by Tiffany Griffin
Publisher, Local Life Magazine
Over the last 10 years I would say I have visited, talked on the phone, or had meetings with over 1,000+ small business owners. Throughout the years I have told my friends and family that I can tell whether a business is going to make it within the first 5 minutes of talking to that owner. I love when I see the passion in someone’s eyes and they are on such a high that comes with their newly embarked adventure. Just as much, I don’t like when I see that same excitement for a dream that just isn’t realistic, or I feel in my gut something is off. I want to take this opportunity to give you some tips on what I have learned along the way about what I think it takes to be a successful business owner. This is from what I learned from my own business and what I have seen in other small businesses that I have worked with on a consistent basis.
Support from Family
Having the support of your family is paramount. As you start a business, it will affect your entire family and your household income. You need their support because this is a huge life change for you, as well as them. There are going to be long hours and stressful days. You won’t make as much income as you would like when you are starting out. You are going to need your family to lift you up on the bad days and calm you down on the crazy days. You have to be the leader at home and in your business. Be one that shows up first and leaves last. At first, long hours and stressful days are not that much fun and knowing you have the support at home that you need to be able to do what you need to get done is important.
Be Flexible and Creative
Things don’t always go as planned. There are going to be hiccups even if it’s planned down to the minute. You get sick, your dog dies or an employee just decides to quit. Those are three of a million different things that could go wrong. Instead of losing it, you need to have the patience and the drive to get through every situation. Be flexible with your time and be creative enough to solve problems on the fly so your customer(s) or event doesn’t suffer. Always recap the day, week or event to see what went right and where you can improve. It is always an ongoing learning process.
Don’t Give Up When the Going Gets Tough
Have an accountability partner or group to keep you going- someone you can call to lift your spirits who understands and relates to what you are talking about. Set regular appointments to hold each other accountable to your to-do list. When you are your own boss it is easy to say “I’ll do that tomorrow.” Then tomorrow turns into next month. I worked alone for many years and it is just too easy to blow stuff off. However, if you have a partner or group, they will hold you to a higher standard and call you out when you need it.
Be Involved in the Local Community
Owning a local magazine, I have to be heavily involved with the community. No matter what your business is, though, it’s always a bonus to be plugged in, locally. A great place to start is your local Chamber of Commerce and their networking events. Show up with your business cards in hand and be ready to tell people about your business. Have that 90 second elevator pitch down to a science. Offer up some free services at a local charity event. Going to events and meeting other business owners is one of the best ways to build a solid network. People will use your services because you do a good job, but more importantly, because they know you personally.
Always be Kind to Others
This one is important to me because I have had the experience of being treated pretty poorly by some managers and business owners over the years. Always remember everyone you talk to is a potential customer and you should treat them with respect and kindness. For example, when I first go into a new business, some see me as just another ad-sales girl. Not a fellow business owner. When treated unkindly it tends to leave a bad impression. I’m often asked my opinion of new businesses in my line of work and believe me, that first impression matters. You don’t want anyone to say they were treated poorly at your business. The negative always spreads faster than the positive.
Be Able to Function in Society and Have Common Sense
I had to sit for a minute to see if I could say this any better but I decided to leave it the way it is. Be an adult. You have to be level-headed and able to handle stress, period. You are going to deal with people who are unprofessional and crazy. That doesn’t mean you can blast it on social media, gossip amongst the crowds, and stoop to their level! Be sure you’re opening a business that fits your personality and lifestyle. I call this sticking with your chocolate! Find something you love or have a high interest in and then go figure out how to get paid at it! If your business is a natural part of your passion, you’ll find it much easier to deal with the handful of poor experiences that are certainly going to happen from time to time.
There are always ways to improve your business or take it up to the next step. Whether it is with technology, continuing education, or improving processes to make the business run smoother, it’s important to keep growing. Everyone is competing for your business. Make sure your vendors are working for you and are giving you the best price and quality at all times, possible. Each year take the time to evaluate and find ways to improve.
Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
You don’t have to be good at everything. Let’s face it, we are human! Identify what your weaknesses are and be okay with it. There is always someone out there that has strengths where you don’t. It’s actually fun to delegate and see someone else do it so elegantly and better than you could ever imagine. Personally, I am a great example of this. I own a magazine but spelling and writing are definitely my weaknesses. I have a husband who is a wordsmith and a business manager who also excels at writing, too! I rely heavily on the two of them and it works out perfectly.
Good Communication Skills
Communication skills are important in marriage, parenting and every other aspect of life. It is also one of the most important skills to have as a boss. Clear communication is necessary in order to ensure your vision is getting executed the same way you see it in your mind. Communicate concisely the first time and there’s never a need or cost to have a project redone. You also must be able to communicate to sell your service or product. Everyone you meet is going to ask what you do. Always be on your toes here. Failing to prepare for this communication is simply inexcusable. Talking should and will need to be second nature – you do a lot of it when you own a business.
YOU Are the Business
I can’t stress this enough. Every customer will want to know the boss. You build the brand and to effectively to do that you have to be a good citizen/person. Be aware of how you present yourself. Err on the side of selective sharing – don’t air out all of your dirty laundry on social media! Avoid public displays of foolishness where you can – you never know who’s watching! Building your brand is of the utmost importance and, in the end, your brand is YOU.
Finally, you will have to remind yourself WHY you do what you do. I wonder some days if I am still making the right decision or if I should have done something else. I prayed for this opportunity and I know I am on the right path. This is the right path for me because I am still able to be a very involved mom, which is a priority for me. You have to find your reason and motivation and hold on to that. This is your dream and nobody else. Therefore, don’t ever let anyone else chime in as to why or why not you should do it. Know your motivations. Be concrete in them. Wake up every morning with that “WHY” in mind and then don’t stop striving until your goals are achieved. You can do this. You will do this. Best of luck!