10 things I wish someone had told me when I started a business
I have been self-employed for over 7 years now. Over that period of time, I have made mistakes on a daily basis. The one story I always tell is starting a business with an ink-jet printer rather than a laser printer because I was trying to save money. After changing ink every other week, I learned that you get what you pay for in life. Canadian Tax Resource Blog wrote a wonderful piece on 10 things to consider when starting a business. As a companion piece, here are 10 things I wish someone had told me when I started a business.
- Everything takes longer and costs more than you think. Everything.
- Be positive. Always. It will get you through the worst of days and make everyone around you eager to work with you, buy from you or be around you.
- This isn’t school or a 9-5 job. No one will tell you when to show up, what to do, what leads to call, when your assignment is due by and when the meeting is. You create your own future. If you survive the initial adjustment, you will emerge a more self-reliant and independent version of yourself and, no matter what the economic condition, no one can take that your ability to create something from nothing from you.
- Who you are outside your business is who you are in your business. People don’t flick a switch and become different people when they leave their house to their business. Consider this carefully when you hire employees or partner with someone.
- The only financial metric you need to know if you hate numbers- how much money is in the bank? If this increases month after month (assuming you are paying your taxes), don’t sweat the other numbers (a lesson equally applicable to personal finance).
- Find a group of like-minded business owners to surround yourself with to exchange best practices, expand your network and, most of all, to overcome that prevailing sense of loneliness all owner-managers get from time to time.
- Consultants make everything sound harder than it should and the internet make everything sound easier than it is. Be leery of someone who graduated from school and immediately became a consultant; it is like yearning to be a politician from a young age; do you really trust someone one wants to tell others what to do without necessarily having any experience to do or, more importantly, having to bear the responsibility for their decisions? If you are looking for a good mentor/advisor, find someone who failed a lot and then succeeded.
- You can never spend too much on good employees. By spend, I don’t just mean money. I mean spending time, training and a bit of yourself with your employees.
- The internet is the best and worst thing to happen to business. The internet has allowed business to open up new markets and expand a business’ reach on a low cost basis. The worst by making us forget one of the most important lessons in business: people buy from people. I have so many deals go sideways until the parties meet in a room and look the other person in the eye.
- Being a business owner is addictive. Your income may be unpredictable, you have too many responsibilities, the hours are sometimes insane but giving that all up so you can work at a job doesn’t seem remotely an attractive option.
If you like these tidbits of advice, I would recommend Rick Spence’s post on the convocation speech that never was.