A year ago I made the scariest decision of my life. Being a natural born control freak, scary decisions were something I avoided at all costs. But, the decision to pack in my full-time job to go at it alone in my own business, was about as close to throwing caution to the wind as I’d ever come.
Nonetheless, I did it. And 365 days later, I feel like a totally different human. Although my face is a little more wrinkly and my pocket certainly isn’t as full, my head and my soul are so much better for it.
When I went to university I thought that would be the pinnacle of my education. While I did become fully versed on the most palatable boxed wines on the market, it was nothing in comparison to the learning I’ve done in the past 12 months. So with that in mind, grab a glass of your favourite cheap plonk and have a read of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt about the first year of building a small business.
Taking a small business from a sideline into being a full-time occupation was a big step for me. I did, however, think that I pretty much knew all there was to know about how my business behaved. I’d been through a few seasons with it, had the bones of the business sorted and had made enough mistakes to know what I didn’t want for my brand. All good, right? WRONG. There’s a big difference between having a sideline and relying on a business to pay your share of the mortgage.
There were so many things I hadn’t thought of and so many expenses involved in establishing a business. All the accounting lingo that I couldn’t decipher, the retail talk that I was clueless about and the general business principles that were lost on me. All made me feel like a total idiot and imminent failure.
And still, every day I’m learning new things about my business and business in general. Instead of freaking out about my lack of knowledge, I’ve changed my approach and decided to enjoy this education of mine.
Lesson learnt: Never in the history of ever has anyone known everything. My guiding thought is fake it till you make it, and learn to type very quickly and specifically into Google so you can read up while they’re none the wiser.
I remember my sister (who is also a small business owner and all round #girlboss) saying this to me when I first left work. And boy, was she right. When you’re selling a product, it might all seem like sunshine and rainbows as the orders start rolling in. But unless you’re reinvesting almost all the money the business is making, you’re bound to become stagnant very quickly.
There’s going to be some serious graft before you’re sailing on a yacht in the Mediterranean. The first few years of your business will more likely resemble keeping a rubber dingy afloat in a largish puddle. No one has ever been an actual overnight success. If you’re going into business to make a bunch of money in the first six months, you, my friend, are delusional.
Lesson learnt: There is light at the end of what seems like the world’s longest tunnel. Push yourself and the business hard and you will totally redefine what success means, and learn to celebrate the smaller wins.
Most people who have never had their own business will think that you’re just having a laze around in the sunshine most days. You’ll get raised eyebrows, condescending looks and a discerning frown if you dare to compare your daily work to that of working in a corporate environment. For me, my business has been seen as some sort of glorified crafting hour. A hobby, if you will. Yeah, I stay awake at night worrying about the success of my hobby. Right.
Thing is, none of that really matters. My skin has never been thicker since running a business full-time and yours will need to be too. People are always going to have an opinion. And like my Dad says when debating the validity of climate change, people are entitled to those opinions.
Lesson learnt: Don’t waste your time worrying about what other people think. It’s a fruitless exercise that leads nowhere. Let them have an opinion, and when you’re rich and famous don’t send them so much as a Christmas card.