11 May What You Need to Know Before Starting Your Own Business
Like most people, I value feedback and input from a diverse group of people. Before making major decisions, I consult my husband, my friends and family, and of course, my kids.
It was only natural then that when I was considering starting my own business, I engaged my kids. My then 12-year-old daughter didn’t hesitate to tell me what she thought:
“Mommy, grown-ups don’t take enough risks. If this is something that’s important to you and will make you happy, you should do it.”
As I was laying out some of the challenges our family may face in the early years of the business, my daughter didn’t waiver in her initial advice. “You should do it,” she said.
Her feedback really struck a chord. Adults tend to be risk-averse, and we’re sometimes guilty of letting our fears overtake us. Where business is concerned, there was the fear of not knowing where and when my next paycheck would come from; fear of failure; and fear I wouldn’t be able to take care of my family. It would initially mean compromises to our lifestyle and our love of travel.
But my daughter was right. Running my own business was important to me and an aspiration I had held since high school. I believe passionately that we all have the right to work in organizations that have open, respectful and thriving cultures. We all deserve to work at places that provide opportunities to do purposeful and meaningful work and that enable us to continuously grow as individuals.
When I reflected on my fears, they were all really excuses. Time after time in all my prior corporate roles, I was asked to take on new initiatives and had been given lots of white space to create solutions for our company.
Given my background and career experience, it made sense that entrepreneurship was in the cards for me. It may be in the cards for you as well.
If you’re a mom, I hope you’ll use Mother’s Day as an opportunity to get clear on what you really want. If you decide that starting a business is on your bucket list, I want to share tips that have helped me along the way.
1. You’re going to work on your business and in your business.
In other words, you have to manage your business and work in your business. When you launch a business, especially in the early stages, you are doing every piece of it. The vision and strategy. The marketing. The financials. The IT. The work itself. The business development. It’s essential to have time set aside to work on your business so you can envision your future and map the plans to make it happen. It’s easy to get sucked into the work itself, since many entrepreneurs launch businesses that are focused on what they love. Make sure you carve out time every day to do things to help move your business forward. Even in the very beginning, when I was looking for every billable dollar, I made sure I spent 20 percent of my time working “on” my business.
2. You don’t need to have it all figured out.
I learned early in my career that waiting for the “perfect” solution would mean I’d never get to market in a timely way. So, don’t obsess over whether you have all your marketing materials or whether you have your offerings completely nailed down. Quite frankly, even if you do have them “nailed,” they will likely change and evolve based on what you find in the market, how your clients react and what you discover is really impactful. I launched my consulting practice with no website, no marketing materials, no accounting software. Nada. I did, however, have a clear vision and purpose – a clear set of values that would drive my work and client interaction. I knew where I was headed with The Silverene Group. I knew that I didn’t need all that “stuff” at least on day 1. Over time, I built (and outsourced) those things and fine-tuned my offerings. By listening to what my clients really needed and assessing market opportunities, I built the essentials as I went.
3. It will be a roller coaster.
There are plenty of ups and downs in starting a business. You have the highs when you land your first client, when you land a large piece of work and when your client thanks you profusely for your insights and help. And you have your lows when you lose out on a piece of work, when a deliverable doesn’t quite meet the mark and when promised work – work that you’ve counted on – evaporates due to budget adjustments. No matter the reason, as the founder, CEO, managing partner, chief in charge or small business owner, you have to weather the storm. You have to be resilient, which means being agile and adaptable. You’ll learn in time to adjust to the highs and lows and be confident in who you are and on what you can do. Failure is a part of entrepreneurship. You need to be comfortable taking risks and not always getting it right. The key thing to remember is entrepreneurship is indeed like a roller coaster. Enjoy the ride!
4. Say no.
A great piece of advice I got early on from other entrepreneurs was to say no. While it may seem hard to comprehend – how can I possibly turn away revenue – it is really essential for you to be clear about what falls within your bailiwick and what doesn’t. Even while you may not have the marketing collateral built out, you are building your brand with each and every interaction and client engagement. You will find that it is empowering to say, “Let me find someone in my network who can help you.” I don’t do traditional human resources consulting, so when I received lots of inquires early on to be an interim chief human resources officer or write employee handbooks or do employee relations investigations, I passed those opportunities on to others in my network. By focusing on your sense of purpose and values, you’ll find that saying no is not only optional, it’s required.
I offer these lessons as gems that have helped, and are still helping, me along the way. If you are contemplating launching your own business or are in the early stages of a new venture, I hope these insights will make your decision a little bit easier. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned or what you are fearful of too!
And, to all those Moms out there reading this – Happy Mother’s Day.