At the end of the day, we’re all creatures of habit. My four-year-old son still won’t have milk with his Coco Pops, and after almost 20 years I had become used to the routine and financial security of an employee.
Going into business is life-changing, and often stressful. Here are some handy tips that you may consider for helping you to keep your hands firmly on the wheel during what can be a chaotic first 12 months as a small business owner.
2021 was the year I took the plunge and purchased an existing business – a small digital marketing business on the Gold Coast called SEO Web Logistics. Filled with big ideas, buckets of enthusiasm, and perhaps a little naivety, I set up a family trust, got some financial advice, and was all in as I ventured into the brave new world of small business ownership.
It seems like a lifetime ago now, but ‘way back’ in 2021 I had a government job with Queensland Health. I worked hard (particularly during COVID pandemic) and I was rewarded with a decent salary, time-in-lieu, and job security. What’s not to like, right?
But it wasn’t enough. I craved something more. To run my own race and control my own destiny. To be financially rewarded for effort and good ideas, not necessarily time spent in the role. To have more flexibility in my life as the father of two young boys.
Business ownership is no walk in the park
Running a business has for the most part provided me with all of these things. At the very least, business ownership has given me a clear pathway to achieving these goals moving forward. But it has been bloody hard yakka as well! And the learning curve has been incredibly steep.
Coming from a communications and media background, I was well-versed in media statements, press conferences, and so on. However, I had much to learn about web design and getting websites ranking high with search engines such as Google.
Having a great (and patient!) team has been key to surviving these first 12 months as a small business owner. Humbly, I quickly came to the realisation that I would have to invest in growing my skillset where it was lacking – all while running my own business.
As a small business owner, I’m still something of work in progress, and my business is still far from perfect.
Back in 2021 as a wet behind-the-ear small business owner, I was like a labrador on its way to the dog park. I thought that my sheer enthusiasm would conquer any and all small business challenges that lay ahead. But what words of wisdom did I really need? What has the benefit of hindsight now afforded me?
Small business is a rollercoaster – embrace it!
I’ve always been passionate about my work, and going into business ownership has not changed my level of dedication and focus. However, as small business owners, we all ride the highest of highs and sometimes endure the lowest of the lows when things don’t go according to plan.
Once you become a business owner, the stakes only get higher and higher. Not only that, but the fate of your business is directly related to the success (or otherwise) of your personal life. You just don’t have the security of a steady and predictable income.
This can be tough to detach yourself from, particularly if you suffer an early setback or two. However, I now believe a good way to at least start to embrace the rollercoaster ride is simply by celebrating the wins, no matter how small.
Don’t forget to reward yourself for success too. Take the afternoon to chill out with the kids. Go for a drink with a friend. Play some golf. Anything that reinforces a job well done.
Depersonalise the setbacks
It’s not all about you. What you did (or just as importantly, didn’t do), doesn’t necessarily dictate your business outcomes.
Didn’t get a sales pitch over the line, but in your heart of hearts you know that you did your absolute level best? Take that as a win! You can only do so much, ands some things may just be a bridge too far.
When it comes to business ownership, remember that your effort, planning, and sharply honed negotiation skills won’t always influence client decision-making and outcomes. It’s not always about you; more opportunities will come, and tough times will pass.
Embrace the flexibility
I have worked incredibly hard in the past 12 months. It always feels busy. And even when the phone calls and emails slow to a trickle, there is always more to do. But that doesn’t mean your business should ever dominate your life.
Not long after I became a business owner, I started coaching my son’s under sevens soccer team. During the season, I needed to leave work at 3:30pm on Wednesdays, pick my son up from school, and then drive to soccer training.
As an employee I’ve had some amazing managers. However, I always felt that I was pushing my luck when I asked for recurring early marks, or for time off to attend my kids’ school events or sports events.
But it’s different now that I’m a small business owner. I now block out time in the diary so I can be there for my kids’ school and sport events. I didn’t miss a session all season. My six-year-old loved it and it gave me some much-needed balance.
Good employees are worth their weight in gold
Becoming a small business owner reminded me of just how important it is to have good employees, and to not take them for granted.
Having worked for organisations with more than 50,000 employees, I’ve always believed that no one is indispensable. But in small businesses, sometimes it feels like great employees really are indispensable.
As such, it goes without saying that small business owners can benefit from providing flexible working arrangements for their employees and rewarding them for their efforts. The fight for great employees is real, so if you value your employees, then show them that you truly value them. That may mean increasing their salaries or offering increased flexibility.
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