Hilary Steel – Speaker, Presenter and Editor of Kent Women in Business Magazine. Twitter – @hilaryjSteel
If you are in your first year of business then congratulations! You have something to celebrate. Setting up a business takes courage, as does turning an idea or a hobby in to something that will last. Your motivation for starting out could be down to a number of things but the motivation to keep going and not quit is entirely down to you.
When I set out in business I thought I could do everything, I thought the longer hours I worked the more productive I would be. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s a classic saying but if I had known then what I know now, things would have gone much more smoothly. Over the past five years I have worked with women who are at all stages of their own business development, and in some ways I have learned something from each of them, some of it good and some of it…well some of it I use as points of reference as to what NOT to do. Reflecting back on this roller coaster I have come up with my top points to consider for creating a working environment that encourages success…
- You don’t need to know how to do everything – it’s true, if you know what you are good at, focus your energy there. For the other stuff, there are people who will help you, whether that’s through outsourcing or collaboration you don’t have to do it all on your own. The reality of running your own business isn’t as glamorous as some may think. It takes a lot of hard work to turn a dream in to a reality, but there are ways you can make it simpler.
- Ask for help – people like to help people. Working with a business mentor can help you avoid many common mistakes that are made in business and, if you are working with the right mentor, may even accelerate your progress.
- Stop being busy being busy – how much time is spent on futile tasks during the day? Have you ever caught yourself justifying the time you spend on social media by saying ‘I am marketing’. The chances are, you may well be alienating a potential audience by spamming sales messages all over Twitter and in numerous Facebook groups. When I feel that I am not being productive and ‘cabin fever’ sets in, I go out, do something else. I understand now that there is no point beating myself up for not being at my desk when all I am doing is wasting time there. By the time I return, I am good to go and my energy levels have increased and in turn, so has my productivity.
- Mix with the right people – being in business can be a lonely place and spending a lot of time with people who have no idea what it’s like can have a negative knock on effect on you. If the saying is true that, ‘you are a reflection of the five people you spend the most time with’, how does that look in your social circle. There are many different networking groups and organisations out there, some may not be right for you so it’s best to do your research and try some out. Mixing with other business owners offers you the chance to learn from them, to help them in their own development and broaden your own contacts. Who knows, you may even meet someone who could become a collaborative partner. It’s also worth looking at who you spend the most time with socially, are these people a good influence or do they drain your energy?
- Don’t stop learning – I personally am half geek and half creative and I am a sponge for knowledge. When I started out I read numerous books on personal and professional development and although a lot of what I read wasn’t relevant to me, it opened up my mind further to trying out new ideas. I have attended a number of business related courses as well as skills courses to develop ones I wanted to enhance. I never stop learning, but I am careful who I learn from. I have a structured learning plan that covers a wide range of subjects to help me a) within my business and b) within my own mind.
- Pack Procrastination off on a long vacation! – Procrastination is as bad as perfection. One you keep putting off and the other will never be quite good enough to get off the ground. I found myself putting off tasks I didn’t want to do, or ones I found particularly difficult. It was a habit I had to break – so I did! Now I start each day looking at one such task, then when it’s done I can do one of the more fun tasks. It took a while to get in to this habit but once I started writing up my ‘to do list’ the night before I knew exactly where to start the next day. If things aren’t quite right, I can tweak them as I go and not spend time trying to make everything perfect!
- Don’t forget WHY! It’s easy to lose sight of what got you going in the first place as other things take over both your thoughts and time. I like to remember what it was that motivated me to start my own business in the first place, and then what motivated me to start more! By remembering my own WHY I am able to refocus my attention on activities that continue to endorse that reason.
Whatever stage you are at in your own business, don’t forget to enjoy it! Otherwise, what’s the point?