Don’t you just wish the answers to all of life’s tests would magically appear at your fingertips as soon as you needed them? Or even before you needed them? Between being a mother and a business owner, believe me, that’s a wish that crosses my mind constantly.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I devoured almost every single newborn book I could get my hands on. I wanted to be prepared for his arrival! I swore I’d know what to do in any given situation when the time came. (HA!)
But NOTHING prepared my husband and me for the seemingly endless sleepless nights. My son was a miserable sleeper and self-soother who did not sleep through the night consistently until he was almost a year old. I called myself ready for almost anything, but the one piece of information we needed just couldn’t be found fast enough!
*YAWN – Tired Mama Alert! Clearly, my love for coffee began with him – because it was a necessity!!*
Two years later, when my second was about a month old, my husband and I discovered a straight-to-the-point (and thankfully super short!) book that promised restful nights from almost the beginning. We implemented a few simple techniques, and holy moly it was like magic!! She slept straight through at 7 weeks!!
Even NOW, hubs and I sometimes look at each other in bewilderment and say “Why was this so hard to find the first time? Why aren’t people shouting about this magic from the rooftops?”
How Am I So Tardy To The Party?
If you frequently catch yourself thinking “Am I tardy to the party? Did everyone know this except for me?” then this post is for you.
It’s often said that experience is the best teacher, but it can be the most painful teacher too. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’d just prefer to skip the pain and jump straight to the relief. It’s often said that experience is the best teacher, but it can be the most painful teacher too. And I don't know about you, but sometimes I’d just prefer to skip the pain and jump straight to the relief.Click To Tweet
I’m here to do what I can to save you from those palm-to-forehead, “if only I knew then” moments as you build or think about building your business. Here are my top 5 critical business lessons that I wish I had known before I started my companies. These are the things I would tell any and EVERY idea-stage entrepreneur. You can use these lessons to lay the foundation for your business right away. Or perhaps they can help you break through some of the struggles you might be seeing with your own business.
I’ve even peppered in a few confessions about my own missteps as well. Holy vulnerable… Here goes!
1. BUILD YOUR EMAIL LIST FROM DAY ONE
Here comes vulnerable confession #1. The single biggest misstep that I made in my early days of Binefit was not building my email list from the start.
And consequently, it’s why – hands down – focusing on (or at least having) and email list from the get-go is the #1 piece of advice I have for new business owners. Here are three main reasons why your email list is vital:
- Because email is such a personal means of communication, gaining your subscribers’ trust to the point that they are willing to relinquish their email address to you speaks volumes in terms of your likeability and credibility.
- You own your email list and it will be yours forever and ever. You do not, however, own your Facebook fans, Twitter followers or Instagram friends. This is not to say that there’s no place for social media in the world of small business marketing – there absolutely is. However, if your social media choice du jour goes away tomorrow, the algorithm changes, or something else catastrophic happens, guess where your fans and followers go? Mm-hmm, they go bye-bye too.
- Email is a game-changer with regards to how you will be able to connect, engage with, and ultimately market to your list as it grows. Your subscribers – who already believe in you and trust you enough to give you their email address – will be your most loyal and earliest adopters as you roll out your new products and services. Also, building your tribe who trusts you and who you trust will also be a great tool for soliciting feedback.
2. KNOW YOUR “WHY” EARLY ON
Remembering why you started will propel you forward and give you renewed strength when the going gets tough. And believe me, the going will almost certainly get tough. You may even find that you want to quit (I did! More than once…) So be sure to create a why that will pull you through those hard times. Think about what’s driving you to start this business in the first place.
Your customers are also deeply interested in your motivations for starting your business. The other reason that your why is critical is so that you can tell others. This may sound a little naive, but I am still amazed at how many people wanted to know the inspiration behind Binefit and why I would start a valet storage company of this nature.
We are a society of conscientious and morally-savvy buyers, and we are becoming more and more curious about the types of brands and businesses we support. We want to know who you are, what you stand for, and how are you making our world a better place. So be sure to have a solid answer for “how did you get started doing that?!”
3. YOU BUILT IT, BUT THEY MIGHT NOT COME
I actually haven’t ever seen all of Field of Dreams (Have you? Should I watch it? Let me know in the comments!) But I think we’re all familiar with that iconic movie line “If you build it, he(they) will come.” This is certainly a very touching premise for cinema, but real life may not be so simple when you’re building a business.
It is okay – more than okay, encouraged even – to take some liberties and be a little idealistic when considering how you’re going to build your business and deliver your outstanding product or service. It’s that approach that will make you unique and stand out from the crowd!
But just remember that the way you envision your business unfolding in your head is not necessarily the way that your customers need you to service them. So don’t be surprised if you need to come to a happy medium somewhere. Remember to listen very closely to your customers, both before and after you launch: their feedback will be your best friend.
Vulnerable confession #2 is that the business structure that Binefit started with is not the same structure it has now. My original structure did not speak enough to what my customers needed. I had to be nimble, flexible, and readily able to respond to my customers’ needs, especially in the early stages of my business.
4. KNOW YOUR TARGET CUSTOMER AND HIS/HER PAIN
Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of an advertisement and thought “holy smokes, this person or brand or company is talking right to me?! Is Alexa listening to my conversations and reporting back to the mothership somewhere?”
Nope. It’s because great brands and marketers spend a. lot. of. time. understanding the pains and desires of their customers so they can:
- figure out how to relieve that pain;
- figure out where you’re spending your time and how to get their message in front of you, and;
- effectively communicate how their solution is exactly the solution that works best for you.
Before you start your business, take some cues from this strategy and create a persona of the customer you most want to serve. Give this person a name, an age, an occupation, and a marital and parental status. Now, put yourself in this person’s shoes by talking to people who are similar to him or her (or, if you are this person – which does happen and is totally fine too – do some self-reflecting). What drives this person crazy about your industry? What product or service would make him or her (or YOU) do backflips when you find out it exists? Take those answers and build your business to THAT!
5. KEEP MONEY AVAILABLE FOR UNEXPECTED EXPENSES
Even if you think you’ve planned your startup costs and expenses down to the penny, or even if you’re planning to start a business with a relatively low cost of entry and low overhead (a home-based business, for example), unforeseen expenses can very easily pop up out of nowhere, leaving you in the lurch if you’re not prepared for them.
Vulnerable confession #3: I would tell the “pre-Binefit” me to spend as frugally as reasonably possible in the beginning so that I was better prepared for unexpected expenses and forgotten-about startup costs as they arose.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t take all my startup cashola to the mall and go crazy! But I didn’t do a great job negotiating or shopping around for better pricing from other vendors like I should have. And when emergencies arose or the cost of a tool or resource I needed came in a little higher than expected, I had to re-distribute my funds in a different way to accommodate for this.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
Nothing in life is a sure thing or is guaranteed, and don’t let me deceive you. Starting a business is never going to be without some risks. But as President Lincoln alludes to in the above quote, preparation is an essential ingredient for success. And I’m confident that these five quick and to-the-point lessons will give your business the solid foundation it needs, and put you on the path to success.
Here are those five business lessons again:
- Build your email list from day one
- Know your “why” early on
- You built it, but they might not come
- Know your target customer and his/her pain
- Keep money available for unexpected expenses
Did anything in this article resonate with you, or generate questions for you? If you’ve started your business, do you have other critical lessons to add to this list? Drop me a note in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.
(And to all my mama’s out there who are curious about our magical sleep secret, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll spill the beans!)
Finally, if you think someone else could benefit from this information, I’d love if you shared this with them! Sharing is caring!
Cheers To The Journey!