The Best of My Business Lessons – Learned The Hard Way
I am what you would call a “Serial Entrepreneur”.
Where most people complain about a lack of ideas, vision or inspiration – I have the exact opposite problem. Its so bad that my team roll their eyes and cringe when I say the words “I have an idea!”
Currently the group of businesses under my watchful eye incorporate 5 different brands – and counting!
Since starting my first business – at the age of 18 – I have learned a hell of a lot on along the way. Most of it would have been really handy to know way back then, let me tell you!
As a young budding entrepreneur who had made no money, had little success and mostly lessons lying in her wake, I vowed I would share as much wisdom of the how to’s and nuts and bolts of business as I could – just as soon as I started figuring some of them out.
So, in the spirit of ‘sharing is caring’ and wanting to save anyone who wants to start a business a WHOLE lot of headaches, here are the hardest (and most expensive!) lessons I have learned as a Serial Entrepeneur.
- Money Matters
Business costs money. End of story. When you start out, get as much money behind you as you can. Whilst I love the idea of ‘bootstrapping’ and have done it many times, it can wear thin really quickly and can mean your business implodes. I have seen it happen more often than not. Extend every line of credit you can, set up a redraw on the mortgage and save Save SAVE! You may need it sooner than you think!
- Marketing Matters More!
You simply can not expect to start a business, set up shop somewhere and that people will flock to your door. It just doesn’t work that way. Exposure is THE single most important thing in business. If you do not know marketing then team up with someone who does. If you don’t market your business in a wide variety of ways you will soon find your results dry up. Get clued up on marketing and make sure its a priority from the word GO.
- Avoid The Talkers
There ARE a hell of a lot of people out there who talk the talk and do not walk the walk. Be careful. I have been taken for a ride many – oh – hundreds – of times. The more successful you become the more people will want to ‘piddle in your pocket’, suck up to you, flatter you and promise the world. These types rarely deliver. I now go for quieter, conscientious types who are not flamboyant nor braggards. I find that they do actually deliver the goods.
Trust your instincts. Always. If something feels wrong, it is. If someone feels off, they are. If things don’t look right, they’re not. Keep digging and get to the bottom of it. Ignorance can destroy what you’re trying to build like lightning.
- Forget Resumes
Hire from your gut, not your head and never from a piece of paper. A bad hire can cost you thousands of dollars. If someone looks AMAZING and “totally perfect” they may not be. Decide from a cool, calm space, never from a high. I have hired people whom I thought would be amazing and they were dreadful, costing thousands in time, money, equipment and training and some even sabotaging the business at the same time as taking their pay check! Always hire from your gut – and keep an eye on things very closely.
- Stay Cool
When you increase emotions you decrease intelligence. If you find yourself getting emotional about something in your business step back. You will literally turn everything to muck very quickly coming from an intensely negative emotional space. Like a jigsaw puzzle you’re stuck on, take a break – fresh solutions will appear after you walk away for a little while.
- Understand the 98% vs 2%
Most people are employees because that is where their thinking is at. Don’t be disappointed with them – they will not understand you, your vision or your goals. Just keep it moving.
- Entrepreneurs Are a Rare Breed
Don’t expect too much from people. I have invested huge time and energy into the wrong people thinking they were some kind of world beater. They weren’t. I lost out… big time. Entrepreneurs are world beaters with huge dreams, big ambitions and the gumption to boot. You’re in business because you are like this. Everyone else is not because they are not. Simple as that. Let them be and keep it moving – don’t try to take them with you.
- Expect The Best, Prepare for The Worst
Don’t lower the bar. At the same time as not expecting the world from people, do not lower the bar and accept the unacceptable. You’re in business – you are not a charity. Maintain a high personal standard and demand that from your team – ensuring you deliver on it too. Always have a contingency and never ever put your eggs in one basket. Many a rug has been ripped out from underneath unsuspecting business owners who relied too heavily on one person or relied on a bad team. Always keep hold of the reins.
- Part Time Pays
When you start out in business, DO NOT go in full time! Unless you are buying an already established company, this is utter insanity. You will likely run out of money and burn out trying to prop yourself – and your business – up. Save the ‘All In – Boots and All’ stuff for when you feel like going swimming. It is a rare person indeed who can build a successful business when living on the poverty line. Keep your lifeline until you’re making serious money – then celebrate with a bottle of Dom Perignon because you will then be able to afford – and really enjoy – it.
- More Marketing
There is a rule that at least 80% of your time and money MUST be spent on exposing your business. When you stop exposing your business, it will die. Trust me. If you don’t have at least 8 – 12 marketing funnels or channels activated then your business will be suffering. Get with the program and make marketing the first thought – not the afterthought – of your budget and time.
- Figure Out Financials
Figures matter. If you don’t know how to read a Profit and Loss, a Balance Sheet or the General Ledger of Accounts then LEARN! You simply can not project accurate (that’s a fancy word for setting income goals for your business) or budget (that’s a fancy word for not spending more than you make) without understanding the company’s financials. Its easy nowadays – YouTube will have quick and easy tutorials or make a time to sit down with your Accountant. That’s another thing – hire the BEST Accountant you can afford, not the cheapest! Its a worthwhile investment and you – and your company bank accounts – will regret it if you hire someone sloppy.
- Money Is Available
Look for business grants from local, state and Federal level government as well as Big Business. There are myriad business grants out there that you may or may not be eligible for. If you don’t apply, you don’t get. You’ve got to be in it to win it!
- Desperation Does Not Deal
Stop rescuing! I recently read a post from the infamous Dr John DeMartini. He said never hire someone who is in desperation. That energy will affect your business. Hire someone who is inspired – not desperate. You are not a charity, you are running a business. If they can not step up – next them. Let them find something more suitable or learn their own lessons. Stop rescuing other people – it helps no one, least of all yourself.
- Get Your Lessons – Fast
Business and marriage are the two greatest self-reflectors in life. You will get to know everything you need to know about you from either watching your partner or watching your business. Pay attention.
- Get Your House in Order
You will run your company the way you run your home. If you live in squalour, mess and filth then you can expect that your business will be a complicated wreck on the verge of insolvency pretty quickly. Its an energy thing. Get your house in order and keep it that way. Your business will thank you.
- Forget The Three P’s – It’s All About People People People
Business is not about profits. Its about people. If you study people more than anything else you will be unusually successful. You need to get to know your customer, get inside their head and predict their every move. This will jet propel your business like nothing else! If you have never taken a short course in personality profiling or similar, then do it now. Its well worth it.
- Study Experts – Ignore the Rest
Only listen to successful people. Ignore everyone else – period. I spent a long time listening to people who had very mediocre results and were miserable in their businesses. My results were – interestingly – pretty mediocre too. Once I switched it up and only tuned into experts, then things changed – fast. I do not listen to the advice from anyone on ANY subject now until I see they have the kind of results I want. That may sound arrogant to some – and to those people I would ask “So what kind of results have you got that mean I should listen to you too?”
- Having Fun?
Keep it light, make it fun. Don’t get so serious about it! Its business not the Presidency of the United States! You’re not running a country or going to war, you’re operating a small business. Remember to keep things in perspective. Do some volunteer work, tap into causes greater than yourself – this helps to keep you grounded.
- Good People are NOT Hard to Find!
Your team will make or break you – in every way. You need to invest time, energy and care into them – daily. Build up the emotional bank balance every single day – because one day you may need to make a withdrawal by pulling rank. Compliment them, build up their confidence, sincerely thank them, notice what they’re doing well and always always use the Love Sandwich (compliment → feedback / constructive criticism → compliment). Talk in terms of “we” and “us” and “our” – not in terms of you, I, they. Good people are not hard to find if you’re one of them!
So there you have it! 20 hard-learned lessons from a serial entrepreneur. If I had only but learned – or listened – to these lessons earlier on in my journey I would have saved a lot of time, trouble, effort and indeed, huge amounts of money. Smart entrepreneurs in the making will pay attention to these lessons here and apply them. Stubborn entrepreneurs will get their own lessons – the hard way. Neither way is right or wrong – I just prefer to easy way these days!
Hopefully these 20 lessons will get you thinking and in turn save you a lot of hassle, heartache and expense.
Its foolish to reinvent the wheel and equally foolish to go into business thinking you know it all, or it will all “work itself out”. It doesn’t – it will work YOU out and spit you out too if you let it!
Knowledge is power and these lessons can form part of your arsenal. Read them, ponder them, absorb them then act on them. They are the things I wish someone had told me nearly 2 decades ago!