Business can be very challenging. I have had many mentors over the years an each have given me sage business advice. As I did a ‘walk down memory lane’ looking back over 20 years of business. I thought I’d share some of those gold nuggets in the hope that they will help you navigate your way through your business.
Unsolicited Business Advice #1
I think after 20 years in business, I have earned the right to share some gold nuggets of advice for those starting out. Advice #1 would be to network. As I mentioned before, I joined the HBBN but in my second year, I also became a member of the Penrith Valley Chamber (which I am now Vice President of, so I am clearly a big supporter). I’ve joined many networks over the years. Some I have stayed in for many years and others served their purpose for a shorter time. There are a range of groups available and it is important to find the ones that work for you both business and personally.
Unsolicited Business Advice #2
Employing staff is not as simple as it sounds. Firstly, everything you have held in your head has to be articulated, documented and put into a process so that they can do their job efficiently. You need employment contracts, enough cashflow to pay them, your bills and hopefully yourself. Before jumping into employment, see where you can outsource. Contractors have to be responsible for their own work and although may cost a bit more, they are not subject to the same rules and entitlements as an employee. I have been lucky that the majority of my staff have been great. But let me tell you, I have had my fair share of bad eggs and they certainly make you think twice about having staff. I was warned, but I did it anyway. Consider yourself warned!
Unsolicited Business Advice #3
Create processes and systems and document them. This sounds mundane and tedious but it’s critical to ensure that you maintain a high standard of service. It not only means that the client has a consistent experience but it makes your teams’ job so much easier. They will have clear guidelines to know what to do in any given situation, and what they can and can’t do. If they follow the procedure, they can’t get in trouble.
Unsolicited Business Advice #4
Invest in yourself. You can never spend too much time and money on education and self development – that goes for you and your team. This is a great quote that I heard in my first years in business.
“But what if I train them and they leave? What if you don’t train them and they stay?”
I have invested in business coaches, mentors, training, certified education, masterclasses and the myriad of free training through webinars and podcasts. What are you going to do this year to invest in yourself?
Unsolicited Business Advice #5
If you have a true entrepreneurial spirit, you will constantly have ideas come to you. It’s not always possible to bring every idea to fruition, but you should never leave an idea unexplored. Share them with your team. You’ll be surprised how fresh ideas can invigorate a team and get them excited about implementing or trying something new. If you don’t try an idea you will die never knowing. If it works – amazing! If it doesn’t, don’t dwell on it – move on quickly to the next idea. I have had many ideas fail – but I have also had many that have been fabulous successes.
Unsolicited Business Advice #6
Give back where you can. This is an important part of the business cycle. Over the years we have supported many charities and causes. We have attended fundraising events, raised funds ourselves, used $ from the sale of products such as business cards to fund the planting of trees in Australia after the devastating fires of 2019. Being able to give back is a privilege, and as big believers in reciprocity, we know that our kindness and generosity comes back in many ways – especially how good it makes a person feel.
Unsolicited Business Advice #7
Zig when everyone else zags. They saying that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the first sign of madness. Well, my advice is that when everyone in business is doing one thing, that is the perfect time to do something different. Something that will set you apart from your competition. The challenge – don’t be to afraid to fail. Remember, you either win or you learn.
Unsolicited Business Advice #8
Your health is your wealth. Look after yourself – mentally, physically and spiritually. It is very easy as a business owner to put yourself last, especially when you have the responsibility of someone else’s school fees or mortgage hanging over you. But like an aeroplane that is about to go down, you are instructed to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. The same applies in business. If you are the business owner are fit and healthy, then you are far more help to your team, clients and business than if you run yourself into the ground. Burnout is real. It is debilitating and it is hard to come back from. Be kind to yourself and look after you first.
Unsolicited Business Advice #9
Branding matters. I’m talking about a logo here. Which yes, is important as we are visual creatures, however your logo is not your brand. Branding is all about your reputation. What others are saying about you. This is based on how you make people feel, how you communicate, how you sound, connect and behave. There is far more to branding that just a logo. When you get your head around what branding really is, it will make a significant difference to your business. Branding does not need to be expensive or difficult, but it does need to be consistent. Do your business a favour and set some time to create a brand strategy. It will make everyones job so much easier AND you will see you business thrive.
Unsolicited Business Advice #10
Australians love a battler. They are the best people to have in your corner when you are down and out and need help. Australians will give you the shirt off their backs. However, if you start to do really well they are quick to bring out the knives to cut you down to size. This can be hard to manage, but the reality is that this is more their issue than yours. Stand your ground, do your best, fulfil your dreams and take those who support and cheer you along, with you. One day you’ll be so tall you finally become the ‘hero’, the person or business to look up to. There are so many nay-sayers out there. So many people who are quick to judge or gaslight because they can’t do what you can. Stand your ground, achieve your dreams and be the tallest, brightest and most beautiful poppy you can be.
Unsolicited Business Advice #11
Take a holiday. As a business owner it is very tempting to keep going – day and night. Ridiculous hours. Forfeiting time with family and friends in the effort to get the business up and running, to get it profitable, to get it growing. But like a fuel tank – if it is empty, the car just won’t go. The same can be said for us mere mortals. We need time to rest, recuperate, regenerate, time to think, to plan, time to be quiet with ourselves and our thoughts. You need at least one holiday a year. We close down over Christmas which forces all of the WRD team to take a break. It’s a great time as it’s our summer, most people want to see family and friends at this time of year and it ensures that we are well rested to start the new year with a bang!
Unsolicited Business Advice #12
Ask for help. This can be so hard for many of us. Research in neuroscience and psychology indicates that the uncertainty of the outcome, the risk of rejection, the perception of being seen as week, or relinquishing power (after all, no one can do it like I can!) — activate the same brain regions that physical pain does. But the reality is that you cannot do everything yourself. You need to ask for help – before you hit rock bottom. You’ll be surprised at the people who put their hands up and help you out – often they aren’t the ones you were relying on.
Unsolicited Business Advice #13
Celebrate your wins. Regardless of how big or small, you should always celebrate your achievements. Perhaps you’ve won a new client, achieved your quarterly goals, won an award or got paid! Celebrating gives you time to savour the moment, acknowledge your hard work and if you have a team, it’s a great way to recognise their contribution and give each other a high 5 before moving onto the next focus item. Whether you ring a victory bell (like we do at The Creative Fringe), head out for drinks or dinner or so something more elaborate, celebrating is important. And fun!
Unsolicited Business Advice #14
Don’t be shy. The reality is that as a business owner, no one is going to dish out accolades or credit for the work you do. You need to let people know what you are up to. You need to let them know about the work or good you are doing for your clients or community. This is not bragging. This is marketing. If you don’t share this information no-one will ever know what you are achieving. And if your competitors are sharing what they are up to, they will always be one step ahead of you. Share your wins, your achievements, what you are proud of and how proud you are of your team.
Unsolicited Business Advice #15
Have fun. Running a business is serious business. The responsibilities are pretty huge. Between compliance, paying bills, paying staff, supporting staff, inspiring staff, bringing in clients, supporting clients, keeping clients, doing the actual do and everything in between, it is quite easy to get bogged down in stress. My unsolicited advice is to see where you can have some fun. Adding elements of fun to your day helps with your mood, your positivity and of course the company you keep. So even though business can be serious business, lighten up and have some fun.
Unsolicited Business Advice #16
Hire slowly and fire fast. Advice I had heard but never thought that I needed to implement. The reality is that if someone is not right for your business, then it is better for both of you to move them on as quickly as possible. Having the wrong person in your business can cost you in time, money and stress. Take the time to find the right people for the right role and when they are right, treat them like gold and hold onto them, as the other option, well, it’s just not an option.
Unsolicited Business Advice #17
Burnout is real. It is a state of complete mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion and is caused by prolonged levels of chronic stress and pressure resulting in overwhelm, brain fog, exhaustion, loss of motivation, cynicism, a sense of failure or self-doubt – just to name a few. The challenge is to identify that you are experiencing burnout before it becomes disabling. Because once you are caught in the downward spiral of the whirlpool, it is very hard to see the wood from the trees. Reach out to family and friends for help and of course, talk to your doctor. Don’t ignore the signs.
Unsolicited Business Advice #18
You can’t control everything. If Covid has taught us anything, it is that some things are truly out of our control. However, we do have control over how we react to things. Did you treat Covid as all doom and gloom? Or did you see it as an opportunity to get on top of projects you hadn’t had time to get to previously? Perhaps it was time to slow down, take a breath and regroup? It’s very easy to get caught up in the hype and tension of a moment, but in truth, sometimes what is happening around you is out of your control. So why stress and worry about something you cannot change? Look at how you react and change that outcome.
Unsolicited Business Advice #19
Surround yourself with good people. There are people who will stroke your ego to get what they want. There will be others who are all sunshine and rainbows in front of you but then talk shit behind your back. Then there are others who’s actions speak louder than their words – those are the ones to watch out for the most. Instead of looking for people to stroke your ego, find those that will tell you the kind truth. Do you have people in your corner who let you know what is going on when you may not be aware? People who check in to see if you are OK? People who are the first to use your services, to refer you or the first to stand up for you. The reality is that it is hard to find people who are truly loyal. So when you do, treat them like gold. Treasure them.
Unsolicited Business Advice #20
Test and measure everything. What worked last year may not work tomorrow. Test and measure your website activity, your social media posts and engagement, networking activity and where your leads or referrals come from. When you know where you get your leads from and how they are converted, will help you manage the peaks and troughs of sales. For a lot of businesses it’s feast or famine. To help manage the roller coaster of hustling for work and then stressing to manage the work load, knowing where and how you obtain clients is very important. So too, test and measure key activities in the business. Are there quicker more efficient ways of doing things? Are their new apps or software that can streamline what you do, give you quicker access to documents, your CRM or your accounting. By testing and measuring you will be able to keep your finger consistently on the pulse.