11 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started My Business
Starting a business that lasts isn’t easy. Sure businesses pop up every day but how many of them actually make it? Raspberry Creative is celebrating 11 years and even though growth has been slow, we are still going, still moving forward, still making it happen every day. In the 11 years I’ve been running this business, I have learned a lot.
#1 WORK HARD AND LONG:
I work harder and my days are longer than any job I have ever had before this. Sure, I’m doing what I love but it’s still work and if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. That leaves my days long and often stressful.
#2 WORK VS. PASSION:
Those long, stressful days I mentioned in #1 consist of much less of the stuff I set out to do than I every could have imagined. I’d estimate that really only 20% of my day is spent doing design work and the rest of the day is allocated to a million other things like emails, website updates, more emails, phone calls, bookkeeping, helping my staff, more emails, etc. There is a business to run and it wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t make time for all those extra tasks so what I truly love to do is usually the last thing on the list.
#3 TALK THROUGH IT:
My life with the business is so much better now that I have Jen here. She’s a friend yes, but she’s such a valuable part of the company as well. When we have ideas, problems, questions…anything, we talk through it, brainstorm together and are always able to work through whatever it is. Talking through it, makes the difficult situations that come along much easier to deal with.
I spent 9 long years of my business doing it all myself. When I hired Jen, it was hard to let things go and trust another person to take on certain tasks. Jen has more than proven herself to be reliable and delegating is getting easier. Now with a production assistant on board, I am finding it easier to delegate things that I don’t need to be doing.
#5 SUCCESS DOESN’T HAPPEN OVER NIGHT:
This was a tough one for me to learn and I can honestly say that I am just learning it now. Every type of business is different but in many situations, success doesn’t just happen. It takes two, three, maybe even four times longer than most people estimate. When I first got started, I had no idea what I was doing. When we moved from Philly back to central PA I thought my business would grow pretty fast. It didn’t. It still isn’t growing super fast but we’ve kept it consistently moving forward and that in itself is success.
#6 MORE THAN ONE EGG BASKET:
You’ve heard the phrase “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” right? Well it’s true in business. When I got started, I was just trying to pick up identity projects. Then I got hooked up with a small stationery retailer and started doing some invitation designs. When I realized that I was good at it, I started offering it in addition to designing identity packages. When we got the shop opened here, we added a small retail element to the business. Then we added online sales. We started offering our own printing, etc. While it isn’t wise to try to do too much, it is good to have more than one “strand” to your business.
#7 CONSTANTLY EVOLVE:
My dad always says that a business that isn’t moving forward is falling behind. It’s true. A business can’t stand still, you can’t get too comfortable and expect things will always stay the same. You have to always be looking for new ways to do things, ways to expand or grow. You have to know what the trends are, know how business and marketing are changing and keep up with it.
#8 BE DIFFERENT:
It is so easy as the entrepreneur to think that your idea is unique and special. Well the reality is that is most likely isn’t so you have to know your competition and know your audience and do your best to find things about what you are doing that is truly different or create something different. For my business, deciding to make an investment in our own printing equipment was the first step. Unlike most stationery companies, we aren’t sending our print work out. We do it all right here so we have control over every step of the process from start to finish. That means more work for us but we aren’t in business to be the mass production company. We have built our business on forming relationships with our clients, taking the time to make each and every one of them feel like they are #1. That doesn’t happen when you are churning out 100s of wedding invitation packages a month. Less is more for us.
#9 STEP BACK:
It’s so easy to get so caught up in every detail of your growing business that you begin to burn out. Exhaustion sets in, your health may deteriorate and it may impact your relationships. No matter what, you have to find time to step back and just breathe. That can be hard to do but do it. Even if you have to schedule a break, do it! Your health, your loved ones and your business will thank you. I can’t promise you will have balance in your life but taking time to step back will benefit you more than you realize.
#10 LEARN TO SAY NO:
This is a hard one for many people. When you are growing, you want to take on every project, every sale you possibly can, but in reality, it doesn’t always mean growth. This is a word I am only just learning myself but I find that if I think about each project lead that comes along and compare it to my goals and the direction I want to take my company and everything aligns I can say “yes” otherwise, let it go. It’s hard but it’s a worthwhile lesson to learn.
#11 NO MORE FEARS:
A hard lesson to learn is to not stand still just because you are afraid. Failure is part of life and unless you face your fears, you’ll never know what could have happened. Two years ago, I reached a crossroads where I either had to hire help or stop growing. I was terrified about being responsible for another person; i was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to afford it. Then an evening over wine with friends I got to talking to someone that had been in a similar situation and her advise inspired me to take the plunge. It was scary but if I hadn’t taken the plunge and faced my fear, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I tried hiring more help earlier this year with the same fears. It didn’t work out so we had to step back, reconfigure and find a new way forward. Face your fears; whatever they are, no matter what might happen.
If I had known all these things back before I got started, I may have been too afraid to try. That would be sad because I would not have learned the things about myself that I have learned. I don’t think I’d be the same person I am today.
All in all, if you have learned nothing more from this post, know that running a business is tough. It’s not for the faint of heart. You have to be tough, you have to be resilient; you have to be determined. There have been so many days that I have just wanted to walk away. So many times where I have sat in tears wanting it all to just stop. I keep finding a way through, I keep finding my path forward. I am so glad I have continued to fight!