Running a business, let alone a successful one can be incredibly tough.
Sharing the ups and downs of the business journey is something that doesn’t often happen enough. It just so happens that business owners often only tell of their wins but elect not to divulge in those equally important losses too.
I’ve learnt a lot just by doing. But also watching others, particularly those who are more experienced than me (like my mentors), has helped incredibly with the way I approach running my business today and into the future.
Below, I’ll share with you some conventional (unconventional) lessons that I learnt along my entrepreneurial journey!
Lesson #1: Always Take Breaks
Not just the 30-minute lunch break.
I’m talking about breaks like a getaway, a quiet night in, a long-weekend to extend some rest time and many more.
As small business owners, we have a hard time relinquishing control by letting go of things in our business. But the long term effects can be incredibly harmful. There’s a real law of diminishing return and burn-out is a very real thing.
Ironically, when I took these breaks, things inevitably go pear-shaped. Things that I otherwise didn’t necessarily see or identify when I was in the midst of all the chaos. A few years ago, I went overseas for two weeks and believed that I had my voicemail set up in case of urgent issues. It wasn’t until I had checked this prior to leaving that I found that the service had been disconnected.
Taking time away also gave me time to take a breath and have a fresh approach towards the business. The down-time gave me the space to come up with new ideas and think through obstacles that I previously couldn’t overcome.
I liken this to readers block or when I was studying and couldn’t crack a difficult question. A short break and a walk around the block and all of a sudden, everything seems a lot clearer!
Take a break however big or small and it will do you and your business wonders.
Lesson #2: Don’t Work From Home ALL THE TIME
I was and still, am really fortunate to be working in an industry that affords me the flexibility to virtually work from anywhere as long as I have a computer and an internet connection.
In my first year of running Box Advisory Services, I had no office and worked in any space at home whether it be the living room, bedroom or even the bathroom (no shame!). However, the lines began to blur between personal and workspace. I found myself working on weekends and after business hours long after my clients had shut shop and gone home.
However, an additional problem was the lack of social interactions while working at home. This had a huge impact on my mental wellbeing and had a detriment on my communication and social skills that were so important for me to bring in new business. Skills like social interaction and networking became more difficult and these needed to be re-learnt to a certain degree.
That aside, it’s incredibly important to understand that as humans, we crave social interaction to keep us sane and avoid the spiral of depression. I’m a huge advocate of surrounding yourself with people who you can talk openly to, laugh with and enjoy each other’s company.
Lesson #3: A Goal Without a Plan Is Just a Wish
Drawing on lesson #2 – have a plan, a back-up plan or even a back-up plan for your back-up plan. Regardless, if you want something, you’re certainly not going to attain it without having a plan in place in how to reach it.
As human beings, there’s a certain degree of irrational thinking that our brain is programmed to do and we find that we always try to make grand plans without thinking about how we’re going to get there.
In the accounting and professional services industry, there’s a certain degree of seasonality to the work. I dedicate time to forecast and plan my financials accordingly so that when business ramps up, I’ve got the resources to handle it. Conversely, when things drop off (like during Christmas and New Year), I’ve got some surplus in the kitty to get me through until business picks back up again.
Any entrepreneur who tells you that he/she doesn’t fear failure is lying. All humans have that innate fear that our ancestors used to survive and evolve. However, fear can often work against us. Which is why I believe that having contingency plans and strategically planning ahead can help mitigate some of the fear. In a worst-case scenario, having a back-up plan ensures that your business can stay alive as well.
Lesson #4: Imposter Syndrome Exists In Us All
I’m a pretty young guy and confidence comes with time. When I first started my business, I’d just wrapped up and spent all of my short career working in commercial accounting.
All of a sudden, I was consulting for people who were twice my age and some have been in business longer than I’ve been alive. Sure enough, I was nervous and uncertain whether or not I was qualified to consult them.
But putting in the hard yards and having a plan ensures that I’m fully qualified to do the work and offer my expertise. I obtained my tax licence with the Tax Practitioners Board, ensured that the firm is Chartered Accountancy qualified and I made goals to reach revenue targets.
Each time I reach a goal was a form of validation and gave me the confidence to say that I’m good enough to consult these clients. This isn’t only because I’m qualified on paper, but because I’ve also been through that same entrepreneurial journey and can empathise and relate with them.
Nothing good comes easy. But ensuring that appropriate goals are in place and small steps are being made towards reaching them, you can be certain that you’ll be on your way to becoming a more successful business owner.
What are some of the challenges and lessons you’ve learnt through your business journey?