To say we’ve learned a lot in our first year would be an understatement. And I would imagine if you surveyed a panel of business owners, you would pretty much have consensus there. There were things in the first year that far exceeded our expectations, and things that fell way short. But we made it through alive and well, just maybe with a different mindset and slightly tired.
1. Be patient. You’re in it for the long haul.
It’s natural to dream that the minute you launch your website or open your doors, you sell out within minutes and the next thing you know you’re vacationing on some remote island somewhere. After all, this is exactly how Hollywood portrays it. Just the other day we were watching the Netflix series Girlboss. In it, the main character launches an e-commerce business, and the night of her launch party she sells out of her entire collection completely.
- What we learned after the first year is that patience really is a virtue. There is the excitement phase leading up to the launch, the excitement of the launch itself where you are surrounded by some of your favorite fans. But after the initial excitement wears off, you realize it’s the long haul that becomes important and that not every day is going to be glamourous. This is where it’s important to have passion in your business, because on the hard days it is your passion for the business that will carry you through.
2. Focus your time on what you do best. Outsource the rest.
There’s a million moving parts and pieces when you’re running a business. When you first start off, you’re going to try to do them all yourselves since if you’re not doing it yourself, you’re likely paying someone else to do it. The important key here is finding balance, because there is a trade off to trying to do everything yourself. Not only will you burn out quickly, you’ll also learn that you are spending time trying to figure out how to do something you aren’t good at, and it takes away from the time you get to spend on the things you are good at. You will also be surprised that not everything you outsource will cost you money.
- When we first launched our website I decided to build it myself. It was something I was trying to learn anyways and I found it was a great opportunity to test my skills. But what I quickly learned is that as I wanted to add functionality to the site, such as launching an online store, it was taking me forever to learn it and build it. So not only did it prevent us from getting our online store up and running quickly, it was also taking all my time away from other things that were more pressing. That’s when I started to research platforms that were already built and realized by outsourcing our website to another platform that was already built, not only could I refocus my time, we would actually get features on the first day that would have taken me several YEARS to build. It was a no brainer. And if you search hard enough, sometimes you’ll be delighted to learn that there are services that are either free or not nearly as expensive as you originally thought they would be.
3. Remember the positive things.
Right. Them. Down. I will say it again, write the positive things down. When you get an encouraging email, print it out and tape it to your wall. When someone leaves you a good review, print it out and tape it to your wall. Start a collection of all the things that have gone right, the positive things that people say, the funny interactions you have that, at least in the moment, make you forget about that one person who made that one comment three weeks ago that you can’t get out of your head. Because it’s human nature to spend all our time, energy and frustrations on the few negative things that happen instead of the myriad of great, amazing things that happen all day long. So having those physical reminders of positivity around you when things do go wrong will do wonders for your mental well-being.
4. Reward Yourself.
Celebrate the little things and big things that happen along the way. Long-term success is, well, long term. So if you only celebrate when you achieve your long-term vision, you’ll spend the entire time leading up to it with no reward. Also known as the perfect scenario for losing steam and burning out. Set smaller, achievable moments along the way, and when you hit them be sure to reward yourself. The reward should match the scale of the success. A small milestone may be your first online sale, and when you achieve it celebrate in a small way like going to your favorite restaurant and ordering your favorite meal and drink. Then there are larger milestones, such as goals for total monthly sales. If you hit it, go big. Buy yourself something you’ve been eyeing, or take a weekend excursion somewhere. By rewarding yourself as you achieve small but meaningful successes, you help yourself stay refreshed and continue to find passion in your business.
5. Don’t be afraid to fail.
Not every step along the way is going to go as you planned. And when starting a business, you feel like everyone is watching. If you move forward with a mentality that is scared of failure, you likely won’t move very far forward at all. Starting a business is all about taking risks. At some point, you will launch a product that doesn’t have the buzz you were hoping for or host an event that has abysmal attendance at best. But you have to keep trucking. No business hits it out of the park on every single thing they do, and you shouldn’t have the same expectation for yourself and your business. What is important is that you learn from your failures. Figure out what went wrong with the failed attempt, tweak it and try it again. On the next attempt, repeat this. What went well? What tanked? Eventually you will have enough valuable feedback to make more informed decision up front. But until then, take risks, accept the possibility of failure and learn from it.