Every once in a while I close my eyes and reflect back on the early days of my business. So much excitement! I’m an entrepreneur! I have my own business card! To look back now, I guess it was a childlike wonder that consumed me in the beginning. I really liked the enthusiasm of the person I was. I haven’t entirely lost it but if I could go back now and give her some advice, what would it be?
First bit of advice would be to sell more. I spent too much of my time giving stuff away and hoping for referrals that I didn’t pick up the phone nearly as much as I needed to. That ‘sales block’ is something I continue to struggle with and work on. I know I’m not alone. What do you do to overcome sales block?
My second suggestion would be to focus. As a writer, my skills can be put to use in so many ways but if I try to do too many different things am I really getting better at any of them? Of course, the needs of the customer have always come first so if they didn’t need a writer for their website but they needed someone to help them send a newsletter, that’s what I’d do. If the customer could write their own material but needed help in planning their marketing, that’s what I’d do. Slowly, over time there has been less writing and more project management. I’d tell my younger self to keep my eyes on the prize and focus on that one thing and put more energy into it. There will surely be other services, but make the core offering the biggest and the most important. Your flagship service is why you started this business in the first place.
Keep the end in mind. Dear entrepreneur, your business will one day end. What does that look like? Will you close up shop and retire? Will you build something so amazing it’s worth selling? Will you join with partners then pass the baton to them? Between the start date and the end date what do you expect to achieve?
And finally, know that everything is about people and relationships. Everything. Whether you put your family first or work with amazing customers and colleagues, the relationships you build will be the reason you exist. If your sole motivation for getting into business is the money, you will be disappointed. Even if you get to your six figure salary in the first year it will have only been possible because of the people you worked with along the way. That includes not only customers and colleagues, but suppliers and service providers. If you are pushing a deadline and both your computers crap out, your very best friend in the world is the computer repair guy who knows you and is willing to move his schedule to get you back on your feet. Never burn a bridge. Treasure every person.
Now I’m closing my eyes and imagining that we’ve just had that conversation. My younger self and I. She smiles even more broadly. I give her a hug. And for these few short moments I’m filled with that childlike wonder that reminds me why the heck I started down this path in the first place.