It is exactly 10 years to the day since I nearly died and I’m still not dead yet! Yay! I thought that nearly dying might be the most frightening experience of my entire life. Then I started my own business and realised that nearly dying was simple by comparison to running a business!
Of course there are lots of winners in business, there are lots of successful people and there is a huge amount of it that’s great fun too. But lets get real. Lots of people fail in becoming successful business owners, the vast majority of people are not cut out for it and this is an important truth. There has to be an elite few winners in this game to sort the wheat from the chaff. It’s meant to be difficult to see if you are made of the right stuff to handle it. If you can handle it, you can win big, if you can’t you either need to learn fast or admit defeat and do something else.
I’ve had times over the last 10 years where I’ve had an experience of both winning and learning. I’m not very good at admitting defeat (although I’ve thought about it sometimes) – and as such I’ve continued to survive both in life and in business thus far. So for those of you who are new to entrepreneurship or even if you’ve aced it already, these are my own personal top tips on what has kept it working for me….
It takes a serious amount of commitment to make it work and there are two types of perseverance that must exist simultaneously. Persevering because of self belief or belief in your concept and persevering because it actually is a viable good idea that you have. Just watch an episode of Dragons Den and you’ll see a load of entrepreneurs with far too much of the former kind of perseverance and not enough of the later.
When you absolutely know (as in you have tangible evidence to prove it) that you really do have a viable idea, you must persevere with it – even if others that you respect or admire doubt you. But you must know for sure that the idea is good and can work.
Then be prepared – be ready to miss your best friends birthday, or lock yourself away from your children or work 24 hours solid with no sleep to do whatever is required to take it to the next stage. Of course you may have the luxury or outsourcing all the effort required elsewhere so that you can continue to have a jolly life, but if you don’t and you’re the only one who can make it happen, then you need to be ready to compromise important aspects of your personal life in order to save or grow your business at a moments notice.
2) Develop your ego.
You will need to have more certainty in yourself and your idea, than all of the people you know put together, have in you. You need to be a believer in yourself and your business in order to transpose that certainty about who you are and what you do into the hearts and minds of others. You’re going to have to balance carefully between self belief and egotistical, and some people may be intimidated by that and call you egotistical anyway! You’ll just have to live with it.
You won’t have any room for doubt, that doesn’t mean you need to be misleading or lie if you can’t give people the answers they want about who you are or what you do, but it does mean that whatever you say you, say with absolute authority and certainty. We feel most comfortable to be lead by those who have authority and certainty, and you’ll need to have it in yourself, even if others you respect a great deal, do not. Use experiences like others self doubt as a springboard to make you stronger, because proving them wrong by being successful feels very sweet indeed.
3) Get your emotions out of the way.
I’ve met some lovely people in my business. People I’ve wanted to champion or work with or employ, yet I have sometimes turned them down or walked away. That’s because I have to make a decision about what is best for the life of the business and that is not always in alignment with what my own emotions are saying. Sometimes you have to think “If the business had a mouth, what would it say? What would it’s decision be?” Work with the people who will take your idea to the next level, which are not necessarily the one’s you instinctively like the most.
Similarly don’t blindly take advice because you know, like and trust the person who is advising you. You have to ask yourself “what does my business/idea need right now? Is it this?” If it isn’t, you’re going to have to live with the fact that you rejected someone that you know, like and trust (or at the very least rejected their idea) because you have to do what the business needs, and that might be different to what you as an emotional being would want to do. You would want to make others happy and employ the people you think you can save and use the ideas of the mentors you idolise. But you can’t do that unless you can legitimately agree, that if your business had a mouth, it too would have said it was a good idea.
4) Get comfortable with fear.
I meet lot sof people who are just starting out in business who say “Ohh it’s so scary getting started. I can’t wait until it’s all settled down and I’m into the swing of it!”
Oh, how I laugh, and laugh and laugh!
That’s such a silly idea! It doesn’t get comfortable! If it did everyone would be doing it! This “job” is only for those who are ok about the fact that it’s a roller coaster. The only comfort is that you eventually get used to the fact that it’s a roller coaster and that the last loop-de-loop was simply to prepare you for the even bigger one that is coming your way.
I started my business in a recession (I thought that was bad enough) then I realised I knew nothing about marketing, I started learning and took a sigh of relief as I realised all my problems were solved and it would be plain sailing from that point. Then realised I was wrong and that I needed to commit to an office – a fixed monthly expense – but I got through it and took a sigh of relief, thinking “now it get’s easy” only to realised I needed to employ staff! The problems kept coming and they were bigger each time. My latest challenge is buying a property for the business which is in a conservation area, being sold by a pension fund with a lease holder who has tried to blackmail me twice, with a complicated change of license, the bank taking 4 months to agree to funding and people around me saying “There must be an easier option – perhaps you should just give up?” (And that’s just the half of it.)
Some people would say “It’s not fear, it’s excitement!” That’s nice. If it’s only excitement your not taking big enough steps. If you’re not scared at least once, you’re not doing it properly.
Evaluating what I’m up to now that against “Oh it’s so tough starting a business in a recession!” does make me laugh. I thought it was so difficult and that it would get so much easier. It doesn’t, the challenges get bigger but I’m always able to match them because I’m always getting stronger, and so will you.
5) Get really good, before you try to grow.
Expansion is an important part of growing your business but hold off from doing it too soon. Don’t feel as if you are selling yourself short or understating yourself just because you chose to take it slowly and steadily, test and master one thing at a time before you go for world domination.
Of course we all love the idea of all of that extra-ness that comes with world domination but we can forget about the problems it brings. Sometimes people’s reputations or even their entire concept collapses because they bite off more than they can chew. At the very least it can make things uncomfortable.
You shouldn’t be afraid to grow, but you do need to be mindful that it comes with challenges and discomforts. Yes there’s lots more money, opportunity and people you can serve if you grow big, but if you are ill prepared then that growth may lead to poor service, complaints or an epic fail. There is no shame in taking baby steps, after all babies go onto become confident walkers and they naturally grow into their skills and abilities.
6) Think carefully about sharing your power.
Yes I know it sounds a bit Lord of the Rings but seriously, you should only be teaming up with others who have something to contribute that you lack or because they have a super power greater than yours.
Even when they do, really do your homework first.
If you’re allergic to nuts, you check the ingredients of foods before you eat them. What happens if you’re allergic to your new team members emotional outbursts whenever it gets close to her monthly cycle? Are you seriously going to invest tea and sympathy into your working routine for 4 days a month? Have you got time for that? Is it worth it? If it is then go for it, but have contingency plans in place. Think about how you can best manage the challenges that the new team member presents so that you do not get distracted from what you really need to be concentrating on.
7) Make sure you prepare for all seasons.
Yay it’s the summer, the summer is here – Let’s feast – lets eat everything and lounge in the sun, everything will be wonderful forever!
Sadly though, it will not. Winter will come, it always does eventually. Be ready. Make sure you have supplies and plans to see you through.
Don’t base your business on your best month, it might not always be that way, it might not always be growing. Sometimes there are blips and you need to have a stash of cash in the bank to see you through.
See the positives in these scenarios, often things like a recession give us great opportunities. They allow us to change strategy to perhaps realise a more effective one when we had become complaisant, or to be creative when we were being lazy or to wipe out the competition who had not prepared as well as we had.
8) Expose your weaknesses to make you stronger.
Honesty is the best policy and you can manage people’s expectations far better by being truthful about what they can and cannot expect from you and your company. There is no point making promises that you cannot keep, it will usually bite you on the arse if you do.
If what you offer isn’t going to turn your customer into a super hero, tell them that. Be very clear with them. If you don’t, others will anyway, and it’s better that they hear the truth from you rather than from an old customer you have worked with who felt they’d been mislead.
I often speak to people who have talked to another company who offer something a bit like NLP4Kids but on a lower level. They tell me that when asked about NLP4Kids the other company says “But Gemma Bailey doesn’t have any children, how can she teach NLP4Kids?!” I can’t mislead people into thinking I know about being a parent, because it’s simply not true, so I’m very up front about this and tell people about my experience as a nursery nurse, working with the health visiting team, nannying 12 hours a day and working with parents. I’ve spent years observing and advising parents and I’m able to be impartial. Therefore something that may to some, look like a disadvantage, instead gives me a different angle and perspective that I’m able to share.
If your product or service requires hard work, investment or time, tell people the truth. If they don’t like what they hear and go elsewhere, you just saved yourself the job of disappointing them when they didn’t get rich quick or whatever they were looking for. And your competition can deal with their complaints instead.
9) Have a sense of humour.
Business can be really intense and really serious sometimes so it helps if you remember that your business and you are separate entities and that you are the one with the sense of humour. Let your humour leak into the business now and again, it will give it personality and life which is needed if you want to attract people to it.
If your business isn’t the kind that relies on personality so much then just make sure you continue to have one even if your business doesn’t. It ok for the business to become a bit like you, but you shouldn’t ever become the business. The business is personality and humourless because it is an inorganic product, but you are not.
Remember to have a laugh because if it stops being funny, there’s no point in doing it.
10) You are not alone (so don’t keep act as if you are.)
When you are going it alone, people tend not to ask if you got out of bed that day, or if you hit your targets or offer you an appraisal to see how you’re feeling about your role.
Yet there are others just like you who are not too far away. Maybe you’ve connected with them before and lost touch because you got too busy soldiering on or burying your head in the sand. Either way, the best idea for moving forward is to reach out and connect with others.
You’re in a very unique situation that most of your friends and family cannot understand so it’s important that you make it part of your routine to share your ideas, challenges and experiences with those who are at the same level, or higher. But you’ll need to take the responsibility to reach out, because the people you need to network with are probably busy too and they might not come looking for you.
Remember that your brain will have a bit more room for good ideas if you off-load a little sometimes and that if you chose wisely the people you network with might just have some good ideas of their own for you that you might decide to implement.
To find out more about coaching and mentoring for small business owners and entrepreneurs, click here.