Whenever I’ve been asked to discuss the so called success of my design company, I often find myself in an excited and animated mood not unlike the way I felt when I was putting together my very first company plan at the age of 19. Every business owner will have their very own story with its fair share of ups and downs, confounding mistakes and of course glorious successes. I’d like to think that over time I’ve accumulated some very simple and fundamental do’s and don’ts and find myself in a privileged position of being able to share that knowledge and experience with others in a helpful and often humorous way.
One of the first things I find myself talking about is that regardless of the type of business you have chosen to venture into, the rules, the guidelines, the steps and the metaphors are all too often the same. People refer to their business as being ‘their baby’ for example. That’s a fantastic place to start! Anyone who has had children* will know all too well what the first few years of parenting are like: sleepless nights, continual surprises, heartache and let’s not forget panic. All of these things are offset by the love and joy you receive from watching your ‘baby’ grow. So when I do get to discussing small business, I never start with anything specific like business name registration, domain name registration and a million other little details, because there’s plenty of time for all of that. Instead I focus on the importance of the mind set, which is the very foundation and the very reason you decided to take that challenge upon yourself in the first place. Just like parenting, your new business will need time and patience to get on its feet but it doesn’t stop there folks. As it grows, it’s needs grow too and you need to keep up. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Over the years, having spoken to many business owners and people planning to start a business, I’ve discovered that we all have something in common. It’s a beautiful thing that I like to call ‘start up fever’. It’s that thump in your chest** that tells you to get up and make it happen no matter how high the odds are stacked up against you. If you can sustain that feeling, you don’t need to drink coffee anymore***. Unfortunately I also discovered that for many people that initial passion can very quickly become the opposite after a lack of success or when dreams are not immediately realised. We all know the feeling but I like to tell people that reaction is a bit like getting upset at your new born baby for not being able to talk. Once I taught myself that disappointment was as normal and as common as a victory, things changed a little and I was able to roll with the punches. Because guess what? The more you try, the more you succeed and the more you succeed the more you learn. Sure, it also means your going to fail along the way but the rewards far outweigh a few setbacks.
Once I’ve made an impression on people regarding their mindset and the true nature and extent of their commitment, I like to talk about list making. Not everyone is a list person but just like that thump in your chest (or butterfly in your tummy), I’ve discovered that most business owners are also list people. Some however haven’t started writing their lists on paper so I like to encourage them to do just that. If you’re thinking about your business then you should also be writing your thoughts down. There’s nothing like that fresh and spontaneous idea about your next marketing campaign or product or big move. Make a list and start ticking things off. Start small and reward yourself by including easily achievable goals. Again, I’d love to get into the finer detail of what a business list should read like but that leads me to the third thing I like to share which is honesty = personality.
You see, running a business that deals with business owners as I do, means I’m often involved in helping people take their very first steps into business-hood. It’s a time filled with excitement and energy that would be worth millions if you could bottle it. It’s also a time where lots of little decision are made like your business name, logo development and maybe even your mission statement. So my final piece of advice for our business younglings is that honesty = personality and never the other way around. That one needs a little bit of thought and I didn’t always think it was true but basically what I’m saying is that people (your prospective customers), respond best when they feel they’re dealing with something wholesome and something that isn’t trying to be what it isn’t. I encourage people to take the time to really get to the core of what makes them unique and why they’re doing what they’re doing. When you have answers to those questions the true personality of business starts to take shape and it’s come from an honest and considered place and people can’t help but respond to that.
* Of course some of you may not have had children so just think of your favorite plant or animal and multiply by a million.
**I will also accept butterflies in your tummy.
*** I still drink coffee most days of the week however.
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