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10 things I wish someone told me before starting my business

“You’re crazy to start a business during a pandemic” is what many people told me when I launched Excelerate Marketing 18 months ago. And since then, we’ve surpassed our financial targets and achieved growth of 170% after the first year. 

In fact, recent figures found that 4.41 million new business applications were submitted in 2020 alone, making starting a business in the last two years not so crazy after all. 

So, what is stopping you from taking that first step and making your dreams a reality by starting your own business? 

The truth is not everyone will have encouraging words for you or even understand your vision when you take the leap of faith required to start a business. It can often be up to you to seek that knowledge and positivity from likeminded entrepreneurs who’ve walked the path before. 

This is why I wanted to share ten of the most important lessons I’ve learned since starting my Marketing business in 2020. 

The 10 things I wish someone told me before I started my business 

1.    Expect less sleep 

The old saying is “why work 8 hours a day for someone else when you can work 18 hours a day for yourself”, and it’s very true for those early days of your business. Your business will become your sunrise to sundown and beyond priority, so it’s important to set your expectations now that you will probably be getting a lot less sleep. 

Try and prioritise those moments of self-care and remember to set boundaries when possible so that you’re not running on empty while you give your business your everything. Passion and dedication to your products and services is fundamental if you want to be successful, but you also need to remember to take care of yourself in the process. 

2.    Expect new relationships 

You may be sleeping less, but your network will be growing. You should absolutely expect amazing new relationships and friendships to emerge when you start a business. One of the most unexpected parts of starting Excelerate Marketing was that it highlighted how much people just want to see others succeed. 

Family, friends and acquaintances came from all over to connect me to their contacts that could support my business, whether through generating leads and networking opportunities, or by producing content for our clients. Through every connection came a new potential client, a new friend in the industry or a new mentor to offer their wisdom. 

3.    You’ll be wearing multiple hats 

Hated math in school? Prepare to be suddenly very passionate about numbers as you’re thrown into the deep end of managing your accounts payable and receivable. Never been much of a salesman? You’ll find yourself pitching your business to total strangers with expert delivery in a matter of weeks. 

When you start a business, you will always be wearing multiple hats, regardless of your industry or your products and services. Because of this, it may save you some struggle in the early days to seek external help in areas that aren’t your strong suits. You don’t want to feel like you’re stumbling around in the dark when you’re trying to shine a light on your business. So, invest in good accounting software if you hate book balancing, for example, or outsource your marketing and social media if this isn’t your passion. 

4.    Process, process, process 

Speaking of software, one of the greatest gifts an entrepreneur can give themselves in the early days of their business is to focus on process by investing in a diverse framework. You want all the components of your business to work smoothly and complement one another, and this is only done with effective processes. 

For example, if you’ll be hiring employees, or if you like ticking tasks off a list, you may want to have everyone working from a task management program, such as Asana or Monday. Not only does this help you to track work progression, but you’ll also be able to make sure all deadlines are being met. 

5.    Good people are hard to find but easy to keep 

While your network may be growing, not every connection you make will be beneficial to your business. In fact, it’s fair to say that finding good people, whether they be employees, contractors, clients or mentors, can be hard. But they can also be easy to keep when your values and work ethic are aligned. 

In terms of your business operations, you can make this easier for yourself by making your first hires high-value hires. Try to not confuse a lower salary with value savings for your business, but instead put your budget towards supporting high status employees. 

For example, hiring a Marketing Coordinator may seem easier and cheaper, as it’s a more ‘entry-level’ position to pay for. But you can get greater value for your budget by taking the time to hire a good Marketing Manager who can do all that a Coordinator can and more. This includes project management, keeping a finger on the pulse of what is trending and maintaining client relationships while assisting with higher tier responsibilities. 

6.    You’ll have to make hard decisions 

It can feel uncomfortable in the early days of any business but making hard decisions is a lot like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it’ll become and easier it will be to use. You will no doubt face a multitude of hard decisions when you start a business, from the decision to keep or let go employees, to where to take risks with investments. But learning how to make hard decisions is key to growing your business. 

There are a few easy ways to learn how to make hard decisions, including: 

  • Make hard choices early to avoid decision fatigue and getting overwhelmed.
  • Give yourself the advice you’d give a friend asking for help with this decision.
  • Make a pros and cons list and ask a mentor to do the same, then compare.

7.    Easy to start, hard to stop 

Another secret to starting a business that no one tells you is that it can become like an addiction, especially if you are a perfectionist. If you’re the type of person who strives to be the best and provide your clients with the best, you’ll often find you’re spending more time behind the scenes doing the leg work and setting up projects to your own mental and physical detriment. This is especially evident for businesses that don’t have processes in place. 

The issue with this is that your blood, sweat, and tears aren’t a cost to the client. You expect your client will only pay for the highest quality of work and, in turn, you’ve set yourself a high standard to work towards which can easily lead to burn out. And you may not realise you’re nearing the edge of your limits because you’re addicted to the rush of working late to meet deadlines. That’s where the next few things in the list come in handy. 

8.    Search for the best tools 

Earlier I mentioned the importance of establishing effective processes, and doing so is made so much easier when you invest in the right tools. If you want to be the best, you need to use the best tools. Utilise 30-day free trials to make sure you’re getting the full functionality of the product, such as Canva or Xero. Also, don’t forget to look at the plug-ins and additional features that are available.  

Don’t limit yourself; if technology isn’t your strong suit, you can always hire a professional to set up this infrastructure for you from the beginning of your business. Plus, these tools always offer tutorials to help you get everything up and running. 

9.    Find people who are better at things than you 

One of the most important decisions you can make as a business owner is to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are. No one knows your business or your products and services like you, but it’s also fair to say that there are people out there who may know a little more about web development, for example.  

When you start your business, take the time to search for people who are gifted and deeply knowledgeable about things your business needs and who can fill in those gaps for you. Also, remember that ‘outsourcing’ is no longer a dirty word, and there is no need to feel guilty about seeking external support from people better at certain tasks than you. Making these hard decisions early will help your business to grow from strength to strength.  

10. It’s okay to say no 

You want your business to grow but that doesn’t mean you need to say yes to every person that comes knocking at your door. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt since starting Excelerate Marking is that it is okay to say no. 

Start by examining the goals and ambitions of potential clients. What values do they embody and why are their staff proud to work for that company? You ideally want to work with clients that are like minded. Then, when you start breaking down the project, take note of their operational processes and rhythms to determine if you can work in partnership towards a joint goal. 

For example, when I have an idea I present to a client, I always have it in mind that a marketing strategy cannot be rigid. So, if a client gives me those four magic words, “I trust your judgment” I know they will be a good fit. While good structure and automatic process is great for efficiency, we’re all still creators at the end of the day. We all need the flexibility and freedom to create, and we must prioritise partnering with businesses that can trust in our abilities to work effectively. 

I also always want to protect my team and ensure we’re generating a positive culture internally, so this is why we work with clients who have the same intentions for their business. Learn when to say no, and which clients to align yourself with, and you’ll be so much better for it. 

But the one thing someone did tell me take the leap of faith and start. I encourage you to do the same, a world of possibility awaits you. 

Like most of us, 2020 took a few twists and turns for Emma Reeves. She went from a six figure salary to Job Keeper and living with her parents. But this didn’t deter her, and she knew if she wanted this to change then it was up to her. Emma decided to leave the safety net of her previous role and from the network she had unknowingly built over the last several years, began her own marketing business, Excelerate Marketing. Keen to read more from Excelerate Marketing – you can check our their blog here !

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