(…from running my own business)
My transition to owning my own business was an organic one. I had always wanted to start my own business but thought that I had to save up a bunch of money, quit my job and create the business while I lived on those savings. Fortunately for me, while at my previous company, they decided to close my division. I was able to negotiate an arrangement that allowed me to continue doing the same work, for myself, and keep all the customers and contacts I had developed. In that progression, I also was able to quickly set up a retainer contract that made sure I had some guaranteed income for a few months. That was the beginning. Since that time, there are plenty of lessons I’ve learned along the way but many of them can be boiled down to one statement: having the right help is key to your success.
When I started out, I did almost everything myself. I did hire a lawyer to create and file all of my business formation documents. Yes you can do this yourself, but the extra expense is worth the peace of mind, at least it was for me. I also hired a company to do my first Web site, not because I couldn’t but because they made it quick and easy at a reasonable price. I paid someone to do my taxes and got their input on how to pay myself and pay periodic taxes. Beyond that, I ran the business myself, including accounting. Since that time, I switched tax preparers twice, I finally hired an accountant to do my taxes and manage my business finances, and I hired a bookkeeper to handle the day to day. The accountant alone has been worth the money, saving me big financial surprises on tax day, and more peace of mind.
I’m definitely the do it all yourself type, the thought of turning control for a task over to someone else is scary, but I’m learning how much sense it makes. In the past couple of years, I had reached the point that my administrative tasks, answering emails, scheduling tasks and researching information, were taking up significant portions of my time. Last fall I hired my first Executive Assistant in the hopes that they would be able to help with much of this. The first one didn’t go as planned, they required too much direction. They were very detail oriented, but not very self driven. It just wasn’t a good fit. But the second one, the EA I currently, their creative input, their ability to take a task and run with it, and much more, has has saved me so much time, it is easy to financially justify the position.
I’ve wanted to grow my business, but was unsure how, I started looking for a business mentor and landed with a business coach. This has been the best thing for my business. Their ability to help me refine my goals, my priorities, to create my vision and build it, had been previously unmatched when attempting to tackle these tasks on my own. The rate of progress my company has made in the past year is unmatched in its history.
There are many other examples, mostly small things, but the common thread is: finding help, when needed and for tasks outside your area of expertise. This involves trial and error sometimes. You need to find someone you trust. Learning to let go of the details and trust that their expertise will get the job done. When you find those people, those businesses, hold on to them. Turn them into long term relationships. They may feel costly up front, but they’re going to save, or even make you money in the long run.
P.S. Oh, and networking (I don’t mean IT), I’ll save that discussion for another day. But I will say, it’s important, no matter who you are and what kind of business you run.