10 of the Hardest Lessons I’ve Learned from Owning a Business

  1. Boundaries are hard but necessary. They help frame people’s expectations of the services you’re offering. Boundaries teach your clients how YOU do business, from your office hours to how much advance notice you need to prepare presentations for company meetings, how soon payment is due after invoicing, etc. There are professional and unprofessional people in business all around the world, and you don’t have to be a victim of other people’s poor manners and unprofessionalism if you proactively teach them how to conduct themselves with you.
  2. Pick up the phone. Even when you don’t want to or know what to say. The words will come, and often talking on the phone accomplishes much more in a quicker time frame than back and forth email chains. Save yourself the time and trouble of unnecessary emailing. But! After you hang up, send a recap email outlining everything that was discussed on the phone. This protects you and ensures you and the other party are on the same page. Which leads me to lesson number 3.
  3. Put everything in writing! Verbal agreements mean nothing. If you want to make sure you get paid for your work, you need to ensure you have a legally binding agreement that ensures you are protected. Even still, people may choose to violate legally binding contracts, which causes unnecessary headaches for everyone, but at least you have recourse to pursue legal action and obtain what is rightfully yours.
  4. Reporting and analytics are necessary. Even though they don’t come naturally to me, I know I have to constantly prove the value of my services to my clients. Just because I know the value of what I’m doing, doesn’t mean they do. I have to remind myself they are hiring me for my expertise, which means I have information about my field of work that they don’t have, otherwise they wouldn’t need me. This can lead to confusion and frustration if I don’t do a really good job of reporting my goals and the objectives I’m implementing to achieve them.
  5. Change is good. It is hard but necessary. A good fit in business is as important as a good match in a romantic relationship. After all, life is all about relationships. HOW you work with someone is often more important than the results you produce. If they have unrealistic expectations or are abusive in any way, move on. Workplace abuse includes public humiliation, harassment, threatening, intimidating, sabotage, or verbal abuse. This kind of treatment is not ok! Let the negative energy go, and clear a space for a better, healthier fit.
  6. Trust no one. This is kind of dramatic, and not entirely true, but I did a good job at grabbing your attention, didn’t I?! Here’s the actual lesson: trust no one, unless they prove themselves trustworthy. Give people small opportunities to earn your trust. This is a dog eat dog world and people will stab you in the back, steal your clients, and kick you to the curb. I have had it happen, and I kicked myself for making such a rookie mistake. But, don’t sweat it. Move on, and know shady people have to live with themselves, which is usually punishment enough 😉
  7. Don’t be afraid to let people go. If an employee, intern, customer, etc. causes you more stress than the value they add, cut them loose. Life is meant to be enjoyed and your success depends upon not wasting time dealing with drama and unnecessary problems. Firing people is not a fun part of business, but it is necessary. One of the best lessons I learned in life was getting let go from a job I wanted to quit but didn’t have the guts to pull the trigger. It forced me to reevaluate my life and my goals, and ultimately, led me to where I am today!
  8. Find the balance. Make sure you’re scheduling enough leisure time for yourself to recharge. If you burn out, you’ll be of no use to anyone and you’ll ultimately have less of that high-quality energy to put towards your business goals. Again, life is meant to be enjoyed!!! Work and productivity are only pieces of the pie.
  9. Answer correspondence in a timely fashion. This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. I tend to avoid challenging conversations and confrontation, so I have to force myself to deal with emails and phone calls I would rather ignore. Also, being an ENFP, I’m such an idea-driven dreamer, I get ahead of myself with starting projects and forget to tie up old ones and can sometimes leave people hanging. I have to fight against my instincts for this one.
  10. Cultivate self discipline! Having the freedom that comes with owning your own business is amazing but if you overindulge in it, you’ll lose it. Make sure and schedule undistracted “office hours” where you shot down Facebook, say no to that lunch date, and give your complete attention to taking care of business. It’ll pay off in the long run!

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