Every year I learn a valuable business lesson which becomes a ‘mantra’ I then adopt. I took this time of quiet reflection over the holidays to focus on what I want going forward in 2020. When I started to review these lessons over the years, I found they’re just as relevant and valuable today for business owners as they were back then.
So to my fellow business owners also on this journey, I hope these 10 business lessons provide inspiration and guidance as I wish you the most successful new year, and new decade, ahead!
Part 1 below.
#1 Dare To Be Different
From 2008 – 2010 I had my first experience running a PR outfit. However, there was so much about my own industry agency model that I just didn’t agree with.
2010 was the time of unpaid interns. AVEs and paid by results were inadequate in showcasing the value of PR. Large agencies were considered more impressive than the smaller creative outfits who valued servicing clients with more transparency and integrity. I could list so much more.
Rather than follow the trend, I became more and more interested in doing things differently. Let’s fast forward three years, head down and staying in my own lane. I came across the FuturePRoof PR Community and was introduced to other PR agency owners running similar practices to mine as we shared similar values. Today, I’m delighted to see the shift in better agency and industry practices.
Lesson: As the years have gone by, many business owners started their business because they wanted to do something different and more aligned with their values. Don’t do things because ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’. Challenge, evolve, create. The good news is you’ll find and attract others who are rebels and misfits just like you, and together you will inspire change and innovation.
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
#2 If You Can’t Find It, Create It
Eventually, I had to see whether I could be run my company with the values I had – both in business and in life and make it a success. In 2011, I decided to take the plunge and founded my own company.
I didn’t give myself a timeline for ‘success’, instead, I had a vision of an evergreen company, a legacy, where the focus was on service and team. Profit would come, that’s a necessity in business, but as a result of good practices, not from a sacrifice. Sure, it’s not been the smoothest of journeys, but it’s been more fun doing what I believe in, and through this integrity, I had great word of mouth business referrals and have learnt so much to evolve my offering today to help others.
Lesson: We can always complain about things we don’t like. Alternatively, perhaps focus your energy on what you can do to make things better. Listen, research what is needed and who needs it and follow your own path to deliver that. If you can’t deliver it yourself, how can you support those who can?
“Complaining is finding faults, wisdom is finding solutions.” – Ajahn Brahm.
#3 Screw It, Just Do It!
OK, this is actually Sir Richard Branson’s line, but I took a slightly different take on it in 2012!
I went through four years straight where I didn’t have time to slow down. When I started my own company, I felt under even more pressure to keep pushing forward. There was a lack of joy and trying to find happiness ‘once you’ve succeeded with your business goals’ is a mistake.
In 2012, I became friends with a fabulous group of women in London. These ladies were all ambitious, driven and adventurous who worked hard but also played hard too. We had lots in common. Whilst most wise business owners will talk about the importance of hustle. I’m going to flag up the importance of FUN.
I wholeheartedly recommend the importance of balance and saying yes to new opportunities, meeting new people, going on adventures and having a connection with people who understand, support and empower and inspire your own drive. As we’ve grown older, our priorities have changed yet we still cheer each other on and inspire each other, but most of all when we do finally meet up, there’s much joy and fun!
Lesson: You can love what you do, in fact, there’s a danger you may become obsessed with it. Remember to get some perspective so you don’t miss out on the important thing – life, with all its adventures, treasure and delights too! Your spark of creativity comes whilst you’re being playful. In fact, it’s something to incorporate consistently into your life.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – Bernard Shaw
#4 What’s Your Why?
In 2013, I was having a chat with a friend and fellow colleague Lena Robinson, sharing frustrations as to why it was so hard to get clients to understand the value of PR. She connected me to Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk ‘Start With Why’. ‘This is how you work, you just don’t know it yet’, she said.
This was a game-changer for me and for my business (I’ve written plenty of other blogs to explain why here). Finally, I could better communicate the power of storytelling in PR whilst linking business and effective leadership. In addition, I found a like-minded leadership-driven community and shared vision for business I could connect with.
Lesson: Every business has had its own ‘why’ but don’t communicate or put it at the heart of their brand. It’s so much easier for external partner companies like me to successfully deliver your vision if you’re clear on this. When your values are woven throughout your comms, you attract the right community. Clients who have embraced this have been effortless to promote compared to those who are still trying to figure it out along the way.
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek
#5 Quitting Is Not An Option!
2014 is when I just had too many knocks, one after the other. I usually bounce back up quickly, but for some reason this year, one last knock and I couldn’t get up. I lost all motivation or drive. It’s a place I refer to as ‘the pit’. It was horrible and took ages to lift myself out of this funk.
However, I don’t think of ‘the pit’ as a bad place. It’s somewhere I’ve visited again over the years. I now see it as my ‘time out’, to re-group, re-think and connect but importantly listen. Failures are inevitable but quitting for me just isn’t an option. So how do you build your resilience during those times?
Find motivation, reminders that you have something bigger than you to work for. Prioritise self-care. Review what’s working, what needs improvement and, where you need help and seek those people out. Connect with those who are important to you. Seek where you need help. Cut back anything that is weighing you down from finances and expenses to people.
Lesson: It’s so easy to despair when it’s all going wrong but actually, life has a funny plan to build you up as it breaks down around you. It shows you what you really want and whether your actions are lined up to that. If not, how much do you want it and what else can you do, create or pivot to make it work? I learnt so much about gratitude during these times, that whilst the knocks keep coming, the resolve to continue is even stronger.
“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” – Nelson Mandela
So, do any of these business lessons in part 1 resonate for you too as a business owner? Perhaps you have your own stories or learnings you’d like to share?