Managing Directions: 6 lessons I’ve learnt from starting a business
It’s coming up to 1 year since I took the leap of faith and left the security of my well-paid, high-up job and ventured into the world of business. It’s always been a dream of mine to start up a company, so when I had the opportunity to do so with my best friend and love of my life, I couldn’t refuse. This year has taught me more about myself than I’d ever have imagined and shown me that no matter how big a business is, business owners deserve a hell of a lot of respect. It’s not easy – I underestimated just how hard it was, which is why I thought I’d share 6 things I wish someone told me this time last year.
People are gobshites
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a real people person and most people are lovely. But there are some who will push you to the point where you’d love to hear the slap of your hand meeting the side of their face. When you’re dealing with people who don’t understand your industry, you’re constantly finding yourself dealing with people who not only don’t understand, but they’re also unwilling to learn, meaning they’re looking for the impossible. Some people want deadlines met yesterday and some simply come to you, place an order and then realize they’ve ordered the wrong service and want you to fix it for free even though you haven’t done anything wrong and you explained everything to them at the start. Having worked in sales for over 8 years, I’ve had my fair share of dealing with difficult people, but when it’s your business and your profit margins on the line it suddenly gets so much more real. Be prepared to do a hell of a lot of educating and for your patience to run pretty thin at times. Most importantly, though, never lower yourself down to their level. By explaining everything, being honest and helping (within reason of course), you’re building the foundations of a company everyone can trust.
The big decisions are hard
No matter how tough you think you are, when you have to make big decisions, it’s scary. As a business owner, you’re no longer responsible for just yourself, there are so many different factors that go into a decision. How will it impact your clients? Will it affect your employees? Will it make your business look bad? There will be times when you have to sack an employee or get rid of a client – and that is so much harder to do than it sounds. Make sure you think everything through and when the time comes explain yourselves and be fair. It’ll make these hard decisions a lot easier.
Don’t undervalue yourselves
When you start a business, you want to take on anything to make ends meet. You’re also a lot more willing to give discounts if it means winning a client. Although it’ll work at the beginning, it won’t work long term and it’s not setting your company up for healthy growth. It’s really important to find clients who fit your way of thinking, as it’ll save you a lot of stress in the long run. It’s also just as important to work with people who value the service you offer, and who are willing to pay a fair price. If you work with clients who pay too little, you’re going to end up working your arse off at the expense of your well-paying clients.
Good employees are worth your weight in gold
The biggest bit of advice I can give you when hiring is trusting your gut instinct. While there are plenty of good workers out there, finding someone extraordinary is so much harder. Go for attitude – skills can be taught. Make sure your employees have the same values as your brand, and that they all fit together. Employees have the power to make or break you, so when you find someone who fits, do all you can to keep them. If you’re a startup and can’t afford to pay top-end wages, giving your employees benefits money can’t buy like flexibility and freedom are often more appreciated than money.
Also, if you’re looking to work with friends be careful. Working together can put straign on friendships as no matter how long you’ve known each other, you might not be ready to
When you’re building a business, it’s hard to know when to put down the laptop and switch off. Chances are you’re doing everything yourself, and with so much on your plate, it’s hard to find time for yourself. But make sure you do – nothing is worse than working yourself too hard as you’ll find you’re even less productive than if you worked fewer hours. Take your lunch break, use the evening to do something you enjoy – and most importantly don’t burn the candle at both ends.
Even though it’s 2018, being a woman is hard in the world of business
I’ve left the most controversial and probably the point that shocked me the most until last. Having started my career in the military, I’ve always been so used to being accepted as “one of the boys”. Even though the military is such a male-dominated environment, I never got judged on the fact I was female, blonde, 5ft1, and love pole dancing and all things pink. I did my job, I was good at it, and that got me respect. That’s why I was so shocked coming into the world of business that my ability to do my job has been openly judged on the fact I’m female more than once. It’s 2018, not 1818. The fact sexism is still a thing is mind-boggling. Being a mother doesn’t make you any less fit for your job – it actually makes you a better candidate because there is no bigger motivation than providing for your little ones and being a positive role-model. We shouldn’t have to be using our male-colleagues email addresses just to be taken seriously – it’s time sexism in the workplace stopped.