Lessons Learned in My First Year of Business
No matter where I am, what I am doing, I get asked this one question. What is the one thing you have learned from opening your business? Usually, I say a generic answer about working long hours or something along those lines. However, the other night while watching The U.S. Women’s National Team beat China I go to thinking about what have I learned this past year in business. We have been opened exactly a year July 1st, but my learning curve started seven months before we opened. I sat there and thought: what are the most important lessons I have learned that others would find useful if they were to open a business?
Networking in business is crucial in every aspect of your business. I did not know what networking was before we opened and got a crash course two months before we opened. Networking is the key to forming relationships within the community. There are 3 key elements to networking
Be on Time
Showing up seems like the easiest thing to do but it is the hardest step in networking. Getting out of your way and showing up to events is the hardest step in networking. Your first instinct is to not go b/c you do not know anyone. After the first few events, you will recognize faces and this fear of not knowing people will start to fade away.
Being on time is the next crucial step in networking. If you are going to a referral group, ribbon cutting, or chamber workshops showing up on time shows that you care. Coming in late more times than not you are distracting a speaker or making a scene. If you are late, do not go there are other events around the corner.
Last but not least BE HAPPY. Smile all the time and be cheerful in your conversation. People pick up on your energy and associate you with being happy and people will want to meet you. The person who is whiny usually is the first to leave and no one wants to deal with them. We all have problems, whining about yours does not make you any more important. BE HAPPY
In business, the relationships you build can either make or break you. As a small business, you need to partner with all small businesses and share clients. You need to find mentors to help you thru the tough times or to get advice from when a problem arises. Forming relationships in the community is important b/c community and business leaders are the people others look to when asking about the best services or restaurants.
We have partnered with many businesses to throw parties with or to have a referral program back and forth. For example, Swanky Sole and Millefiori Medical Skin Rejuvenation have a referral program that sends clients back and forth. We have gained valuable clients this way. If you are a small business and are not creating these relationships then you need to start today.
Fallacy of working for Yourself
I have friends that say, you must love working for yourself. You can take vacation whenever you want and have no one looking over your shoulder. Well the second part is correct but the first is the farthest thing from the truth. Small Business Owners do not work for themselves, they work for their customers or clients. We rarely take vacation b/c 9 times out of 10 we are the business. If we do not work the business does not make money. If the business does not make money then we personally do not make money. I had more vacations in my previous career as a teacher then I will ever have as a small business owner. You know what… this is okay and I would not change it for the world. As a small business owner you savor those Sunday’s at the beach, on the river, hanging with friends that much more. These are the vacations business owners cherish. Although we quote work for ourselves, we truly work for our customers and clients.