As I approach my third business anniversary, it’s time to reflect on the lessons learnt in the hope of helping other newbie entrepreneurs prepare for what’s ahead or better still, to avoid making the same mistakes (spoiler alert: there are some things we all have to learn the hard way, unfortunately).
1. This is likely to be the most challenging but rewarding thing you ever do
No-one understands what running a business is truly like until you’re walking in a business owner’s shoes. The constant pressure to generate work, while keeping existing clients happy and continuing to push the boundaries, is incredibly mentally taxing. If you’re flying solo (like me), there is no-one to enjoy lunch with and engage in a good venting session. Sleepless nights, financial pressures, angry “why didn’t I just get another job?” moments – they’re all part of the gig. The extreme highs and lows can be difficult to cope with, but, on the flipside, there is no better feeling than nailing your goals and building something from scratch.
2. Being good at what you do isn’t enough
Once upon a time, I sat at a desk for hours and excelled in a workplace by letting my work do the talking. Producing the goods for management saw me promoted and praised. In business, you’re playing a different ball game – being talented doesn’t equate to success. It’s one thing to gain new clients, it’s another thing to maintain them, and for some your work will never be good enough. Reality is, you need to know who you are, what you do and how to communicate that to others to position yourself as the go-to brand in your space to survive and thrive in the long-term.
3. Some things are out of your control
This is something those of us working in PR learn very quickly: you can have the most engaging story at your fingertips, the most credible sources and talent, but at that last moment, breaking news snuffs out your chances of gaining coverage for a client. Regardless of how great you are at what you do or how hard you hustle and work, sometimes, things just don’t go to plan. When that happens and your mental state isn’t in a great place, the best thing you can do is to acknowledge the frustration and move on quickly. Focus on what you can control and hit the reset button.
4. Money doesn’t maketh the entrepreneur
Money is a wonderful thing – businesses need it to thrive and the reality is that the more money our business generates, the more impact we can have. Money paves the way for us to obtain and sustain a certain lifestyle. Running a business requires a level of commitment, dedication and resilience that transcends money. Tune into what makes you feel the most joy and plot out how you can make a living out of it. Regardless of how much money you make, if you find your line of work soul crushing, you’ll always be chasing a level of contentment that is not possible or sustainable.
5. Failure is the only guarantee
If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough – it really is that simple in business. Each failure puts you one step closer to success. So embrace failure and instead of feeling embarrassed or allowing the stress and worry to cripple you, pat yourself on the back. You’re doing the best you can, you’re one step closer and in a couple of days, that failure will seem like a distant memory.
There is no such thing as an overnight success. There’s no winning formula or proven pathway. Running your own show isn’t for everyone and that’s okay! Everyone’s business journey is different, so if you’re about to take the plunge or you’re in the thick of entrepreneurial life already, buckle up. You’re in for a ride.
Sarah Cannata is a passionate storyteller, a PR consultant, author and founder of This Woman Can.