I’ve been up since silly-o’clock and already it’s becoming ‘one of those days’! It’s nearly lunchtime – well, it’s actually only 11am but it FEELS like lunchtime – and I’m still sitting here in my decidedly shabby, old dog walking gear.
Such is the glamorous life of a business coach! Not exactly the Pina Colada lifestyle the online world would have you believe with all those photos of individuals nonchalantly running their businesses from a laptop in a deckchair on the beach!
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE running my business but like ANY entrepreneurial venture it comes with its own challenges and frustrations. Having run my own business for more than a decade, I’ve experienced the highs AND the lows, the good AND the bad (but thankfully, very little of the ugly!) and that’s why I thought today was a good time to share the reality of that experience with you by telling you some of the things that no-one really tells you about starting a business.
Embrace your role as a business owner ASAP!
This is something I learned the hard way, because I wanted very little to do with running a business when I first started running my business (oh the irony!). I just wanted to be a coach who coached all day! I didn’t quite ‘get’ that to BE a coach, my first priority had to be finding the people who wanted to be coached! But I soon learned that my success and financial stability would come NOT from doing the thing that I loved (in my case, coaching) but by becoming a business owner first and a coach second.
Which leads me on to the next one….
Your marketing skills are AS important as what you actually do
In fact, I might even go so far as to say your marketing skills are even MORE important than WHAT you do! You can be the BEST coach, designer, stylist or photographer in the world but the truth is, if nobody knows you exist, that won’t matter a jot! I eventually realised that unless I got to grips with marketing PDQ I wouldn’t attract the clients that would enable me to DO the very thing I loved to do – coach!
Many think that marketing is somehow a slightly unsavoury ‘add on’ to be avoided but in reality it’s the foundation stone of any business and without a solid marketing plan to build your community and consistently attract the people you want to work with you’ll struggle.
So if you don’t have all the clients you want, instead of worrying about creating a new product or service, focus instead on really honing your marketing, so you can grow your business AND help more of the people who need you.
Businesses only work if you do
Like ANY worthwhile endeavour, your business will most definitely require hard work and focus. The idea that building a thriving business is easy-peasy is NOT the reality for most people. It IS true that once you get all your ducks lined up in a row things start to fall into place and you bring a natural flow and rythm into your business, but for the majority of us this takes time and effort to realise.
There are those ‘out there’ who make it all look effortless (the business from a deckchair brigade again!!!) but you can be sure that behind the scenes, they’ve been beavering away, steadily perfecting their strategies over months and years, and that’s why it LOOKS so effortless. BUT….. if they can do it, you can certainly do the same – it just requires hard work, time and focus.
Running a business can be lonely
That feeling of ‘woo-hoo I can do what I like!’ is soon short-lived when we realise that we also have to find the motivation to do all the things we need to do and we alone are solely responsible for what we do and how we choose to spend our time! It’s the ‘solo’ bit of being a solopreneur that can be the hardest.
It can be quite lonely. That’s why it’s important – no, more than important, VITAL – that as soon as you start your business, you start building a community of peers and business colleague. I can honestly say that I would have given up without the support, community and friendship of my fellow entrepreneurs. Yes, business is work, but that certainly doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun too (perish the thought!)… and the more you connect with other like-minded people and the more you participate in your community, the less lonely – and more inspired and supported – you’ll feel.
And you’ll have a LOT more fun!
Nobody cares HOW you do what you do
What! I know that might well be a scary thought but there are very few people who care about how you do what you do….. but fear not, what they DO care about – VERY MUCH – is how you can help them and how you can provide a solution to their biggest problem, a result, or transformation of some kind.
Now you may have heard the saying ‘sell the sizzle not the sausage’ which essentially means sell the benefits of what you do rather than the features because THAT’S really what your clients are interested in!
Standing out is more important than fitting in
When I set up my first business I remember trawling the internet looking at all the others in my particular niche, scrutinising what they were saying, how they were saying it, what they were offering, how they were delivering their offering, how much they were charging and so on. And then I went away and regurgitated what was already out there – a cloned version of what already existed.
The problem with being a clone is, of course, it makes you the same as everyone else! (Obviously!) And in business, being the same as everyone else is not a very good strategy. It means that you are not utilising something very, very powerful in your business – YOU and all your glorious uniqueness. Your skills, your talents, your style and your experience are what will differentiate you from the rest and make you stand out from the herd.
As the inimitable Oscar Wilde said, ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’
Spend less time planning and more time doing
I am a great believer in the old cliché “those who fail to plan, plan to fail” BUT…. the problem is we can spend SO much time on planning that we never actually DO anything else!
Things don’t happen by learning more, planning more or perfecting more – they happen through taking action and putting yourself out there, even if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Action – and yes, that includes ‘imperfect’ action – will take you further, faster, than planning ever will, I guarantee!
Running a business is a course in personal development
Without doubt, entrepreneurship is one of THE most personally challenging things you can do. You will be regularly confronted with your fears and insecurities, your limitations, your justifications and your crappy excuses. And then of course there’s the BIG one – your own resistance! I’m talking here about that chattering little voice, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, starts whispering in our ear producing excuses and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.
The thing is, in spite of all this, you WILL find a way to deal with your dear old gremlins and learn to accept yourself in spite of your flaws and your weaknesses, because in order to do what you so desperately want to do every day, you have to get over yourself and put yourself out there – warts and all!
And then one day…. you’ll look back at ALL you’ve achieved and recognise that somehow, through this process, you have become even MORE awesome than when you started. So when I say that it’s life-changing, I really mean it!
And one last truth before I go…
For every moment of frustration, fear and doubt there are MANY MORE moments of pure unadulterated joy, fun, achievement and fulfilment – and THESE are worth a hundred of even the hardest days. (Yes, even the days when you find yourself still sitting there in your decidedly shabby old dog walking gear at lunchtime!)
So take some time to pat yourself on the back now and again, because what you are doing by building a business IS a big deal and you can TOTALLY do it. Keep moving forward, work hard, stand out and serve your clients as only you can and I for one will be cheering you on every step of the way.
Onwards and upwards!
Now it’s your turn:…
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started out? What piece of advice could you offer a new entrepreneur?