Hindsight is a wonderful thing. When I started Inner Creative I was a little naïve about what was involved in being your own boss and running a business. Although perhaps if I didn’t know some of the challenges that lay ahead, I mightn’t have been courageous enough to make the leap in the first place. Ultimately I am grateful that I did, but if I had a time machine I would travel back in time to give myself these three pieces of advice.
1. Do not wait for the perfect plan before taking action
When you start your own business it is recommended that you create a business plan. It doesn’t need to be a highly detailed 100 page document. It can be as simple as a one or two pager outlining:
- your mission (the why)
- your vision (where you want your business to go)
- your offer (the value and solutions you provide customers through products and services)
- your target market (the who)
- your financials (a breakdown of start-up and other costs, profit margins and estimated earnings)
- your values (the decision making guidepost)
- your strategic objectives and key actions (the how you’re going to achieve success).
A plan gives you clarity and focus. But don’t fall into the trap of researching and spending all your time finessing your business plan. A plan is only a start. It gives you a direction to head in and some steps to kick off with. But it is worthless without action.
You need to test the assumptions you make in your plan. For instance, you might have an initial idea about who your target market is. You need to get some real clients to work out who really loves your work and who’s hard to convince. Then you can refine who your ideal customers are and how you might change your product or pitch from there.
2. Adopt an ‘experiment’ mindset and be willing to learn from your mistakes
You will make mistakes. Unfortunately, there is no plan nor good intention that will completely protect you from making them. Doing your research and being strategic will help you minimise the risks. But the only way you’ll truly know if your idea will succeed is to put it out there and test it.
When you adopt an ‘experiment’ mindset you’re more resilient and able to ride the ‘ups and downs’ of business. Everything from sharing a post on Facebook, picking a logo, or launching a new offer, can be seen as an experiment. It may or may not work. By adopting an ‘experiment’ mindset you’re less likely to be overly invested in the outcome or see it as a ‘make it or break it’ big deal. It also means that you’re less likely to get paralysed by your worries or fears of failure and end up doing nothing.
With an ‘experiment’ mindset you’re more open to seeing what you can learn from whatever happens. There are all sorts of factors that contribute to the outcome, such as timing, the pitch, price, target market, or elements of the product or service. So if something works, then great! Where else can you replicate that? If things don’t turn out as well as you’d hoped, then it’s OK to be disappointed. For small things, like social media posts, then make a tweak and quickly try it again. For bigger things pick yourself up, dust off and instead of simply abandoning your idea, dissect what happened to see what worked, what didn’t and what you could do differently next time.
3. Do what works for you
This is not about only serving yourself and overlooking your clients’ needs. This is about stepping into your role as a business owner. In your business, the buck stops with you. So if you feel that the way you’re running your business compromises your values, your style or circumstances, then change what you’re doing. Do not run your business on the basis of outside expectations or how you perceive a ‘good business’ should be run.
I hear from so many business mums that they don’t like posting on Facebook or making cold calls to potential clients. That’s fine. But you still need to find new clients, connect with them and make a sale. Just do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable. It might mean getting some training or support to increase your comfort level too.
So look at the areas you’re feeling discomfort in your business. Check them against your values to see where there’s conflict. Work out if you need a little tweak, some more support, or whether you need to make a large-scale change to feel comfortable.
Unfortunately, I can’t travel back in time to share these learnings with my business start-up self. While this advice mightn’t have dramatically changed the course of my business it might have made it a little smoother and less angst ridden. At least there’s still an opportunity to practice these learnings in running a business from now on.
What words of advice would you give to your former business start-up self? Please share your comments below.
Natalia Walker, founder of Inner Creative, empowers entrepreneurs to unlock their creativity to create a business plan or solution that’s more aligned with their personal style, passion and values.