“Hi, my name is Paula and it has been 9 years since my last paycheck. “
I love to say those words. I have now spent more years self-employed than I have spent at any other company I worked.
That blows my mind.
As I enter into my 10th year of business I bring you what I consider the 10 Commandments of business ownership.
Do Good Business
There is no such thing as a successful business built on the collateral damage done to your customers. Churning and burning ‘em might give you a short-term income spike but it will never last. I want to sleep well at night knowing I did well by the people I come in contact with. You create a good business by doing good business.
Stand behind your work.
Don’t nickel and dime people, but don’t sell yourself short either.
Create a Business You Enjoy
If you don’t enjoy your business, you’ve created your own version of employment hell. If you want to suffer, find a job you don’t like. It is much easier and you’ll have fewer details to worry about.
Bottom line is, if you don’t enjoy your business, you can’t enjoy your life. Conversely, even if you love your business there needs to be more to your life than just business.
That means you need to do something you enjoy and are skilled at with people you like and in a manner that supports you financially. Skip any one of those elements and you’ll resent someone (or something).
Be Willing to Do the (Grunt) Work
Once the infatuation stage of the “new love” of starting a business fades, there is the work required to sustain success over time. Running a business often feels like a slog and there is plenty of grunt work to be done (yes, even when you outsource routine tasks to team members). You don’t want to be a slave to your business, but you do have to own the fact that 99% of the work required to be successful is not glamorous. Set good boundaries around your time, do the work, then go play.
Embrace the Business of Doing Business
You may have started your business because you are a talented healer, therapist, and accountant, whatever. Yet it is the business of doing business that will make the difference between sustainable and struggle; between celebration and closing your doors.
You may not have a business background or overly enjoy it, but you do need to understand and tend to it. You can’t close your eyes to knowing your numbers and hope for the best. If you’re not good at it, hire someone who is. But remember – you can delegate but not abdicate responsibility.
No one will ever care for your business as much and as intimately as you do.
Your Mindset Determines Your Success
How you think creates your experience.
If you think you can or think you can’t, either way you are right.
Mindset can get a bad wrap as magical thinking or being too “woo-woo”. Sure, some people teach it in that style, and there are certainly some charlatans out there, but there is science and a long string of real-world proof that how you think impacts your performance. Look no further than the sports world for that.
Your mental game is far more than half of the equation of success. Invest time and energy in cultivating a good one. It’s an ongoing practice.
Be the Person You Want to Be
For goodness sake don’t try to be someone you are not. Do NOT do that to fit someone else’s mold or compromise because you think you need to be a certain way to succeed. You don’t. In fact trying to do so will set you back farther than you could imagine (I have personal experience with this one!).
You get to create the life and world you want to live in. Being true to yourself is the cornerstone of all of it. If it calls to you, do it. If you want something, don’t ask permission. What your mother, father, spouse, friend, society thinks is irrelevant. You are no longer five years old.
Let your freak flag fly and never apologize for being you or going after what you want.
There is no “right time”. Every single choice you make comes with a risk. Playing it safe? Risky. Going out on a limb? Risky. Staying in a life, location, business model, relationship, etc. that is comfortable but not life-giving? Risky.
While you can’t do or have everything at once, you don’t need to wait.
Above all do not, I repeat DO NOT wait for someone to give you permission to do what you want. You must give it to yourself and then get going. You’ll regret things you choose not to do far more than things you do that don’t turn out.
Adopt a Spirit of Adventure
They call it the entrepreneurial roller coaster for a reason. Financially, emotionally, and energetically it can feel like a wild ride with off the chart peaks and valleys. Adopt a spirit of adventure and things simply go better.
You can even out the peaks and valleys, but if you are human (and I know you are!!) you will experience them. Don’t burn too much of your precious life energy being flung about by the tail of the tiger (yes mixed metaphors rock!). Your self-worth does not depend on your business or anyone else. Remember that and adventure forth.
Experiment and Be Flexible
It’s all a grand experiment. All. Of. It. If anyone tries to sell you a sure thing, run away and fast. Numbers and probabilities can inform you along the way but in the end everything you try is an experiment. When you start to approach it that way versus some indicator of whether you are smart, any good at business, or worthy of taking up space, it’s suddenly as freeing as that first spring day you get to frolic without a jacket.
Those experts you see teaching you this or that? They are experimenting. Believe me, I’ve studied with enough mentors to know that even in the most established business, they are still experimenting. That is because technologies change, the economy changes, what you customers expect changes, and on and on. The fundamentals stay the same, but how you do things and results vary. So experiment and play (nothing is to be taken that seriously!).
You’ll Figure It Out
Ultimately nothing is THAT important. Take care of your health and everything else can be figured out. Self-reliance and resilience are some of the most important attributes you can possess. Problem solve. Get knocked down. Get up again. Ask questions. Find a mentor. Take a class. Try something new. Scrap something you don’t want to do. Just keep going. When in doubt, take a deep breath and regroup. All is well. It really is (even when it doesn’t feel that way).