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If I Knew Then What I Know Now…5 Things Starting My Own Business Has Taught Me.

Oscar Wilde said: “Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first and the lesson afterwards.” While nothing truly teaches you like, real-life happenings of your own, hopefully through my experiences, I can at least prepare you for some unexpected turns on the emotional rollercoaster that is Entrepreneurship.

1.   Be ready for a rocky road ahead.

Entrepreneurship is not easy, so do not expect it to be. When deciding to become an entrepreneur, you have this distorted idea of what it is to run your own business. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news here, but it is in fact, extremely stressful and demanding. There are daily challenges and hurdles to overcome. It has been more than 9 years of owning my own skills development company, and still to this day, we constantly innovate and learn new things to overcome daily challenges to stay at the forefront of skills development training. Everyday is difficult, and I can comfortably say that riding the sea of entrepreneurship is no smooth sailing. However, the rewards are so much sweeter than when you work for a corporate, and when you achieve success at the end of each day, you feel like a superhero. I think you just learn to cope better. My advice would be to try to learn from your previous mistakes. Do not give up. There is a Chinese Proverb that reads: “the temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.” The key is endurance, constant reinvention, and perseverance. So, walk into this exciting journey with your eyes wide open and with no-overnight-success expectations, but do remember to enjoy and celebrate the small victories each day.

2.   Don’t be afraid to fail.

In the wise words of Rafiki from the movie The Lion King, “the past can hurt, but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” It is the same when you start your business. If you want to be successful and you want your business to grow, you need to take big, no huge, leaps of faith…and if you fall, just get up, start over and move forward. People are sometimes so afraid of failing, which in many cases means their businesses either never lifts off or they merely stay small and mediocre. There were moments, right when I started my business, where I too had doubts and worried about the chances I had to take. Honestly, I also fell a few times, but I flew most of the times. I think the question you need to ask yourself before you take any risk is, “will I be able to stand up when I fall and what is the worst thing that can happen?” I’m reminding myself daily of Erin Hanson’s quote “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly? And then I jump into the sea of the unknown and swim for the life of me!

3.   You must become a Jack of all Trades and accept it.

By this, I do not mean lose focus on your core business. I also do not mean that you should do everything yourself. In my experience, you need enough knowledge to know what is going on in every department of your business to keep everything on track. Familiarise yourself with marketing, educate yourself on financial aspects and know how to sell, etc. I quickly realised that I spent about 20% doing what I wanted to do in my business, which in my case was training, facilitating, and motivating corporates. The remaining time I spent strategizing to move every aspect of my business forward. The quote by Anthony J. D’Angelo explains it best: “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” So stay relevant and keep learning, then you’ll be fine.

4.   Build Relationships.

I’ve decided to split this one in two – the one is the emotional side and the other the business side. So, business first. Ever hear of ‘word of mouth’ or ‘grapevine marketing’? It starts with people you know, who like what you do and then they recommend your services or products to everyone they know. People do business with people. Use the people you know to set up a business network. Building and investing in relationships can be beneficial for the growth of your business, especially when money for marketing is scarce in the beginning. The other side of the coin is emotion. Even entrepreneurs who are naturally socialites and have a huge group of friends and family, feel intense loneliness at one point or the other. I quickly realised that I should stop feeling sorry for myself because many entrepreneurs before me and alongside with me, go through similar emotions. I forced myself to see the people in my life who were there for me and who offered support. It was hard at first to accept their help, but in all honesty, if it were not for them, my successes would be empty. Nurture your relationships and do not push away the people who love you. Businesses come and go and there are always ways to make money, but to push or lose someone dear or to waste time not spent with them is a tragedy.

5.   Keep a Balance.

This point ties in with the last few sentences in the previous paragraph. The owning-your-own-business-train can run away with you. Be careful. Your business can literally suck you in and your whole life will start revolving around making it work. Do not obsess. It will take effort and planning to keep tabs on your own work-life balance and health. The lines do easily get blurred. I once thought that if I micromanage all my staff, I will achieve success. If I worked harder than everyone, I would grow my business more. Fact is, I quickly became overworked to a point where burnout was a reality. Again, I realised that I should practice what I preached. I should establish me-time, family-time and establish an equilibrium between my own well-being and the well-being of my business. And guess what…once that balance was achieved, my staff were happier, my business grew and most of all I was happier.

I want to end off with a quote by Ziad K. Abdelnour, “Never let success get to your head and never let failure get to your heart.” I, to this day, remain grateful for what I have learned and achieved. Myself and my company, The Mindspa Institute, offer many courses in person or online, to help entrepreneurs and their staff learn soft skills to manage their businesses properly and to better their own skills.