It’s been a rollercoaster ride so far with the highs and thrills far outweighing any lows but I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much in such a short space of time, and every day is a school day! Here’s a summary of the most commonly occurring lessons that spring to mind.
- Have a clear vision and hone your offering
Your clients and potential clients need to be clear about the product or services that you provide. It may evolve and you will need to be flexible but summarising your offering in a few short sentences, verbally and in writing so that you can reel it off in a compelling way when asked, is crucial. Don’t write War and Peace or talk forever and day- short, sweet and straightforward is good. If you can’t do this, people won’t understand what you’re about.
- Know what sets you apart
Unless you’re in particularly niche market, it’s good to understand what makes you different to your competitors. Don’t bash the competition (it doesn’t look very professional) but do take opportunities to show why or how you have the edge, whether it be on service, product, style or approach.
- Create a team of A-Player Associates
Most of us starting our own business have never been business owners, Founders, MD, CEO, Finance Director, Sales and Marketing Director, IT Director or Operations Director before and it’s OK not to fully understand what needs to be done here. Make sure you surround yourself with people who are the experts and run your business as though it were a larger concern. Engage a ‘switched on’ accountant who is driven to promote the virtues of paperless accounting and ‘going digital’. Educate your network to understand what to listen out for and how they can refer you and be part of your Sales team. Outsource whatever you can (e.g. IT, Telecoms, Payroll, HR!) to save you time and enable you to focus on your core business.
- Relationships are key
Invest time in 121s and listen for understanding with your contacts and customers- don’t just transmit! More often than not, you get out what you put in and if you work hard for your contacts, you will receive referrals and recommendations in return. There is nothing more powerful than reputation and word of mouth referrals when building a business. Also, good, sold relationships built on trust, transparency and a strong track record of delivery will stand you in good stead during the good times and when the chips are down.
- Celebrate success and own your mistakes
Whether you’re a one person band or whether you have a team it’s really important to mark your successes and acknowledge things that could have been done better or differently. You will make mistakes and beat yourself up more than anyone else can but it’s important to work through it quickly, apologise where necessary, take the corrective action and move on. You’ll be working really hard so when you do get a new customer or retain business for longer period then celebrate- share the news, go out for lunch, thank the team.
- Love what you do!
If you genuinely love what you do then your enthusiasm will be infectious and you won’t regret a minute of the work or (long) hours that you do. If the joy stops then have a re-think- change direction, refresh something, be honest with yourself. You’re in charge of the crazy train and you can make it work for you more than you’ve ever been able to working for someone else.
Here’s to the next 12 months- can’t wait!