Starting your own business feels like such a victory. You get to follow your passion, and you get to be the one to create processes and systems that make sense to you. For people who switch from working in the corporate world to becoming a small business owner, it can feel like breaking free into a wide-open field of possibilities. Everything is so positive at first, and there is a ton of energy.
Sure, starting a business is scary, too, but the novelty and excitement of it all can do wonders to carry you through those initial moments of fear. The idea of creating a business plan may sound intimidating to some, but to someone who is actually planning a business they want to run – the planning phase is often full of optimism and joy.
Hopefully, good planning leads to a smooth start. Maybe the first job or even the first few jobs are successful. Maybe an initial lead ends up bringing in multiple clients, so marketing seems effortless at first. It’s great to have initial success, because it can give you the confidence to grow and to start reaching for higher goals.
The thing is, the real test will come. It may not come right away, but it will come, and you need to be mentally prepared for it. In other words, smooth sailing cannot be mistaken for permission to be complacent.
Adapt, Change, Repeat
There are some sobering statistics out there about new businesses. Depending on where you look, a large percentage of new businesses fail, and many fail within the first six months to a year. The reasons for this vary, but most of them have to do with underestimating the cost of business and overestimating how easy it will be to keep customers rolling in.
Maintaining that early success is not a given; it takes work. It takes the ability to think on your feet and evaluate what’s working and what’s not. If there’s one constant in business, it’s change, and you have to be ready to adjust your course quickly and often, especially in the beginning stages.
The early days of Maven Publishing were not easy, and our path was far from linear. We were excited to get down to business and start doing the work, but our industry is in a volatile transition period right now, and it’s evolving daily. At the rate new systems and technology continue to appear, pretty much every step of the publishing process is a moving target. Keeping up with the industry requires constant, careful attention, and an immense ability to adapt.
Plans are important, and they’re essential for launching your business on solid footing. That said, flexibility (and sometimes being willing to throw the plans out and start over) is required in order to maintain momentum and eventually grow.
Make Learning a Priority
We all know what it feels like to make a mistake and learn a hard lesson, and there’s a lot of that in starting a business. It would be impossible to know all of the answers ahead of time, and most entrepreneurs (at least the ones I know) would be bored by that anyway.
But we all also get a little complacent from time to time. We tend to relax and let our guard down when things are going well. In order to stay sharp so that you can think on your feet and bounce back from setbacks easily, make active learning a part of each day. If you’re insanely busy like I am, put it on your schedule, and stick to it.
If you only have a few minutes:
- Read industry-specific articles so you can stay on top of trends.
- Subscribe to publications like this one – the weekly digest can save you time and make it easier to find the articles that are the most relevant to you.
- Follow the news. Sometimes a news outlet will cover an important story about your industry, and their angle on it may give you a new perspective.
- Record your ideas and thoughts about your business in some kind of journal (I use Evernote for this). It will help you remember things better, and it will also allow you to see your own development over time.
If you have a few hours or even a free day (I know, it sounds crazy, but it happens!):
- Get out and talk to people. Even if you’re taking the day “off,” have conversations with people around you. You’d be amazed what you can learn from family, friends, and even random strangers.
- Attend a lecture, or listen to a podcast or webinar. If you work alone most of the time, it’s nice to literally hear what other people in the industry are talking about.
If you have multiple days:
- Get out of your immediate area and see what people are doing in other places. This could be as simple as setting up an appointment or lunch meeting with someone in your industry, or it could be as involved as attending a multi-day conference. Being in publishing, I like to stop by independent bookstores all over the country and just talk about the changes they’re seeing in the business. It’s fascinating, but also helpful.
If you’ve chosen the path of entrepreneurship, you’re in for a lifetime of learning. That’s just the way it is. Sometimes, it will come in the form of hard lessons that you wish you didn’t have to learn. The good news is that learning can also be fun, and it can help you reignite your passion for what you do; just find what works for you, and make it a priority.