In July 2021 BrandHeart turns 10. They say if a new business gets over the 3-year mark it has a good chance of success, so with 7 extra years under our belt I’d say we have something to celebrate! It’s also a good time to take stock, remember what we’ve learnt and consider what we want the next 10 years to look like. Being a business owner, you never stop thinking, reinventing and evaluating so I thought I’d share 10 things I’ve learnt about owning and running a business.
There are so many more than 10 but it’s a good number for this blog 😉
Never stop selling, even when you’re doing well
This seems obvious but I’ve learnt that when you’re experiencing success, you can be the most vulnerable. You just need a big client to leave and take a chunk of revenue with them to realise this. It’s a hard reality and one you should only need to learn once. But the truth is we can get tired and take our eye off the ball. So, make sure you’re taking time to reenergize and keep filling your tank with whatever inspires you to keep going.
Ask your clients if they’re happy
You need to know how content your clients are with the service your team are delivering. Most people don’t like to complain, they just leave and I’ve learnt not to think that ‘no news is good news’. I shy away from confrontation and putting people in awkward situations, so I’m out of my comfort zone when I ask client’s how we’re doing. But if you want to keep your clients, it’s critical you know the answer because then you can do something about it. Don’t wait until a client gives you notice for them to tell you they weren’t happy. By then it’s often too late – they’ve already moved on.
Provide clarity on what the future looks like
Someone I respect greatly always says that the opposite of clarity, is anxiety. Makes sense, right? Your staff can’t read your mind so don’t expect them to help you get to the mountain if they can’t picture what things will look like when they reach it. Try and be as clear as possible and make it personal…how will it change their role or their responsibility, what clients will they be working with, is there opportunity for a promotion…? Your staff want to feel safe and if they don’t know what their future looks like in your business, they’ll feel anxious and may jump ship.
Be brave but not reckless
This is something I wish I had learnt earlier – the brave part, because I’m not reckless. It takes courage to take risks, even if they’re calculated. And I struggle to take risks (particularly when it involves money). But the upside is that we’re still in business after 10 years and that’s something I’m grateful and proud of. I’ve learnt though that I need to trust and believe what people close to me are encouraging me to do. Often others see the potential we don’t believe we have and it stops us from moving forward.
Your people are your biggest asset, treat them well
Richard Branson once said, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care your business.” Wise and true words. People don’t only need to earn a fair salary, they need to feel valued and they need to know you care. Thankfully this is something that comes naturally to me because I genuinely care about the people that work in our business. If you have team leaders or managers that are responsible for achieving results, make sure you know how their people are doing. Leaders need to make it their business to know how everyone is being looked after – not only the people just below them on the organogram.
Not all clients are good for your business
We all know the saying that “the customer is always right”. That may be true in most cases but there are exceptions. When a client repeatedly abuses your people you may need to step in and protect them. I’ve witnessed a particular client taking advantage of willing staff and then increasingly expect more attention (but refuse to pay for it). When you bill time, and a client is never prepared to pay for the extra hours, it’s time to wave them goodbye. Don’t get this confused with adding value – always look for ways to do that, but it needs to be on your terms – not theirs.
Surround yourself with people bigger than you
This has probably been the most important ingredient of growing as a leader and building a sustainable business. Find people that are ahead of you and learn from them. Don’t be afraid or prideful to ask for advice. I truly value the mentors I’ve found along the way. Some have been people I’ve paid to coach me and others are friends that also own businesses but are at least a decade ahead of me. Their advice will be honest and if they’re the right people they’ll become your cheerleaders…giving you the encouragement and confidence you need for this challenging and ever-changing journey!
Be held accountable to stay on track and put the plan into action
You learn a lot about yourself when you run a business. Something I’ve learnt is that I need someone to keep me focused on the bigger picture so I don’t get stuck into the nuts and bolts too quickly. The right business coach or mentor is invaluable to help you take your business where you want it to go.
Learn as much you can about leadership
This is a massive subject, so I won’t begin to try and unpack it all. All I want to emphasis is how important leadership is – if you want a healthy, growing business with happy people. The starting point is to be clear where the mountain is and then give your people the space to help you figure out how to get there. Remember you’re not the only leader – essentially leaders are anyone that has influence. This can be good or bad for your business because you need your teams to be on the same page. So identify the leaders in your organization and make sure they’re crystal clear about the mission. And keep reminding them what it is because vision leaks.
Create a safe environment where people can be themselves
Before I started BrandHeart I worked in other organisations. Some great and some not so great. One of the key contributors to the great ones was where I felt I could be me. I was given opportunities to try new things and if I failed, I wasn’t criticized or made to feel incompetent. I was able to voice my opinion and I felt heard – even if what I had to say sometimes didn’t make sense. My boss listened and respected my contribution. Do this for your people and they’ll reward you with good work and long service.
I really hope this has helped you in some way and encourages you not to give up. Owning a business is hard work but it’s also very rewarding when you get the ‘wins’. Don’t try to do it alone because we were created to collaborate and share our talents. None of us are great at everything!
One final thought…if you’re a Christ follower then you have the greatest teacher and leadership example to follow. Keep asking for his direction and draw your strength from him. Without my faith I don’t believe I would have reached this 10-year milestone!
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