Here I am in London again, finally back from a big trip! I say “big” not because of the hours spent on a plane or the number of cities I set foot in. No, what made this trip especially big for me was the reason behind the whole thing: I received an award at the United Nations from Empact Showcase! For the second time, I got the chance to celebrate an amazing honor with some of my own “business idols” – being named one of the Empact Showcase Top 100, a selection of 100 thriving companies built by entrepreneurs ages 35 and under.
This trip gave me some time to reflect on the experience of building a business at such high speed. If you were to ask me for the top 5 lessons I’ve learned in growing my business, I’d definitely tell you:
1. You can’t do it all yourself, so delegate early and often
We all have to face the facts: your time is finite. You can’t get more of it, and you certainly can’t recover any of that lost or wasted time. You only have a certain number of hours in the week, so trying to do absolutely everything in your business is tantamount to running a never-ending race. You can’t win!
I faced this fact early on and hired my first part-time assistant during the first year of my business. I continued to bring on part-time employees for the next couple of years, people who took over the areas of the business that I wasn’t great at. Not only did those areas of my business start to thrive, but it allowed me to focus on what I did excell at. The result was surprisingly rapid growth, the kind of growth that now allows me to employ a team of 8 people, most of whom work for me full-time.
There’s only so much you can get done alone, so expand your team, even if you don’t feel ready.
2. Try a lot of stuff and see what works
When I was creating my social media marketing training courses, I didn’t know ahead of time which programs would be a huge success and which ones would need to be cut off. I based my plans on some qualitative research (talking with people) and what I thought would be useful to small business owners. I started with a course focused on Twitter marketing, then moved on to Facebook and LinkedIn, until I eventually saw that my customers were also looking for other courses that weren’t all platform-based. So I adapted based on customer feedback and the ebb and flow of my revenue streams.
Since I launched my first product, I have changed my business model, tried countless marketing strategies, launched new products only to shut them right back down, and much more.
The bottom line? You have to try lots of different things, and be willing to abandon what doesn’t work and move on.
3. It’s your life and your business, so live it how you want
I only get emails from my team; my customer service person handles everything from customers. Some people think that’s a terrible idea and assume it would make me “out of touch” with our customers. But I know me: I hate getting tons of email, and I’m bad at replying to people quickly. I LOVE the decision to keep my inbox small.
Once I launched a new product only to axe the whole concept only two months later. Part of the reason I shut it down was because it is difficult for me to commit to being available for a live session every month. This is how my team and I ended up setting non-negotiable standards for all future products we make. You can read about that process and those 4 standards here.
Keeping yourself sane and happy is important for the company – after all, this is still your life! You can’t put your happiness on hold while you grow your business, so make sure you’re doing something you enjoy and don’t be afraid to make changes to create a life you love even more.
4. Pick yourself
This idea is so important to me that I created a program around it – Creating Fame. “Pick yourself” means owning your expertise and fearlessly seeking out recognition for it. Talk to the big shot. Pitch yourself for the conference keynote spot. Put yourself in the running. No one else is going to do it for you, so you need to go after your own big opportunities.
The perfect example of this is the Empact Showcase Award. This award didn’t come as a surprise, landing on my doorstep while I was quietly growing a business online. No one “discovered” me; I’ve applied for this award 3 times, and that’s why I’ve won it twice! As a result of the first award, I got to go to the White House where I spoke during a live broadcast on whitehouse.gov. Did all the honorees speak? NOPE. I “picked myself” and asked for the opportunity.
Remember: You can’t win if you don’t apply. This may seem obvious but think about it – are you putting yourself out there, asking for big opportunities? The people who are successful and “business famous” put themselves out there everyday, so don’t wait another minute.
5. Slow and steady wins the race
The truly successful business owners have created solid strategies and STUCK WITH THEM year in and year out. Having been in the online business space for 5 years, I’ve seen hundreds of them come and go. I’ve also come across many people who are very well-known, but have started and abandoned businesses year after year, setting their income back to zero every time. If they had only stuck with what they had started years ago it would be generating a huge, reliable stream of revenue by now.
So don’t stress if you don’t see crazy huge results from your first product launch. Don’t let the fact that you didn’t meet your lead gen goals convince you that your whole plan sucks and you may as well give up now. Yes, you want to try out different things, but don’t abandon that content marketing strategy just because your infographic hasn’t gone viral. Stick with your plan and the systems you put into place to carry it out.
At the end of the day, there’s no magic formula, no secret sauce. Just you and your strategies. Have faith that they will work – after all, you know your business and what it needs. Slow and steady, my friend. I’ll see you at the finish line. 🙂
Is there something (or lots of things) you’ve learned while growing your business? What one piece of advice would you give someone who’s just starting out, or someone who feels frustrated by the process? Leave it in the comments so that I can benefit from those gems, too!