naive former-self. It is absolutely all about networking! You need to get
out and start talking to people – doing your market research; getting
comfortable talking to others about what you do; connecting with others. As per
point 3 above, take the time to reflect on how this works for you. Even the
most introvert among us need to connect with other people…you might even find
yourself jumping at the chance after a day of working alone!
5. Find your tribe
I know it’s a cliché,
There will always be
naysayers and those that bring you down. Surround yourself with people and
groups who support you, lift you up and give honest, constructive feedback. The
Women’s Inspire Network is one such place – a fantastic group, full of positive
and supportive Women and Men, and there are plenty more groups online and in
person. In the early days when it’s just you in your business, it’s also
crucial to have some close support to help out. In my case, my husband can
confidently add Strength Within CTO and Chief Editor to his CV for last year!
6. Comparison is the thief of joy
There is a fine line
between market research and getting sucked into looking at what your
competitors are doing that you are not…often you don’t realise what’s happened
until hours have passed and you’re now stressing about deadlines and wondering
why you feel like sh*t – COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY.
See point 2 above on
how to get yourself out of this!
7. ‘Bouncebackability’ is crucial
If you set up your own
business without a resilient mind-set, you could very quickly find your mental
health suffering. Previously I would have considered myself to be a pretty
resilient person, with significant change under my
belt – but starting a business brings another welcome perspective to this for
me. For example, having spent most of my professional career regularly dealing
with vendors, I honestly didn’t appreciate the value of a quick ‘no’ over
considerable time invested with no positive outcome.
8. Promote, promote, promote
You need to get comfortable
with promoting yourself and your business – if you don’t, no-one else will do
it for you. This is one I struggle with, and regularly ask myself “how is
anyone going to know what you are doing, if you don’t actually tell them?” That
usually snaps me out of it!
9. Know your numbers
Another massive area of growth for me. Of
course you need to know your budget, expenses, sales, profit, profit margins
etc. But, it is also important to learn about your conversion rates among other
things (see, still learning!). Turning ‘interest’ into sales is hard work so
the sooner you know e.g. how many people you need to reach to generate
interest, how much interest you need to generate sales etc. the better. Another
point on this, and learning from my very unproductive December, is to build in
a contingency plan for quiet periods or times when you are not able to work.
10. Stay open to opportunities
Ending on a positive! Be absolutely be
clear on what your business is about. But, build in a little buffer time and
also allow yourself a little exploration – you never know where it will take
you. As you meet new people and build relationships, you learn about so many
fascinating people and stories and it can be so very worthwhile to meet for
that coffee or have that call.
would you add to this list?
With these reflections
under my belt, I’m really looking forward to what 2018 will bring. For me, it’s
going to be getting laser-focused on the services I offer, building real value
for my clients and scaling to meet the growing demand. I’m looking forward to
reflecting on these exciting times ahead as I reach another anniversary next
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