It doesn't matter what your industry, or what your level of experience, venturing into business ownership is one of the biggest leaps you'll ever take.
You might have studied the playbook on entrepreneurship from cover to cover. Maybe you have some of the best influencers in the business guiding you. But nothing — and I mean nothing — will truly prepare you for what it's like to have a whole company depend on you and your, sometimes-shaky, decisions.
And that's not meant as a ruse to put you off!
Far from it.
Owning a business isn't easy, but it is one of the most rewarding challenges you can set your mind to, so it's worth preparing yourself as much as you can in advance. You’ll have a lot of curve balls lobbed at you on your business ownership journey, but that's no reason to put you off!
Here are six lessons that people have learnt from starting their first business. These are the things that aren't written in the entrepreneurship manual that may or may not be gathering dust on your bedside table.
1. You must be able to control your emotions.
Starting any business means you’ll deal with a lot of people from all walks of life.
Staff, colleagues, investors, customers, suppliers, stakeholders…the list goes on of the broad range of people you'll come across on any given day.
Most of those people will make your day more pleasant and will be a delight to deal with, but there'll be others who just know which buttons to press to rub you up the wrong way!
You'll also have deal with competition whose intentions won't always be pure, and customers who think it's OK to take their frustrations out on you.
It's important that, whoever crosses your path, and whatever circumstances you're presented with, your emotions are always in check. Don't respond with anger, don't take criticism personally, and learn how to smile through everything you face.
In the early days, you are your business! Your reputation depends on your professionalism and your ability to override your emotions, whatever challenges you face. Lashing out in anger, uncontrollable crying when things get too much, or anger and resentment, are all emotions you'll need to control if you want to be successful.
2. You must put time into your own business.
When launching a business, it's likely that your whole world will revolve around it for the weeks and months leading up to your start date.
Then (if all goes to plan) come the customers, the service, the demand, the ordering, and everything else that's required of you to run a busy company.
Life, for a business owner, is hectic. If you're making an income, it’s easy to forget that you still need to work ON your business. You need to commit to ongoing marketing campaigns, you need to keep an eye on your competitors, and you must continually analyse your market to make sure you're responding to the needs of your consumer.
Working on your business is one of the easiest things to let slide when you're busy dealing with all your other responsibilities, but remember, what you do today, will pay your future dividends, and you must keep the momentum going.
3. Pay for expertise wherever you can.
Many new business owners believe they can do it all themselves. You don't need to be a genius to work your way through a social media campaign, and how hard is it to create an invoice? While you need to be smart with your money and not splash out where you don't need to, you'll save time, money, and a lot of headaches in the long run if you pay for experts where you can.
An accountant, a web developer, and someone to help with your marketing will make sure you give your business the best possible chance of success rather than DIY jobs which will almost always guarantee that things aren't done to a high enough quality.
4. Cash flow is your number one priority.
It's vital to the success of a business that you keep cash moving. You need a top-notch invoicing system that makes it easy for people to pay you. You need systems in place that, if your clients or suppliers are in a situation where they must choose who to pay first, you always come out on top.
Cash flow problems have the power to make or break your business. Tt's essential that you have control over spending, budgets, and a backup reserve for when times get tough.
5. There will be bumps in the road, but that doesn't mean it's the end.
When you start a business, life is good. And then it's bad…and then, before you know it, it gets good again! When you first experience the low times, it can be tempting to think it's never going to work and pack it all in.
The reality is that it won't always be smooth sailing (and if it is, you're probably doing it wrong!). Learn from the hurdles you encounter and use them to implement systems which will avoid the same pitfalls in the future.
It's par for the business-owning course that things will go up and down, but down doesn't mean the end.
6. Nothing will bring you more satisfaction.
Starting a business is hard, stressful, and will undoubtedly cause you many sleepless nights. It's also one of the most rewarding things you're ever likely to do!
Witnessing the fruits of your labour will spur you on to work even harder and seek out more ways to grow. Nothing causes a sense of achievement like watching a market respond to what you put out there and taking control of your lifestyle in the process.
Starting your first business is a very steep learning curve. Regardless of your level of experience, every day is filled with both lessons and rewards. Whether you decide to stay in business-ownership, or you decide it's not for you, one thing's for sure…you won't regret giving it a go.