The 5 Most Important Things I Have Learned Owning A Small Business
When I began thinking about writing a blog, this post was the first that came to mind. I enjoy hearing about what other people have learned along their journey in life, and the road in business is always particularly interesting. Similar to parenting, we learn a lot about ourselves in business. Our strengths and weaknesses play out in new ways when we decide to start something from infancy.
My mom and I take care of all of the details that make this (typically) well oiled machine keep going, and we have learned so much along the way. Since starting Joyful Seed in 2014, we have not only grown as a business, but also as individuals. I didn’t want to just make a blog post about the “typical” business advice, but rather what I think are topics often left uncovered. So, here it goes!
YOU are not your comparison. Phew, this is a big one to start with! When I looked over this list, this easily made the number one spot. This is fundamental for life in general, as well as business. Recognizing that the goals, talents, customers, influences, etc. of your competition are unique from yours is vital. If you don’t believe this, you’ll spend your time creating walls instead of bridges. Dare I tell you that I used to worry so much about this? I would see people who had the success that I wanted, and wonder why I wasn’t getting there despite doing all of the same things. But you know what? One day it just clicked for me. We all have a unique design and purpose, and mine comes out in a different way than my competitors, and thats OK! There is room for everyone in business and there’s always something you can bring to the arena. YOU are the unique piece, not your ideas, products or location. This brings me to my second point…
Community over competition. If you come into the game and think that everyone is out to get you, or that you can’t be friends with someone because their business is too much like yours, you are MISSING OUT! I have seen this play out, and experienced the nasty side of it personally. The best way I know to not get stuck in the comparison cycle is to get on the same team! The relationships I have made with other business owners are priceless! Not only have a I connected with some amazing women, but we all have the exact same struggles to relate to. When I have a question about inventory, what to use for merchant processing, how to handle something with a customer…I have people I can go to who offer me real advice through experience. Not only that, but I’ve been able to collaborate on some of the best projects with other shops, because we all have mutual goals. Figure out who your competitors are in the industry and reach out to them—they’ll be some of your most valuable resources.
It also needs to be said that there are very few original ideas. We get inspiration from all around us, and things are bound to be copied. Does it suck when someone takes your sweat equity and turns it into an easy new thing for them? YES, but this is life. It takes you back to fifth grade again when someone copied your cool new things, and you instantly felt defeated. And you had to learn that this is just a part of life. Once you put something out there in a business, know that any good ideas will be copied. But remember, YOU are the unique piece, so you’ve got this!
Passion vs. Money. If you have the luxury to start a small business without the need to provide quick income, you need to really think about what is driving your goals. When we started our business, my goals were to have a creative outlet outside of my mom life, and to start something that my mom and I could do together. As our job descriptions have grown, there have certainly been days when I feel under compensated. Nevertheless, the passion is always there. Getting into a business with the sole desire to make money makes those long days so much harder, especially in the beginning when the pay doesn’t match the hours put in. It’s not wrong to want to reap the reward of all of your hard work, but be thoughtful about why you are getting into something in the first place. Will you enjoy what you’re doing even if you aren’t paid?
Stick to a focus. In the beginning stages of our business, we said yes to way more things than we should have, because someone was willing to pay for them. When you’re starting out, its flattering, and you want to make money! But honestly, they were things we didn’t always enjoy, or that fit in with the business we were really trying to build. Now, when someone asks if we paint furniture that a client already has, we are comfortable saying no, but letting them know some great people we’ve met (remember those competitors you’re going to befriend??) that they could ask. Win win.
As a small business owner, there are always new opportunities that seem enticing to pursue. Just because your competitors start branching out into new avenues doesn’t mean you have to follow their footsteps. Have your things and do them exceptionally. I constantly come up with new ideas for things I would like to offer our customers, but recognizing that we don’t have the capacity to pursue all of these things right now means that we can focus on what we do have before moving on. These other ideas can be the driving forces that cause us to set the right foundation first.
Set boundaries! When you fulfill so many roles within your business, the amount of time you could spend working is endless. Set healthy boundaries that leave you time to plan, relax, refresh, and come back to your work with clarity. Some boundaries to consider are; social media posts and interacting, emailing, goal planning and financials. Boundaries don’t just have to be in place to keep you from doing something, but also to make sure you leave time for things you should be doing.
As we continue to grow and set our sights on the future, these are the things I keep coming back to. I hope that they provide you with some tools to shape how you think about your current business, or the business you are dreaming of. If it got you thinking, join in the conversation in the comments!