5 Must-Know Lessons About the Small Business World
Common sense strategies will grow your tribe, if you're consistent.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Over the last five years there have been some really hard lessons I’ve had to learn. Some were painful, some cost me money, some set me back from reaching my goals, but all of them have made me a stronger business woman.
Today I want to share my top five lessons I have learned on my entrepreneurial journey.
1. Everyone starts at zero.
I have more opportunities today than I did five years ago because I have built a following from scratch. I have taken small, consistent steps towards building my tribe and gaining their trust over time. Don't expect to immediately hit the ball out of the park on day one. You'll only become frustrated.
Too many times I looked at other entrepreneurs and thought, “I can never be as popular, likeable and professional as they are.” In hindsight I realize that it wasn’t that I couldn’t be them, it was just frustrating that I wasn’t them today.
“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain
2. Consistency is key.
It took time to build my following and share valuable content with the 10 people that followed me, which turned into 100, then 10,000, and then 80,000. That said, you must have an unwaivering commitment to your network whether you have two or 200,000, and be consistent with them.
Almost every week I get asked the “How often?” question. How often should I post to social media? How often should I blog? How often should I send out a newsletter? My response is always the same - as often as you can consistently provide high-quality content for your followers. I would rather see someone create one killer blog post a week, than five mediocre ones.
If you produce a lousy blog post or a mediocre Periscope and your followers are disappointed, they may give you a second or even a third chance, but they will be very hesitant to recommend you to their following. You have shown yourself to be inconsistent and now they are not 100 percent sure. They will be reluctant to put their reputation on the line by recommending you to their tribe.
“When you look at people who are successful, you will find that they aren't the people who are motivated, but have consistency in their motivation.” – Arsene Wenger
3. Expect the unexpected.
It will happen to everyone. The minute you make a commitment to a goal, problems will rise.
In the early days, one of my biggest issues was that I was a painstaking, detailed planner. It took me forever to decide to tackle a new project or business venture because I had to be able to envision and plan it from start to finish. I had to mentally cover all of the potential problems and figure out how would overcome those problems before they even happened.
While it is good to do a S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, mine kept me from moving forward. Everyone else had already started and figured out which problems really existed, meanwhile I was mulling over how to solve the list of ones I conjured up in my head.
Imagine my surprise when I believed I had thought through every last detail and within a few weeks things hadn’t gone exactly according to my precisely conjured plan. I felt like a complete failure and meanwhile I was being left in the dust of those who were moving forward and attacking problems as they arose.
You may not be as neurotic as I am with your planning and your fear of moving forward without thinking through every detail, but no matter your expectations, know that anything that can go wrong, will. Stay flexible and keep a sense of humor. It isn't the end of the world. In fact, sharing some of your unexpected problems may add a layer of authenticity with your followers.
"You have power over your mind--not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength." –Marcus Aurelius
4. You can't keep everyone happy.
Trying to keep everyone happy will keep your business in mediocrity. I have angered people, hurt their feelings, and been accused of just chasing after money. On the flip side, I have received countless wonderful testimonies from around the world that have brought me to tears. Stick to your gut, no matter how hard it is, and just accept the fact that you will anger people along the way.
“If you're trying to please everyone, then you're not going to make anything that is honestly yours in the long run.” –Viggo Mortensen
5. Learn, adapt, change, evolve.
It's okay to change direction. The business journey isn't on a clearly paved path with signs pointing which direction to go. Be flexible and understand that your business is an ever-changing organism that is growing in an ever-changing world. The things that worked last year may no longer work this year.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin