The 12 months gone by have sped by really fast. It seems like it was not so long ago I wrote our first business blog. In that I announced the launch of Instant Imprints Mississauga East – a business in which two families were getting out of their comfort zones of working long careers in the corporate world. As the milestone crossed us, I was eager to write a list of 10 lessons from one year in business. Only because it can offer some light to others who have the same aspirations as we do.
- Believe in the business — and yourself
Like Robert Herjavec, Canada’s most recognizable business leaders, I also believe in this cardinal principle of success. When I first discussed the idea of moving away from the corporate world, many people in my network thought I was crazy. especially since my business partner and I were moving away from our core competency of finance into a business dominated by selling and marketing. Compounding this (according to them) was the fact that our business was a franchise. “Bad idea” , they said. But we had tremendous belief in our decision – both the franchise as well as in ourselves to pull it off.
Always remember – talk is cheap, actions speak volumes. You have to have a maniacal belief in your business and yourself – like the oft repeated lore of the general burning the ships at the shore to prevent his soldiers from retreating. There is no going back. The fruits of this, however, will be good as life rewards and reveres those who persevere.
- Build a great team
However great your idea, without a great team to work with success will be elusive. In our case, after a lot of due diligence, we decided to take up the Instant Imprints franchise as the start to our journey in business. And we have never regretted that. In an instant, we had a great team supporting us in various aspects of setting up our business, thus taking care of the birth pangs of the business. So, whether you go in for a franchise or launch something of your own, get the right team in place to help you get over the launch pains.
- Be prepared for the worst
Never forget. You will always see the deep end first before you get a clear view of the sky !! As Herjavec says, “be prepared to survive the worst situation you can think of — and then assume that things will still get even worse than that.” While a great positive attitude matters a lot, realizing and being prepared for the worst – the absolute worst – makes the journey more tolerable.
- Show up consistently
There are several moments in your journey when frustration can mount. Things don’t seem to go as you planned. The pace of growth is not as quick as you want to be. Sales that you thought will come in seem to disappear into the horizon. All of these moments can weigh you down, force you into a mode of not wanting to get into your business. But let these moments not bring you down. As Scott Meyer, co-founder of 9 Clouds, says “Just show up and give your very best every time. You never know who is listening.”
It is a marathon, not a sprint
Launching and growing a business is not a sprint, but a marathon. Unless you are in the business of supplying the oxygen that we all breathe, success in business does not generally come overnight. You have got to develop the patience of a marathoner. While you have to be agile to maneuver in the marketplace, you have to keep the long distance in mind and not lose your energy in an early burst of energy.
- There is no work/life balance
The biggest mistake is to labour under the impression that you can start a business and run it at your life’s schedule. As much as people will tell you to switch off once you get home, this is not going to happen. Your business is a living, breathing organism and it will consume your mindspace for long hours. It is very much like bringing up your own child during his/her growing years. Its issues will dominate your every waking moment. You can only try your best to create a threshold beyond which, if you let it consume you, your health will be impacted.
- Trust is everything
When I look back at the past 12 months, I am convinced about one of my core philosophies in life – Trust is everything. Everything you do in business revolves around this one fact. The mutual trust we have with our franchisors makes it easy to navigate the obstacles we come across in our journey. The mutual respect and trust between us business partners, makes it easy for both of us to concentrate on leveraging our strengths to further the business.
The one major factor you must keep in mind, though, is that trust with your customer is not given but earned. The more you show your customers that you care and the more you deliver or exceed on their expectations, the more trust you will gain from them.
- Being committed to business is hard
The reason so few companies, businesses and entrepreneurs make it is because it is not easy. Launching a business and taking it to heights requires a lot of sacrifices. Your time, your family, friends, golf, social life and more. You should be prepared to make these sacrifices. But the fruits of such sacrifice can be really good. When you work for 5 years as no one else will, you will live the rest of your life as no one else can.
- Don’t take rejection personally
In the first few months of selling I did a lot of cold calling – or as our Vice President of Training, Mike Boyd, calls it “bold walking”. I faced a lot of slammed doors, rude front office persons and curt and abrasive language. I took each and every such rejection very personally. Not used to going out cold calling, this treatment was very insulting and nerve wracking.
Over a period of time, however, you realize that each reaction probably has a cause attached to it. So I learnt to move on, rinse and repeat. And this helps. The angst is much lower and the confidence of bold walking much higher.
10. It is all about the approach
There is no doubt that launching and building a business is back-breaking work. But you can make it enjoyable along with way. Work hard…have fun…be nice…inspire trust…maintain your integrity…play fair…dream big. And you will win.
Remember one thing – being an entrepreneur does not have an expiration date !!! According to a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, starting a business is the most rewarding career decisions anyone can make. But the fact is that it is also the most feared. If I may add to the cornucopia of material available out on the web, there is only one thing I can say. “If you believe in it, go take the plunge”. It is a difficult road. But, hopefully, the above 10 lessons I learnt from our first year in business may add some value to your decision making process. Good luck and god bless!!