4 Pieces of Wisdom
If I only knew then what I know now. I have learned a lot during my entrepreneurial journey, and although they have been necessary lessons, I do my best to ensure I can pass what I learned on to help others avoid them and/or make different decisions to allow them greater success and growth. The below are a few that have had the greatest positive impact on my business.
You Can’t Do It All
I would have hired earlier. I find most business owners stress about the cost of bringing on team without considering the value. An early business coach offered me the best advice during a time that I was working far too many hours and my results were not equalling my effort. I needed to look at every task and ask myself if I would pay someone my rate to do it. If not, I was using my valuable time for a task that I needed to hire out. Working too many hours trying to accomplish everything was having a negative impact on myself and on the business as well.
As I’ve grown, I’ve also learned to outsource more from my professional and personal life. I started with the things I least enjoyed (bookkeeping!) and then to things that I could do, but others could do better such as IT and marketing. Personally, I outsourced things like cleaning and yard maintenance. I have outsourced things that took my focus away from working on the business and areas that I can hire a professional to really take things to the next level. I now think more about investing a dollar to make two dollars versus saving a dollar.
Know Your Worth
Too often, I see new entrepreneurs heavily discount or provide free services to earn work. This can be detrimental to your reputation in two ways. First off, if you want to be known for offering a high quality product or service, keep your pricing higher to avoid giving the perception that your work is low quality. Secondly, you risk upsetting your competition. If you go out and undercut everyone else, you do risk alienating yourself from your competitors. Everyone has more to gain when we support and work together. Keep your pricing fair and be aware of what the market trend is for it.
Most importantly though, price yourself well so that you can make a profit. Determine what your breakeven needs to be on each of your service and/or products and understand gross and net margins. Your business will not survive if it is not sustainable and it will be much more challenging to drastically raise prices instead of just starting with a fair rate to begin with.
It is important you outline some boundaries for yourself to prevent burnout and to help manage difficult clients. During the start-up phase in your business it is normal to want to accommodate every client request to help you to gain the business. I promise that the sooner you set the boundaries, the greater success you will see in your business.
Start by scheduling yourself and setting business hours no matter what stage of business growth you are in. I can understand wanting to accommodate clients and working hard, but I learned early on that I needed to set my schedule, stick to it and book within it. And amazingly, the clients never had a problem making this work and I was rarely asked to schedule outside of this.
It is vital that you have policies for your business as it sets clear expectations and guidelines for the clients regarding the services. This avoids confusion, miscommunication and helps to resolve conflict more effectively. Many of our policies have been created from disagreements with clients. We learn from each situation and use these situations to grow and improve. They must be clear and concise to ensure there is no miscommunication and they must be presented upfront, so the client is not surprised.
Surround yourself with people who will support you and help you get through the tough times. And there will be tough times. Every business owner experiences the rewarding up times and struggling low times. Every business owner will make mistakes as well. You are not unique with these problems and you are not alone. I have a wonderful network of supportive family, friends and other dog trainers. However, as my business grew, I found it more difficult as I did not have anyone who truly understood the challenges small business owners face. I joined my local Chamber of Commerce and it was the best thing I could have done. It doesn’t matter the type of business, every entrepreneur faces many of the same challenges. I have never met such a supportive and encouraging group. If you are not a part of a business group, get out and join one. And you will get out of your membership what you put in, so participate and be active in the community. And do not forget to support yourself. Get rest, spend time with family and friends and provide yourself with regular self-care. Your sanity and business will thank you for it.
Being an entrepreneur is one of the most rewarding and challenging journeys I have been on. This sector has really grown and the resources are amazing. Reach out to other entrepreneurs, listen to their stories, cheer on their success and learn from each other. And hang on – you are in for one hell of a ride.