It’s been a rather recent major life-event in which I’ve set-off on my own course of Entrepreneurship — less than 6 months actually. And although I’ve had years of experience working for and with other Small Business Owners, it’s definitely a whole new game when performing my own pulling up by the proverbial bootstraps.
For those who may have missed previous announcements, I quit my job in December to pursue building our own company full-time. It is called illuvint llc, and in one sentence, we are a service-provider to other small businesses and ministries. Our services are geared towards supporting Entrepreneurs and Ministry workers in their weakest areas, including: building, maintaining, revamping Websites; strategizing and implementing Social Media; developing and implementing Marketing plans and/or campaigns; power-packed Copywriting and content provision; and savvy Graphic Design. I have assembled a stellar team across the country of the best and brightest people in these areas, where it is all that they do – and do it very well.
At any rate, there are a few (hundred) lessons I’ve been learning during this start-up phase, but I wanted to skim the cream off of the top and give you a few of my top pieces of advice, from one Start-up to another Start-up. This isn’t one of those big conceptual lists like you’d find here on things like ROI or validating the market, this is about providing simple, practical tips to folks like my friend about to quit her job and plunge into the Entrepreneurial world. For those who are debating, or just got up the courage to start your own business, I hope this gives you an idea of what to prepare for on the out-set.
1) There are only so many hours in a day, so pace yourself
In a lean start-up (like ours), with the work load immense and the hands to perform it very sparse, one can easily give into that feeling similar to trying to climb out the Grand Canyon with a step stool. I’m that ambitious person that writes a to-do list of 15 things, to only cross of maybe 2 in a day (well, technically 1 but that’s because I’m waiting for someone to get back to me on #2). The 15 point list should really be prioritized, broken down into a list ranking what needs to be done today, later this week, next week, or even next month. A good friend once told me, “Know your limitations and be at peace with them.” So Confession time: I downloaded a free trial program nearly 30-days ago and have barely done any work within the month-long trial; but I could list you the 100 other things I was managing and taking care of during that month that were even more important, such as looking after business/personal/state taxes or creating business alliances. Pace yourself!
2) Don’t be fooled by the flexibility of your schedule, but don’t ignore it either
I recently read some advice on one of those Entrepreneur sites saying an employee-turned-Entrepreneur applied his 8am to 5pm regular schedule that he had at his previous job to running his own company. I’ve tried to adapt this, but I’m really not a morning person folks – that, plus my creative juices are often get their prime flow come 9:00 pm. So what’s an Entrepreneur like me to do? Without kids (yet), our evenings and weekends easily lend themselves post-meals to collaborate with my business partner/Husband on current projects or go over what happened during the day. Just about every evening, you’ll see us two with our Macs in the living room, plunking away at something work-related. Outside of clients, we’ve got our company website to build, accounting system to integrate, Social Media pages to design and strategize etc etc…so with such big undertakings and my Hubs with his full-time job, it’s the work-around solution. So we’re still working on finding balance in this area. The flexibility to collaborate with my Husband in the evenings when he is available shouldn’t be avoided because it’s outside of normal working hours. But then, I’ve got to adjust my day-time schedule so that I’m not working consistent 15-hour days and burning myself out. I’m a work-in-progress on this one, but I say that there is a balance as not one cookie-cutter idea should be applied to all Entrepreneurs. Conversely, if you’re working at all hours of the day or night, that’s a problem too. A balanced approach is best regarding your schedule.
3) Create and then utilize an environment of productivity
We all know that there’s a big difference in productivity levels based on your surroundings. Working from home, I can have the TV running in the background, while needing to get up every 3-minutes to stir dinner, and doing a Google chat with my old roomie from Canada — there’s no one to tell me otherwise. During the week, when I’m ready to get down to business (and yes, often in my PJs in the morning – I’ve earned it!) I go back into our home office, aka Command Central. (Click here to see what it basically looks like when tidy). The posture of sitting at my desk tells my body it’s time to be productive. If you’ve worked with me, you know I love music and love working to music, so I then put on a playlist that won’t distract me but makes me happy. And I keep the things I need throughout the day easily accessible (file folders, office supplies, etc…) so that I don’t get off on a tangent each time I require a document or a paper clip.
That being said, I’m not opposed to changing it up when a change of pace is needed. If I need some human interaction, or if my house is a mess and I know I’ll be tempted to take a 2-hour cleaning break, then heading out is a good option. Working from a Wi-Fi spot like the Library, our fav Coffee Shop, a Bistro, or even on my patio — can provide fresh inspiration in with a fresh view. When heading out on these excursions, just be sure you have what you need to be productive in your new environment (headphones, notepad, necessary documents, etc…)
4) Take the time and due-diligence to lay a firm foundation
Unless you’re a Franchise owner, you need to create a foundation for your company. This requires a lot of time and strategizing, from business development documents and plans to opening bank accounts, from setting up Social media pages to creating business cards, from developing processes and procedures to pricing structures…and so on and so on… I’ve worked for other small businesses owners, and it was a great disadvantage when they did not have a firm foundation from which to operate their business. There are so many great resources out there to help you, whether you know what you’re doing or not. One excellent resource I’d recommend that a good friend gave to me years ago, “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It”. Another resource recommended by a friend setting up her own business on the side right now is “The 4-hour Workweek“, which I bought but have yet to read, since there are a couple of my books in line in front of it (including one that I’ll be promoting for client, which definitely is priority!).
5) Draw support from those who can relate surrounding you
There are a great many benefits to being a Small Business Owner, and some down-sides (like with anything). One possible down-side, at least for a people-person like myself, it that it can be isolating when you work from home by yourself on your own projects, day-after-day. So if I get an offer to meet someone for lunch, I rarely turn it down. And if I need an eye to check over something I’ve done, I’ll ask and email it to a friend I can trust. Or if a created a form to utilize when doing a website build, I send it over to the Developers I’ve created an alliance with to provide feedback. I’m blessed to have a dear friend in my last Boss that has offered my old office as a work-space anytime I need to get out and have more human interaction. I’m doubly blessed to have found an incredible support in my Husband AND business partner.
So the point is, if you need something it may not just lend itself easily like when you worked in an office — you may have to seek it out.
Hopefully you find some nuggets of wisdom from my own experience. And for those Entrepreneurs out there – I wish you every success!