“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”Henry David Thoreau
It’s not healthy to continually look back on the past, whether good or bad, because you can easily lose perspective on where you are and where you want to go. Each year, I make exception to this by taking a moment before starting the new year to review what was accomplished, what lessons learned and what mistakes could be avoided in the future.
2019 marked our 20th year in business, which in itself is an accomplishment, but surviving at a profitable status despite obstacles is a hard-earned privilege. Twenty years in business with a good reputation, a large portfolio of completed projects, and a community of loyal, repeat customers, you learn many lessons along the way, often by falling down and getting back up. Here are the lessons I’ve learned and hope to share with you:
“Failure is the key to success. Each mistake teaches us something.”Morihei Ueshiba
Mistakes are teaching opportunities. I cannot agree more with the above quote, as with each mistake I made, I’ve learned a great deal of how to avoid those pitfalls in the future and how to ride out the trials that are inevitable for any business owner. Those who take that leap of faith of entrepreneurship are brave, optimistic and independent souls who long to build something great out of usually small investment and a great deal of hard work. Whether inspired by a great idea, profitability, flexibility, or community involvement, an entrepreneur is motivated to see their dreams become a reality. They’re not afraid of hard work, they have an abundance of passion, they rarely allow what others see as roadblocks prevent them and they are not swayed by the negative opinions of others.
When they make a mistake, they don’t crumble but get up, stumble forward and learn from it. A truly successful person is not afraid to admit the lessons they’ve learned along the way, even from their mistakes, but eager to share their experience to help others. I’ve learned a lot over the past few years, endured a few painful lessons and have survived to use my experience to warn, advise and teach others how to avoid them.
“Good things happen in your life when you surround yourself with positive people.”Roy Bennett
Surround yourself with positive people and keep a careful but polite distance from those will seed doubt or negativity. Choose a circle or community of successful people who can teach you, who inspire you and who will support you. Unfortunately, there will be a few who will even long to see your demise, even though they will smile and offer verbal support in person. How do you know if they are a support or handicap? Ask yourself, how do I feel after spending time or talking with ‘so-and-so’ … inspired or fearful, incompetent or confident, happy or depressed? Listen to your gut.
I’ve learned that bringing in people into your fold who are careless, destructive or do not respect you, will only stain your brand and may even cause negativity to bleed into your company’s brand. Even when someone disappoints you or even is malicious, don’t allow their negativity affect your brand or your peace of mind. Let “bygones be bygones” and “what comes around goes around” and all of that … as moving past your hurt and regret is the ultimate goal.
This lesson can also be applied to not only those who work for you but those you choose to take on as clients. There are some customers that are never going to be happy no matter what you do and their demands far outweigh their budgets, meaning it will mean a loss of time and money for your bottom line, and an unnecessary degree of stress and aggravation for you and your staff. Do your best to vet clients during the initial conversations and meetings before any contracts are signed. State clearly what your expectations are of communications, deadlines, billing and budget limits, to avoid confusion later. Their reactions to your set limits will be a good indication of how they will respect your boundaries in the future.
“Endurance is patience concentrated.”Thomas Carlyle
You can endure this and you will be stronger in the end. Running a business these days (and often litigious society), there are many risks, financially, legally and socially. I’ve heard lots of stories over the past few years of daunting challenges business owners have endured and more importantly, survived. It’s those troublesome times, that you take stock of who you are, what you built and why. You will find a source of internal strength and fortitude you never knew you had, and quickly find ways to find peace and quiet in the midst of chaos. In the end of your survival story, you will stand up stronger, find a new sense of appreciation for your brand, and who you are apart from that brand.
After overcoming the results of a former team member’s wrongful activity, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and did what I do best, worked hard. And went on to celebrate 20 years in business. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take time to be upset, vent and work through the experience, as all of that is necessary to heal and move on. Take some time but then move on and never forget the lessons you’ve learned from it.
“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”Chris Bradford
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst (I couldn’t say it any better). The work you do today in building your brand, insuring your assets, protecting your security and organizing your financial stability are vital to withstand the storms of tomorrow. Don’t assume all will be smooth sailing regardless of how small or how large your business is, instead prepare now for the unseen bumps in the road. Meet with a certified business insurance agent (read more) and have them conduct a true risk assessment of your industry. You will sleep better, worry less and have a sense of confidence that any true entrepreneur needs to grow.
Never assume your business is too small or too big to fail, be sued or undermined by a competitor. Unfortunately, the legal system is not built to determine right or wrong, it usually about who has the deepest pockets and the best insurance. Even if you are honest, hard-working and strive to follow the letter of the law, you can be pulled into litigious chaos from indirect relationships, so again vet your employees, subcontractors and clients well to ensure they run their businesses with the same level of integrity as you.
“The most beautiful way to start and end a day is with a grateful heart.”
Take a moment now and then to be thankful. While I don’t usually have time to run endless reports to monitor my progress or projections over the weeks, months and years of business, I do think it’s important to take stock annually of what you’ve done right and where there is room for improvement.
So looking back on the year in regards to work produced, I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride that I was able to sustain another year in business:
- worked with 57 small to medium-sized businesses,
- published 12 new websites, while maintaining & updating 50+ others, and currently am working on six other websites that are soon to be up,
- created and customized nearly a dozen new logos;
- wrote dozens of blog posts and published numerous posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Google My Business.
- sent out dozens of email marketing campaigns for clients,
- provided ongoing internet marketing services for 8 companies with marketing proposals, analytics, training and on-going content management.
- presented over a dozen sessions of internet marketing trainings to clients and their staff.
I would like to take time to thank all of those who have contributed to my success over the years, with the hundreds of referrals, the inspiring small businesses who trusted me to develop their online footprint, and the local partners who have supported me. No woman is an island, and it’s those relationships that we invest in and ironically that branch out and multiply is what builds that trust and credibility in your brand and long-term success.
Put your seatbelts on and turn up the music, let’s see what 2020 has in store for the ride ahead.