Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it? After something goes wrong, we usually know what we should have done, or would do differently if faced with the set of circumstances. Of course the reality is that the exact same set of circumstances rarely, if ever, arise.
After 20 or so years of working for other people, setting up in business was like stepping through the looking glass and finding a whole new world I hadn’t realised existed. When I set up my first business I had lots of enthusiasm, a talent for sorting out complex puzzles and I could design systems that worked. And that was about all, or so it seemed to me at the time.
It was incredibly exciting to suddenly find myself the master (mistress?) of my own destiny. It was also terrifying because I didn’t have anyone to tell me what I needed to do first, second and so on. I probably made all the classic mistakes and invented a few new ones too, so it took me longer than it might to settle into being a ‘proper’ business owner and to start enjoying it.
Approaching the amazing milestone of being in business for 15 years got me thinking about what I would do differently, if I were starting up today. Here’s the list I came up with.
Not only does perfection not exist except in our heads, trying to attain it can seriously hold you back. I can remember wasting hours, perhaps even days, designing my marketing materials. Choosing exactly the right fonts and colours may have been fun and pleased me, but sadly they didn’t make a jot of difference to anyone else.
Start Marketing Sooner
If you don’t start marketing until after you have created your first product or put together your first service offering, you may be waiting a long time for clients to show up. The best time to start marketing is while you’re still at the ideas stage. Asking prospective clients what they really want helps create a more saleable product. Marketing a completed product or service can mean trying to persuade people to buy, which is much harder to do.
Trying to do everything yourself can result in a frustratingly long learning curve. I found that out the hard way, in a misguided attempt to save money. While learning certain new skills is a good thing to do for your business, not all of them are necessary. Like my graphic design attempts above – I’d have been much better off hiring a professional from the outset. Especially as that’s what I eventually had to do. I would also have invested in attending more specialist conferences to mix with and learn from already successful business owners.
Compare Yourself Less
There’s an important difference between doing necessary competitor research and constantly comparing yourself to everyone else. While you certainly need to keep an eye on what your competitors are up to, don’t become obsessed at trying to emulate them. I’ve now found my own way of working and developed products & services to reflect that. But I spent far too long agonising over perceived shortcomings and comparing myself with other coaches.
Be more Strategic & Measure more
It can take a few months of running around like a headless chicken to realise that having a business plan isn’t enough on its own. You have to develop the strategies within the plan and find out what’s working and what isn’t. Simply being very busy without a plan usually results in exhaustion, but few tangible business results.
I learned all of these the hard way, but I’m grateful for the lessons.
Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting up today? Please share in the comments below.