January 1st, 2020. That was the day I decided I was going to fully commit to growing my new business model online and start a business. You see, four years after launching Forward Forty, I was still clinging to my other role as a PR executive at a firm I founded in the late 90s. I was taking on projects while doing the online thing as a side-hustle. However, you know that feeling you get when the side hustle is really what you want to do all day?
That’s how I knew I had stumbled upon my passion but passion does not pay the bills, does it? Anyway, I picked the date, I stuck to it and now I’ve got some advice for you. If you’re starting a new business or changing an old model know that the journey will require a vast amount of courage and a strong mindset as there will be some heavy lifting you’ll have to do as you move along your success path.
1. WHEN YOU START A BUSINESS YOU’LL NEED COURAGE.
You’ll test strategies, build systems, hire your tribe, invest in tools and education to keep growing, this may continue long past the launch phase. It’s exciting, it’s dynamic but I have to tell you growing a business is also lonesome at times. It can play with your mind because there is so much doubt, especially when things are tough. It’s feeling like a failure at some moments, and the next, catching yourself thinking, “Heck yeah, I’ve got this. I’m really good at this.” It’s saying to yourself what the hell did I get myself into while applauding yourself on the back for any big client wins.
Maybe being an entrepreneur is a title you’ve always dreamed of, maybe it’s one you never planned to own. Whether it is or not, I guarantee anxious, nervous, often doubt-filled feelings. That’s why I want to walk you through my own learning from almost 15 years of owning a successful PR firm and 5 years of growing an online brand and 6 months or pivoting into a brand new role. I want to share where to start, what to do when you finally decide to make the leap, and what you should know. I must tell you aside from all the stuff I just mentioned if you decide to take the jump and start a business it will be the boldest, most courageous, joyful thing you’ve ever done.
2. YOU SHOULD TRUST YOUR GUT WHEN YOU START A BUSINESS
Oh friend, if I had a dime for every time I second-guessed myself because someone told me my idea wouldn’t work or that their idea on how my business should evolve was better, I’d be living with the rich and famous. Crazy right?
Listen, it’s completely valid to lean into the opinions of others but in the end, your gut does not lie. You should take the path that you strongly feel is the best.
Remember not everyone will like your idea – but you can’t please everyone, in fact, you should not want to. What you should be paying attention to is that whispering voice that says you’re on the path, that you have to keep focused on the big picture and be consistent in the pursuit of your dreams. Oh one more thing, that inner voice should never be your inner critic. Before you start you have to cancel all those imposter syndrome feelings.
When the voice (not the critic) arrived in my ear at the start of 2020, I paused for several days and began to align my actions to my aspirations. I felt WOKE. My gut feeling ended up being my true pointer and it led the way,
3. WHEN YOU START A BUSINESS YOU TURN AN IDEA INTO A PLAN
It used to drive me crazy the way my thoughts for my business would hurtle into my mind and then be followed by a series of other ideas. Then I realized that I didn’t have to pursue them all, I mean who has the energy or the time? So I started writing those ideas down and storing them away. That act alone allowed me to focus on the need to start only from where I stood. My actions did not have to be big, I could take small steps. You can too.
It is pretty easy to let your dreams fall to the wayside because you love the idea more than you love the execution. It’s easy as well to get so busy pursuing many ideas that you end up doing nothing at all.
The truth is every entrepreneurial journey begins with a well-thought idea. But how will you bring your idea into life or practical use is important to understand. At some point, you must take the time to lay out a rough business draft and anticipate the challenges ahead.
Quick example, when I made the decision to go head-on building the Forward Forty platform I took into consideration the logistics behind developing and designing the community as well as how to manage and implement the right strategies for growth through content and then paid for products and services.
There was a lot to think about, but it didn’t demand or need all the answers at once. I kept doing the work as a side hustle until I committed to a date.
If you are now starting out, it won’t hurt to make a mind-map highlighting the process of making every idea a living reality. This step will help create a formal business plan and also fully prepare you for obstacles encountered in the long run.
4. BE READY TO WEAR MANY HATS AS AN ENTREPRENEUR
Ever had to juggle the demands of life as if you were in a circus? Good. You’re going to need that skill, especially during the initial stages when you start a business where you will be the founder, marketing director, VP, handy-woman, tech expert, photographer, model (YIKES) and more. It will be up to you to figure out what strengths you possess and what will be outsourced. There is no shame in this game and you can’t be the expert of all things. You want to get the important stuff done by whatever means possible, even if you don’t know how to handle some things. It’s going to be tough, be prepared for the bumps when you start a business.
5. ALL SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS HAVE EITHER A MENTOR OR AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER
Oh my, this is a sweet tip we often forget, Having a business-focused mentor or an accountability partner is just like getting parental guidance but for an adult. An accountability partner will hold you to your words and your actions as well as offer guidance throughout the journey. But pick that partner wisely. Can we talk about promises here? The broken ones, the unfulfilled one, the ones that people talk about and then forget? Arggghhhh. I’ve had my fair share of them. I’m here to tell you that ideally, your accountability partner should have the same ethic, understand your vision clearly, be encouraging and wise to help you through the murkiness of your decision making and of course, they must show up for you. I have found some of my best partners through courses I have invested in.
On the flip side, when you start a business you can look for a good partner who will always complement your weaknesses with their strengths and vice versa. Moreover, your partner should be business-oriented, have the same long-term goals as well as work ethic like you. Most women entrepreneurs make the mistake of turning to their best friends as partners.
Even though you trust your best friend and get along with him/her seamlessly, business certainty is more than friendship. You must have mutual respect and the same drive when you start a business
6. SHOULD YOU START A BUSINESS WITHOUT MONEY?
Are there enough hours in the day? Sometimes when I’m working on something I think the day should have more. Some ideas. for example, are so exciting I’ll get into a rhythm that feels so good only to look up and realize it’s 6 p.m. and I haven’t had lunch. It’s amazing how often this can happen, and while I honestly don’t recommend skipping lunch, I think it can happen when you’re working toward the right goals and you’re within your spot. I call that the “sweet spot of passion.”
It’s what keeps most entrepreneurs going even in hard times. As a woman in business, you should believe in what you are doing and also the project you develop with the help of a mentor (if necessary). If it demands working at night to better your company, just do it. This will not only make you more resilient but also determined when faced with any obstacle. You’ll get better with time.
The truth is most entrepreneurs start their businesses and quit after some time simply because they can’t withstand all the issues that arise. Even though it’s hard you’ve got to ask yourself, why did you set up that business, to chase your dream, your passion or just go after money? You must be able to counteract any issue coming your way and never chase money because you will fail. Now don’t get me wrong, let me be super clear. I like money. Money is very, very crucial for success because it allows you to serve more. However, in the beginning, it does not come easy (unless you’re funded) and so passion and commitment to your vision must be able to see you through.
Entrepreneurship is an emotional journey that requires endurance. Watching your business grow and flourish is priceless as it creates a sense of pride and value experienced. There is no other feeling like it in the world. Ok, maybe just one, the feeling of being loved.
7. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS UNDERSTAND THE JOURNEY IS A MARATHON
Owning a business will make you have a love-hate relationship with time. It’s wonderful in a sense because it means you’re constantly thinking of new ambitions to strive for, and you can track your progress as you check items off your list. It’s also a little unsettling because at times it appears never-ending especially when times are hard, when cutbacks are necessary. It is in these times you have to ensure that you know that this journey is not for those who like short term results
I like the story of Ellevest’s founder Sallie Lee Krawcheck. she was one of the senior financial analysts on Wall Street and when she was fired, she used her experience, network, and smarts to found a digital financial firm geared to women and their investment. I love that story because it makes me feel so strong in a post Covid-19 world. It teaches me all kinds of stories about resilience and pivoting and growing your expertise for the long-term.
You can read about how I had to dig deep to survive the loss of 10 contracts here.
Most business owners concentrate on how they can exit or quit their companies in a few years but entrepreneurship is a marathon and not a sprint. Things always change from time to time and business does not work as planned every time. Just ask Sally, right? Instead, you’ve got to focus on building a great business for the long term.
8. ENTREPRENEURS UNDERSTAND THAT EVERY PROBLEM HAS A SOLUTION
Ok, I have only two things to tell you about this. When you get stuck ask someone who is much more experienced than you or has been in a similar condition to help, it will save both you and your business time. Secondly, don’t waste time trying to fix something you can’t handle. Spend that time instead of working on other important things. You are only one person, give yourself grace. Oh, and outsource. Collaborate. Figure it out because you’ve got to. I’ll say it again, it will help build your resilience.
9. LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
Oh my goodness, this piece of advice will be the shortest. Ok, lean in. When you start a business you can think your idea is the best thing ever, better than sliced bread, shinier than gold. Here’s the deal though, your customers decide if your company is going to grow or work, not a business plan. Be sure to test the market first before going all in.
10. INVESTING IN YOURSELF IS KEY TO RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS.
I love to invest in myself. Like, hello, it’s the best. Ok, so I’m not talking about spa treatments and mani /pedi. I love those but I’m on a whole different beat when it comes to self-investment. The truth is if you really want your company to flourish, you must grow alongside it. Remember that you’re the founder, the CEO, the handy-woman, and also the tech woman thus you should never stop learning. I recently invested in a 3-month course that is teaching me about the nuts and bolts of growing a successful membership plan. it was a lot of money but I needed it because it knew it would help me develop a new arm of my business without all the costly mistakes.
As a business owner, your craft is your passion, and the need to sharpen your saw is important. It’s so necessary to invest time into developing the skills it takes to stay in business. There’s an art and science to it. The art you can finesse over time. When it comes to science, your best bet is to learn the processes and strategies that will keep you in business. Spend time reading books, listening to podcasts, enrolling in courses, or attending workshops. Your business will benefit from these kinds of investments.
FINAL THOUGHTS WHEN YOU START A BUSINESS
No one can guarantee the outcomes of starting a business. There are so many falls, bruises, and pain points along the way. Trust me, I’m here with my battle scars but still so grateful the day I decided to take the leap of faith.
There is one last piece of advice. There will be fear for sure but never allow it to play its mind games with you. Don’t suffer from analysis paralysis either. At the end of the day, the small business owner who takes action, messy action, imperfect action but action nevertheless, they are the ones that go places.
So, I’m dying to know how will you turn your business dreams into reality? The above tips will help but is there one you’d like to focus more on? Please share it in the comment box below.
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