Lessons in Running My Own Business
It's going on three years now, with A la Mode Media, and it's been quite a trip over that learning curve. Some days, I'm still not sure I've made it past the hard parts yet but what doesn't kill you makes you a better business owner.
Here are a few things I'd like to share that maybe you can identify with as well:
Don't be afraid to ask questions:
We're surrounded by other people who have started businesses and who have had to figure things out - those people are valuable resources as well as a good support system to have when it comes to do's and don'ts when starting your own company.
It's OK to say "no":
This one's the hardest lesson to learn. We all want to take every job that comes along, no matter how big/small/unpaid it is. While it's great to get that experience once or twice to add to your portfolio, it's just not a good idea to keep doing it once you have some momentum built as far as workload goes. Saying no is ok. Saying no, but offering an alternative or referring to someone else who might need the experience, is a little better for everybody.
Pick a lane (goes hand-in-hand with the last one):
A girlfriend of mine and I joke that it's such an Asian thing to say "sure, I can do it" when we really should just say "hey, I can try, but there's someone else out there who can do it better and faster than I can."
We're such freakish overachievers that we're unwilling to say we don't know everything about something, and we're always willing to learn how to do it just to get it done.
That has to stop because to be good at something, you can't be good at everything. Like my father says, "Jack of all trades, master of none." So focus on what you want to do, what you're good at doing and do that. Make connections with people who are good at the other things so when clients ask, you can honestly say that you can provide them those services as well, even if you're not the actual person doing it.
A mantra I love by Parks & Recreation's Ron Swanson: "Don't half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
Accept that there are plenty out there who do what you do, don't try to one-up them and instead, network and learn from them and (when applicable) share what you know too. They may know something you don't and vice versa and like the adage, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," this is not a competition and no one "wins," but we can all be successful.
Don't stop learning:
Technology isn't going to wait for you to catch up, there's a new app almost every day that is related to what you do so keep reading and keep learning. I'm so bad at letting myself do this and it's a habit I'm tryign to instill where I make time everyday to either learn to code or read more books and articles on what I do. Which brings me to...
Practice what you preach:
This is where I'm lacking. I could use the excuse that I'm constantly managing other people's social media that I have no time for myself. Well, that's just as good as putting the oxygen mask on everybody else before putting my own one on - what good does it do if I don't practice what I preach, right?
Do you call yourself a blogger? How often are you blogging? Do you brag that you are great at producing website content? How complete and succinct is your website?
Some companies have skated by with cruddy websites, and still have managed to find work and that's ok, but personally, I'm going to put my money where my mouth is.
Just do it:
Thanks, Nike, for three words that have never stopped being applicable. Stop over-thinking, stop being all "well, it has to be perfect before I even do it because if it's not perfect it's not worth it." That's crap. We learn by making mistakes, but until we do it, how would we know if what we're doing is right? So go on, just try it.
Just do it.