Monday, January 22, 2018

Observations And Lessons From 2 Years In Business

People Make a Difference

When I first started my business, I told no one. I was worried I wouldn't be successful, and felt that not telling anyone would help limit any impending embarrassment over my efforts. Thankfully, I got over myself and realized that nobody was judging me as harshly as I was judging myself... But honestly, what no one tells you about starting a business, is that working from home all day, you become a bit isolated. Having no one to bounce your ideas, concerns and successes off of becomes overwhelming. You might be your own boss, but that doesn't mean you have to carry everything on your own.

I started going to networking events, and approaching people I followed on social media that seemed to have similar business cultures. Over the last few months, I have cultivated a fantastic support system of motivated professionals. Having these people - Some with new businesses like mine, and some with 20+ years of experience - available to me to brainstorm, vent and laugh with has been integral in keeping myself motivated. With their support I gained confidence in pursuing my preferred niche market, re-branded myself to better suit it, and have developed a plan for 2018 that I am irrevocably clear about and confident in.

We hear it all the time, but the people you surround yourself with really do impact your opportunities. It can take time to find the right people, and effort to nurture those relationships - But that support and influence will make your life so. Much. Easier.

Take The Right Risks

I am the kind of person who researches and plans for every possible outcome of every situation. While I have been praised for my confidence and charisma, I have also spent most of my life carrying a steady amount of anxiety and great personal expectation just below the surface. This year was a fabulous opportunity to start letting some of that anxiety go, starting with trusting my gut. The amazing thing is, there hasn't been a single decision my gut instinct has been wrong about.

I've learned that my instincts are way better at judging risk than my conscious. Where my conscious needs research to feel confident in something, my instincts can gather an accurate perception within about 60 seconds.

It was terrifying at first, to make decisions based on a "gut feeling," but these were also the only times I didn't second guess myself, or regret my decision later on. Being in the industry I'm in, research is still a valuable part of my process, but gut instinct will definitely be a permanent part of my equations. I've found I also feel way more confident when presenting to people and businesses now, because I'm not constantly re-evaluating everything I say.

Trust yourself: You've learned more from your experiences than you think you have!

Invest in Soft Skills: Employers, Employees, Educators and Mentors

I think we really need to shift education towards recognizing soft skills. I'm a perfectionist, and I can list my campaign stats, sales milestones, etc. to you all day long. In school, we're taught that these kind of results matter: "Get good scores and you'll succeed." But the fact is that this just isn't true. Many employers now would much rather know about your mindset and motivation for achieving the results you do, than just your performance statistics on their own. Most successful entrepreneurs too, are not successful because of a degree, but because of their personalities and values.

For instance, I know that my two largest contracts so far were not awarded to me solely for the results I had achieved in previous campaigns, but rather on how well I had researched and could defend my ideas, and how I carried myself in front of a room full of people. I earned their investment because they could see I didn't leave a stone unturned or route unchecked, and genuinely committed to their success as being equal to my own. They knew they could rely on me as a partner to do the necessary work, whether that was re-coding a page, creating and targeting content or reminding them of their successes after a rough day in the field.

So many employers and employees complain of a lack of loyalty, but we are taught from a young age that it's what we do on paper that counts the most towards where we're going to end up... We all need to participate in putting value back on natural affinities and traits. Go validate someone today.

Social Media Can Work For Any Business, But Not Any Business Owner

There are avenues one can take for marketing that require an owner to set a budget, approve a design, and then just wait to see what they get out of it. This entire process might take a couple hours or a couple of weeks. Social media is not one of these avenues.

Social media requires commitment. It requires a constant flow of new content and conversation. It requires strategic and confident revision. It requires experimentation. It is a long-term integration in your business plan.

I hear so many internet marketers claim that social media is a no-brainer, that it will work for anybody, that it is your only fail-proof solution to success... But I have to disagree. Ultimately, not everyone wants something intensive and involved. Not everyone has thought about their business goals beyond their next sale. Not everyone enjoys being tied to their brand. Let's be honest, not all of us know what we want to be when we grow up. And for those people, realizing they're venturing out on a long-term path of branding and customer relations can be uncomfortable. Do I think social media presents the most value in terms of customer profiling, accessibility and exposure? Absolutely. But that alone does not make it the right avenue for everybody.

All-in-all, social media is about leveraging the relationship between your brand and customers. And just like any relationship, if you're not committed to putting yourself out there and sticking with it, you're not going to get the best out of it. (Of course, just because my particular services aren't appropriate for someone at the moment, doesn't mean there aren't other ways we can collaborate. I believe there is always a way for business owners to provide value to each other!)

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