In my first year as a business owner, I’ve learned an abundance about business, my industry, building a team and the unique challenges of being an entrepreneur. I’ve gained so much from reading the stories and experiences of other business owners and startups and I think it only makes sense that I return the favor whenever possible. So, today, I’d like to share with you 65 lessons I learned in my first year as a business owner.
Startup Lessons Learned: 65 Tips from My First Year in Business
Here’s my list of 65 things I learned within my first year in business, divided into categories to make perusing them easier. I’m sure there are many more lessons I’ve either momentarily forgotten or will be learned in the near future. I hope this list helps, informs and encourages you.
- Many PR professionals are still catching up to the digital, integrated side of PR and many are doing so very slowly.
- We are better working together; not in opposition.
- Never underestimate the power of the follow up.
- Newswire services CAN work … if you have news that editors aren’t interested in covering.
- Reporters don’t like breaking promises either — they’ll do their best to make a hit stick or help you rework it — as long as you do the legwork.
- Gender bias still exists.
- If you can’t back up a tactic with how it relates back to the goal, it’s probably time to ditch that tactic.
- You don’t have to be the first to spot a trend or breaking news, just follow the people who do.
About Client Relations
- Don’t assume a client knows the ins and outs of your industry — even if they say they do
- Explain your internal process within new business pitches to create greater transparency.
- Communication builds trust.
- Happy clients refer new clients.
- Clients are smart and expect you to be smarter.
- Clients want to understand how their money is being spent and what ROI they can expect. If they don’t see your service as a worthwhile investment, they will cut budget you, no matter how much they may like you.
- Open communication combined with results create lasting relationships.
- Don’t be the one talking invoices with your clients. Keep the execution and the admin separate.
- Always apologize first; even if it’s not your fault.
- Don’t assume the worst.
- Some people are just micro-managers and should be avoided.
- Sometimes you work with clients you don’t like. Then you learn who to avoid in the future.
- Do everything in your power (and then some) to keep the clients that you love and who appreciate you.
About Building a Team
- There is only room within an A team for A players.
- To successfully scale, your team must catch and maintain the vision.
- Schedule time weekly for team-building (I’ve found this to be especially true in having a virtual agency).
- Don’t be afraid to hand over the reins and allow a team member to help.
- Give your team time to hang out without a moderator (manager, boss, etc.) to build team spirit and foster relationships.
- Appoint team members to lead initiatives that align with their passions whenever possible.
- Provide opportunities to stretch team members strategy muscles — you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised at what you see.
- Regularly instill client trust in your team.
- Successfully equipping and onboarding new team members is a major time and energy commitment. It can be exhausting.
- Successfully equipped and onboarded team members add irreplaceable value to your business and are worth the investment.
- Acknowledge success and praise team members in front of other team members, clients and publicly.
About Business in General
- A trustworthy lawyer is worth his / her weight in gold.
- A trustworthy, resourceful and informative accountant is worth his / her weight in gold.
- Make use of free resources at your local small business association.
- Know your niche and cater your time, resources and marketing toward it.
- Comparison kills creativity.
- If you want to scale your business, you cannot be the entirety of the brand.
- The truth is always the best option.
- Always have a backup plan.
- To build a brand, you must allocate time, energy and resources.
- Lasting success doesn’t happen overnight.
- Never stop building and investing in your network.
- Follow your gut — always.
- Proper blogging brings leads and new business opportunities.
- Lawyer-approved contracts and non-compete agreements are worth the investment.
- Documenting processes that are replicable across teams and clients are worth the time.
- A cluttered email inbox will clutter your mind and inhibit success.
- Don’t get so caught up in the tactics that you lose sight of your goals.
- Don’t stop massaging new business relationships down the funnel.
- Document your journey through a journal, videos, blog posts — keep a log (even if it’s private) to remind yourself of lessons learned and how far you’ve come.
- Celebrate your success and embrace happy moments.
- Actively seek out and build an advisory board and individual mentors.
- Recognize your weak points and improve or delegate.
About Life as an Entrepreneur
- Be aware of how often you look at your phone throughout the day and disable push notifications wherever possible.
- Don’t feel guilty about taking time away from the business to enjoy other aspects of your life.
- Schedule time for business development. I allocate a full day to business development each week.
- There is no such thing as work / life balance. Instead, there is just life with work being part of the whole.
- You won’t feel fulfilled unless you make time to work out.
- Be careful that you don’t allow yourself to talk business all the time. Just because you’re passionate, doesn’t mean others care as much as you do.
- Your spouse, family and friends notice how much time you give to the business and that does have an impact on your relationships with each.
- Continue to invest in your personal brand apart from the business.
- The ideas for how to improve your business, yourself and your product / service won’t stop coming. Keep a master list to refer back to and don’t overwhelm yourself trying to think about everything at once.
- Dealing with things beyond your control is commonplace. You have to embrace that feeling and move forward — don’t dwell.
- Know that sometimes the timing just isn’t right and that’s OK.
There you have it! Anything on this list surprise you? What sage words of wisdom do you have as we go into our second year? Are you thinking of starting your own business? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below. Thanks again for stopping by and taking part in our week-long #BelleBirthdayBash!
P.S. We will be hosting a special LIVE Q&A session here on the blog Friday, April 25th to wrap up the birthday party. I will be here to answer any questions you may have about being an entrepreneur, starting a business, building a team, PR, social media, blogging … anything you’d like to ask. Just stop back here at 12pm ET this Friday, April 25th, 2014 and ask your question in the comments.