The post below was written by me ten years ago (in 2007). Yes you read that right. I had just hit the significant ‘decade in biz’ milestone in my business and wanted to acknowledge and share some lessons learned. Ten years later, those lessons are still so relevant. Although at the time, I was mainly a solopreneur, I think the lessons are relevant for any leader of a small-to-medium sized company.
We will continue to see more start-ups, and more people venturing out on their own. Leaders in small business will have an enormous impact on those who work for/with them and on the ‘thrive-ability’ of their business. There are so many more lessons to be learned than the initial ten shared below.
To that end, I’ve been invited by Dell SMB Canada to co-host a Twitter Conversation this coming week. We will explore strategies for leaders in small and medium sized businesses to inspire and lead their teams. We’d love you to join in the conversation.
Hold the Date (December 7, 12pm ET)! Join in the Conversation!
@DellSmbCA / @Chadnick / #DellSMBChat
Now on to the Post I wrote in 2007…. a slightly edited version below:
“Starting my 10th Year in Business. Lessons Learned Thus Far” (August 2007)
“This August (2007) I am beginning my 10th year of being in biz for myself. Wow! I can’t believe it. Time flies when you are having fun:)
When I put out my shingle way back in 1998 I was focusing exclusively on the communications side of my biz and operated under the biz name of: Chadnick Communications. In 2003, I expanded into the coaching world and started Big Cheese Coaching. Over the years, I’ve been redefining my role/mission in the workplace. It’s been quite the journey – and an amazing experience. I’ve learned a ton about building biz – and more importantly, a ton about myself.
Lots of change. Lots of learning. Exciting times. Scary times. Times of doubt and times of confidence. Was it worth it? You bet! Here are some reflections and lessons learned and things I’ve observed in my experience over the years.
1) It’s imperative to take care of yourself. Your ‘whole self’ — not just the working widget side of you. Health, fitness, balance, outside pursuits — they add up to a fuller you which is good for you and good for biz. A fledging ‘you’ can translated into a fledging business. They go hand-in-hand.
2) People hire people. Your brand must be authentic and credible. I’m a solopreneur but whether you are on your own or have a team working with you in your business, you are and/or represent a brand. Make sure you know who you are, what you stand for, and stay true to this brand. I’ve been told many times I come across as real and authentic. I always took that as a compliment. It has become even more important in my work as a coach. Make sure you are clear on who you are so you can be authentic – otherwise how can others truly get to know who you are…and who they are hiring?
3) Your work life must reflect your values and priorities. Make sure you know your values and priorities so you can ensure your business and work-life reflect those values. Values stay – but priorities can change. Are you on top of what is shifting? Reflecting the right values and priorities?
4) If you build it – will they come? Big mistake a lot of entrepreneurs make is thinking it’s enough simply to declare they are in biz and then build ‘it’ (as in the product or service). In addition to the professional skills of your trade (e.g. communications, coaching — or other) it’s important to develop marketing, business, and other key skills — especially if you are a solopreneur or operating with a small team.
5) Expect that there will be ebbs and flows to the business. Some days are feast and you might feel overloaded and wonder how you will get through all the work. Others may feel like famine (why isn’t the phone ringing!). As a solopreneur, I have learned that if you are doing all that you can do to grow and sustain your business, that the slower periods will pick up. You learn not to panic (well you try to learn this) and maybe take advantage of those reprieves.
6) Networking is very important. And it’s not only about building biz. You also need opportunities to grow, connect, learn. Depending on the nature of your biz, some days can feel isolating. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time but it’s imperative to stay connected. Join groups, associations, and reach out to people. Make this a regular habit.
7) Figure out your boundaries and respect them. From the get-go I realized that I need to establish boundaries. I’ve realized that if I didn’t then I would be at it 7/24. In the early days we want to put in the blood, sweat, and tears. But this can’t sustain over the long haul. Figure out your boundaries; communicate; and respect them. Read lesson #1 again and take care of yourself….or else there will be no biz.
8 ) Review and reflect regularly on your biz. It’s important to stay on top of how the business is doing. And equally important to check in on how you are doing in it. Is it still working for you? What needs to stay the same and what needs to change? Business leaders in the SMB world tend to spend a lot of time working ‘in’ the biz. Do take time to work ‘on’ the biz and ‘on yourself.
9) Build a team of professionals and strategic partners who will support you and your business growth. That might mean having a good accountant, a good web person, great tech tools and support, and perhaps even a coach. A good support team will show its value as you navigate the challenges, opportunities and complexities involved in running your own biz.
UPDATE NOTE: Ten years later I am now about to celebrate my second decade milestone in business. There are so many new unfolding lessons. I’ll be writing more about this in Part II /Lessons Learned Series.
But for now, please mark the date and join me and Dell SMB Canada for a Twitter Chat on Thursday, December 7 at 12:30 ET.
Details: #DellSMBchat / Twitter@Chadnick / Twitter @DellSMB
Eileen Chadnick (@Chadnick) is a certified coach specializing in career, executive and leadership development. Also a communications pro (20+ years of experience), Eileen is principal of Big Cheese Coaching and Chadnick Communications in Toronto. Eileen draws from the science of positivity, leadership, neuroscience, emotional intelligence – and Conversational Intelligence®(C‐IQ®) in her work as a coach, consultant, trusted advisor, and facilitator.