This year Andrew and I have celebrated 14 years of marriage, and we also hit another big milestone … being in business for 14 years! That’s right, we started our first business in the same month that we got married!
So I thought it would be fun to share with you 14 of the biggest lessons that we have learnt during that time as business owners.
1. It’s going to be Tougher Than You Think
You can start out in business with grand dreams and desires of how it is all going to happen, but usually things don’t go to plan. There are going to be times when things don’t go right, there are going to be times when you will want to quit. Even when you have got a “successful” business, there will still be extremely challenging times and tough situations that you need to deal with. That doesn’t mean that you should give up, know that it will be way tougher than you could imagine, but it is totally worth it if you have the persistence and inner strength to keep going.
2. Really Look after Your Clients
Having happy clients leads to a thriving business, a lot of the time they will slowly get forgotten after the sale has taken place because you get focused on finding the next sale. Happy clients will not only buy from you again and again, but will also refer people to you, and referrals are one of the easiest ways to get new clients. Plus with the viral nature of social media these days, if you screw up with a client (even if not intentionally) you could be out of business extremely fast! Value your clients, respect them and treat them well. Go above and beyond and have a high level of service in your business.
3. Don’t Stick Your Head in the Sand
You have to be real in your business and find out the truth as to where you are and what is going on. If you are sticking your head in the sand and not taking responsibility for where you are at, then you can’t move your business forward. It is that simple. Once you know the reality of where your business is at then you can take the actions to make things better. We stuck our head in the sand on so many occasions when we were going through challenging times throughout the years. We knew the truth was bad and we didn’t want to know exactly how bad it was! We thought that if we ignored the problem that it would just fix itself… but it never does. It was only when we looked at the truth, the massive amount of debt that we had got ourselves into that we could then work on fixing the crisis and get us moving forward again.
4. Marketing and Sales Have to Be a Priority
Without clients you have no business. That’s a harsh reality, but a real one that we have experienced on a number of occasions. Like most business owners, we hated sales and marketing as well when we started, and so our business struggled as a result with a tiny stream of clients. It wasn’t until we made sales and marketing a priority, learned to embrace it, and continued to make it a priority that our business really took off. Changing our perspective on what Sales & Marketing means is what got results for us, we shifted our perspective to believe that Sales & Marketing is about attracting people and allowing us to help those that need it without hard selling anyone.
5. Work Smarter Not Harder
This is a motto that we live by now in our business, and we are always looking for ways to leverage our business more all while still providing massive value and serving our clients to get them massive results. It wasn’t always this way though….. I have come from a family where “working hard” is what you need to do to get ahead. I used to work my butt off at school and just scrap by, Andrew on the other hand used to take the lazy way…. minimum effort always lead him to maximum results. Andrew did cop a lot of crap for that attitude at school where it was looked down on, but actually he had it right from the start! Working smarter gets way better results in the end than working harder does, and this does not mean that there is no work involved, it simply means that the smarter you can work, the more leverage you can add to your business, the faster and easier the results will come!
When we started adding leverage to our business, like when we added in running webinars, or when we focused on our best clients more, or when we did more of the marketing that was working, we saw results come much faster, much easier and it was better for our business and for our clients. Usually there are small tweaks that you can make in a business to add leverage and work smarter, it doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul.
6. Add Success Rituals to Your Day….Every Day
You are not always going to feel motivated to do what you need to get done, some days you are going to wake up and feel so crap that you don’t even want to get out of bed! But you have to find the motivation to keep your business not only alive but rocking! So you need to be able to get yourself in a peak state where you are creating awesomeness in your business on an almost daily basis.
Adding Success rituals to your day is an effective and amazing way to do this. Success rituals are things that you do that get you in that motivated, focused and peak state ready for the day. It might be that you meditate in the morning, or maybe you read your yearly goals to get you focused on what is important. You can do affirmations and visualisations, exercise, or spend time in nature. Have a practise of gratitude, or have a nutrient packed smoothie to fuel your body for the day….or you could do a combination of these to get you started. Whatever works for you and helps to get you centred, focused and ready for the day!
7. Schedule in Time Off….Or There Won’t Be Any!
It’s easy for us entrepreneurial types to go, go, go! We have so many ideas and so much to be done, but where does the down time come in? Ever got to the end of the year and collapsed at Christmas time wondering where the year went and why you are feeling so exhausted? Oh yeah that’s right you had no holiday because there was never any time to take one! Trust me, I know because I have been there! You have to schedule it in, or it just won’t happen, the calendar will fill up and you won’t feel like you can take time off. But time off is so important. It is in these downtimes that you usually get the best turning point ideas for your business, because you are relaxed and out of the everyday environment of the business. Plus work-life balance is essential to your health and your sanity! Don’t spend so much time making a living in your business that you forget to have a life outside of your business as well.
8. Let go of Total Control
It is easy in your business (which in many ways is your baby right?), to get all possessive and want to control everything. But if you want an amazing life with an amazing business then you need to let go on the control and not micromanage the entire business. You can’t do everything and you neither should you, as there are people out there much more efficient and effective in many areas that you are – and that is good news because you don’t need to do everything which frees up your time and gets you your sanity back!
Outsource stuff that you don’t need to do or hire staff to work in your business. If you find the right people and encourage them to shine, then they are going to move your business forward in that area with greater ease that you will be able to.
Plus don’t get stuck in not moving forward because something isn’t perfect yet. Small steps with imperfect actions is going to get you a lot further along than waiting until everything is perfectly ready….because nothing is ever perfect….business is an evolving process or constant improvement, rather than a fixed state of perfection.
9. There Are No Failures, Just Valuable Lessons
You know, Andrew and I have made some monumental stuff ups in our businesses over the years, luckily none of them put us out of business for good, but some of them came very close to doing that! And something that I know for sure is that there really is no failures…..there is only lessons to learn from the stuff ups and challenges that arise in your business (and in your life as well).
Be real in your business, it is ok to make mistakes as long as you take responsibility for them and try to create a solution that will sort it out. People are actually OK with you making mistakes as long as you are open about it and take action to make a mends.
Some of the biggest lessons that I have got from being in business…many of which are in this post…. came from “mistakes” or “failures” that I made, but in the end it lead to a more amazing and successful business for us, so it all happened for a reason.
10. Value Yourself – Don’t Compete on Price
This one is a BIGGIE! You HAVE to value yourself and the products or services that you provide, because if you don’t you will be constantly cutting your prices, discounting stuff and giving away too much for too little. Undercharging in your business is not sustainable, and this one thing has put too many small businesses out of business!
Unless you are a big business doing a large volume of sales, you SHOULD NOT be competing on price. You need to value yourself and the difference that you can make in people’s lives, and charge accordingly otherwise you will struggle and will probably eventually give up because it is always too hard. You are better off charging higher prices and providing more value to a smaller group of clients that you can then truly serve, than undercutting and discounting just to get a client that you then can’t serve to your fullest because you need to go find more clients to stay open!
If you are not sure how to make this happen and you are currently struggling with this, then reach out and we can give you some tips to help.
11. Trust Your Intuition
Ok this one may not resonate with everyone, but I can tell you that trusting your intuition, following your gut instincts and where your heart is telling you is going to get you further in business than following the logical path.
With every big decision or opportunity that arise for us, we look at all the logical stuff, the numbers, what it is going to mean from a practical stand point, but in the end it is our intuition that really should determine the final decision. Why? Because I have seen again and again that even the most solid, amazing logical opportunities that are presented to me, can go sour and turn into nightmares, and yet there can be other opportunities that don’t make any logical sense and they take off and have amazing success. So tap into your intuition more, listen to it (it gets stronger over time the more that you listen to it), trust your gut feelings on something and go with that.
12. Build an Awesome Network
This tip alone has created hundreds of thousands of dollars of sales for us, has meant that we have been featured in magazines, on the radio and on TV, it has transformed our business and led us to opportunities that we could not even have imagined! Your network is SO IMPORTANT for your business, and every week you should be focusing on building your network and strengthening your current network because it can make a MASSIVE difference to your business.
We are very privileged now that we have an absolutely amazing network filled with smart and talented entrepreneurs that we can call to get advice and ask for feedback. We started out knowing absolutely no one in business and for many years we felt very isolated and alone as all of our friends were working in jobs. Over time we have built this network by going to business events, connecting with people on social media and building relationships with people that we want to connect with, but our network is now one of our biggest resources for making things happen in our business so it is worth the effort to focus on this.
13. Test and Measure
Stats don’t lie, but assumptions do!! It is easy in business to think that you know what is going on in your own business, but actually often you don’t! I’ve seen this again and again with hundred of business owners and too many times I have been caught out by it as well, thinking that I knew exactly what was going on, but I actually had no idea until I looked at the truth (the stats) as to what was actually happening. To give you an example, often people think that they need more traffic to their website because they are not getting enough clients, but often when you look at the stats you see that it is actually that the website isn’t converting people into clients well enough, and so driving more visitors to your website will not usually fix the problem until the conversion issue is solved….it’s not a numbers game, it is that the sales process actually needs fixing!
14. Vision, Purpose & the Sweet Spot Between Planning and Action
You need to have a Vision of where you’re going in your business, and a Purpose of why you are driven to get there. When bumps in the road come and there are challenges you need a bigger picture Vision and Purpose to keep you focused on the end goal and to keep you motivated and taking action to move you forwards.
Equally to reach that Vision you need both Planning and Action to get you there. We’ve had times in our business where we were all about the planning but then we took no action and not surprisingly nothing happened!
Equally we have gone to the other extreme and been taking massive action and running ourselves into the ground but without a plan we were not being efficient and usually not focusing on the actions that would actually get us results.
Neither of these work well and so it is essential that you find the sweet spot between the planning and action. In order to have a successful, well run business you need a Vision and Purpose to act as your compass and motivation, and a plan of how you will get there and you need to take action on your plan to make it happen.
Bonus Lesson: Believe in yourself!
Yes, there are just so many lessons that we have learnt from our 14 years in business that I wanted to add this one last one in, because it is a really important one! Believe in Yourself.
Too often I didn’t believe that I could do it. I didn’t believe in myself, I didn’t believe in my abilities and I didn’t believe in the difference that I could make. I struggled with this for years, and to be completely honest I still have this pop up on occasion to rear its ugly head. I finally realised though that if I didn’t even believe in myself, then how could I expect anyone else to believe in me and buy off me? Yeah, that’s right, it wasn’t going to happen!
So the biggest lesson that I have got over the last 14 years in business is to believe in myself and I suggest that you do the same for you, and it could completely transform your business. I see so many business owners not confident, and not believing in themselves, not seeing how much value they have to bring to the world and not seeing their greatness. And of course it is easy to see from the outside how amazing someone else is, but it is harder to look within and see how amazing we are ourselves.
In order to confidently go out and sell your products and services to the world and know that people should buy off you will attract more and more clients to you and will make your business more successful.
So trust yourself and believe in yourself and go out and make that difference to the world!