If you’ve been in business a while you are more than likely aware that being your own boss is a very revealing personal journey. I liken it to being a hero in an adventure story, because business can, and does, bring to the surface challenges we have to face, be they emotional, physical, spiritual, financial or mental.
Below are 10 things I’ve learnt from being my own boss. I should point out that this list isn’t everything and it’s not in any particular order.
In writing this list what I’ve noticed is how much I’ve learnt down the years.
1. Do it well whatever the cost – If you were on a mission and you could hire a guide that knows the territory at £50 an hour or a guide who doesn’t know any better than you for a tenner, which would you go for?
In business you get what you pay for. A good example of this is when we had a new opening in our team. We thought it was a simple job a student could do. Even so, we checked in with an expert in the field before going ahead. She came back with some top draw questions which resulted in subtle changes to our strategy (and subtle changes make big differences – ask any golfer who hits the tree when they want to hit the green). This goes for assistants, coaches, web designers, marketing people. I’m not advocating: “Go to the highest bidder”. What I am saying is go to who can do the job you want doing the best and pay their fee.
2. Avoid isolation – Any business adventure will probably mean you coming face-to-face with things you don’t know, don’t understand or don’t know how to get round. At times like this it’s a blessing to have a network of informed people!
I used to try to do it alone. Not now. We now have a small team who are experts in web technology, coding, various shopping carts, admin, sales, project management, marketing and social media. Beyond that we have 2 mentors. We mastermind with 6 people who think like us. We meet up with other friends who are like us. We have a drink or lunch now and again with people we respect in our field. We have 60 partners – we help them, they help us and we have several thousand CommunitySoulers who are a lot like us and who we learn from as well as share with. A successful business in this era needs to build a tribe, so start to build one and stop trying to do it all alone.
3. Never fear spending on growth – We get one shot at this life adventure. Don’t spend it complaining you can’t afford this or that. If the best in the industry invest in their development then it’s arrogant to think you don’t need it. It took me too many years to discover this one!
It’s simple. To grow you must invest. To think you can grow a business without investing some money into your business development would be naïve. I realised I’d been lying to myself on this one a couple of years back. Never again! On your adventure if you work in isolation and don’t invest in yourself, it’s hard to know what to do when you meet a challenge, yet if you have a mentor who has done what you want to do, you don’t get stuck, you flow past the obstacle. When it comes to investment it’s NOT what a coach or mentor asks you to pay, it’s about what it will cost you if you don’t pay.
4. It’s never over… till it’s over – In the past I gave up on my intentions too soon. I remember when that changed. We would set a goal and with just 28 days left we still had 82% left to achieve. In the past I would give up. These days I do what it takes to achieve a goal. There’s always something else you can do to pull a result out of the bag – if the goal means enough to you. If it doesn’t you have to find a bigger why.
5. Know where your wealth value is – I used to try to do it all – marketing, delivery, product creation, finances, websites, admin… and that was a big mistake. We all make money in various ways. This is the key to how we create our wealth. I’m into writing and speaking and opening doors for partners and clients who are developing to make a difference and a profit. My value comes from squeezing my time down into these projects and not getting involved in the other things that are not my area.
6. Start with what you want to earn – Sometimes someone new to business looks at how much to charge by looking at what the competition charges. I used to do this too. Not any more.
I now decide what I’d like to earn and then charge that. One thing you have to do with this approach is of course ensure your client gets up to 10 times the return on their investment. I enjoy this approach. It’s much more inspiring. When I changed how I did this my clients improved their results and our income rose.
7. Gather and keep momentum – Momentum is so important. Set a rhythm for your business to grow at. Many years ago I grew my business by spending 8 hours each week marketing it and the rest of the week delivering the service and managing my team. These days it’s a lot easier to market yourself as you have the Internet and lots of processes and systems available. So we automate many processes and I now spend maybe an hour a week on marketing, working with my team.
8. Income growth means just 3 things – To increase your income it simply comes down to getting new clients, having clients return and buy, and increasing your prices. The business hero just needs to know this and keep asking what needs to be done to achieve the goal. For too long I kept low prices thinking I was helping people, but if something is too cheap it has no value and is not respected. I learnt I was doing people more of a favour by charging a higher price, because people made sure they squeezed every drop out of something they paid a lot for.
9. Know you’re the enemy – Often we mascarade as the hero when we are really the villain. What I’ve learnt is that sometimes I’m the bottleneck or I’m the one resisting changes that needs to happen. Many times, such as when you need to increase your prices, the first person you will need to convince is yourself. I can remember I once hung out for 6 months too long before cutting an income stream, when I finally agreed to cut it, our income doubled in 6 months! So holding on to a small income stream, had cost our business £1000’s.
10. Give yourself clear boundaries – I used to rush from a client meeting to marketing, from marketing to accounts and then back to working with a client, then back to marketing… Don’t do this. Block out time. I usually use afternoons for clients and block book them. Mornings are my creative times when I develop CommunitySoul. Block book time for meetings and arrange them back-to-back. Put in buffers between home life and business. I’ll have 30 minutes to transition between the end of the day and being at home with the family. Sometimes when I’m working full out, I’ll make sure I have a day off in the week.