If someone would have told me 20 years ago that some day I would run my own business, I would have looked at that person and said, “You’re crazy. After high school I’m going to college and getting married, then become a mother, and maybe I’ll even be a teacher. But business? No. Not a business person.”
If someone would have told me 10 years ago that some day I would run my own business, I would have said to them, “No way. I want to have children and raise a family. And besides, I have the greatest job on the planet. I get to share my love of memory-keeping with people who care about that. Business school is not for me.”
If someone would have told me 3 years ago that some day I would run my own business, I would have still felt puzzled. “Me? No. I have 3 kids now. I still love my job. I don’t have a clue about running a business and besides – that would suck all the creativity out of me. It’s not my cup of tea. It’s not what I planned to do. It’s not … me.”
Right? I mean – that’s really not me … is it?
It’s not that I wasn’t capable. I’ve always had a knack for organizing (memories, people, things, occasions, information, and just about anything else). But running a business? Um, yeah. That was so not on my radar. Business owners go to business school and then they’re in lots of meetings their whole career and it’s … business. Which is not creative work. Right?
It was two and a half years ago that I found myself at a crossroads. With a bit of fear, a dash of excitement, a heart full passion, one simple idea, all the support in the world from David, money out of our pockets, and a tremendous amount of faith – we started our little business.
It all happened so fast that I hardly had time to think too much about what we were doing – what we were really doing – once we made that decision. It’s been a very exciting + challenging 2.5 years. Many ups, and plenty of downs … and I would do it all over again. Some day I might even have the opportunity to mentor others who want to start a business. That season is not now. My family is my priority first and foremost … and the rest of my time is totally gobbled up with running this business and serving in my church and community.
Once in a while I get questions regarding this topic because many of you are also small business owners – or you want to be – or maybe you were like me and never dreamed of “running a business” but you have a really good idea or a passion for something that can help others. In any of those situations I can attest that business school is not a requirement. I’m sure it would be very helpful – no doubt! But there is no class or book or person that can teach you everything that you learn from just doing it.
Being an entrepreneur requires faith in yourself, faith in your idea, and don’t get me wrong – absolutely a willingness to work hard.
I was 33 years old when I started Becky Higgins LLC (of course with David. You guys likely know by now that he is absolutely behind-the-scenes making so much of what we do, possible) and I will tell you that there were a few bits of influence in my life that impacted me. One of them being the example of my dear friend and previous boss Lisa Bearnson. Lisa has always been an entrepreneur at heart, and yet her family and service always came first.
I also read a couple of books years before I even thought to start a business, simply because they were recommended to me: The Brand Called You + Purple Cow. A few months ago David and I read Rework together.
These are not what I imagine “typical” business books might be like. I absolutely benefited from what the authors shared in each of these. In fact, since Rework is the only business-related book we’ve read since actually starting a business (go figure), David and I found ourselves totally in line with so much of the counsel that is given in those pages. It’s nice to feel validated, but it’s more important to learn. And trust me – we are still learning. And learning some more, and then some more.
my top 10 tips on running a business
Here are 10 bits of advice for those who want to start a business – no matter what industry. This is based on my personal experience. Not just ideas pulled from books, but principles that I have really implemented, whether they were already in my heart & soul before I jumped into this, or because I’ve worked really hard to get there.
1. Family first. David O. McKay said, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” Period. No idea or business model or passion for anything is worth sacrificing your marriage or your family. It’s simply not right. Put your family first. Make sure they know that they are more important than your idea/product/work. You can put your heart and soul into your work, but remember that your first work is with those you love the most. They depend on you.
2. Pray. I realize and respect that everyone has their own set of beliefs. For those of you who know that God is real, you have to remember that He wants you to be happy and He wants you to succeed in life. In order to succeed, He is constantly there to offer His guidance. How can we feel guided if we’re not asking and seeking? In other words, pray about your decision to start a business and be sure it feels like the right thing. And then – never cease to go to Him … before any book or blog or friend.
3. Brush it off + move on. There is usually plenty of enthusiasm when starting a business but that might soon wear off as soon as you hit a rough patch. Manufacturing defects or dissatisfied customers or legal issues or … you-name-it. There will be hurdles. Work through them. Learn from your challenges. And press forward. You’ll be even better equipped to do so.
4. Read. I have recommended a few books. They’re good. They influenced the way I approach what I do and offer wonderful principles that are applicable in so many ways. Are there more books? Better books? Sure. I just don’t know about them. I have a pile of books I’m interested in reading but they’re not more pressing than other things going on in my life right now and I figure I’ll get around to them sometime.
5. Grow organically. It’s okay to start small. You don’t have “launch yourself” in some huge fashion, spending loads of money on advertising and dozens of products. Even if you have one idea or one product, as long as it is good, that’s a great place to start. We still have yet to pay a dime for advertising. It’s not to say that we never will. We just chose to put our money into developing the product I feel passionate about.
6. Social media is your friend. It doesn’t matter if you have a local bakery in your town or some online presence that receives hits from across the globe. It doesn’t matter if you offer a service or a tangible product. You need to have a website and that website needs to be clear about what you do – in design and function and content. Keeping a blog, and using facebook & twitter & other social media can absolutely be the key to word-of-mouth when it comes to your product. I completely know that this has been a tremendous blessing to our business.
7. Be different. You have to have a niche. No matter what. Be specific with what you can offer instead of thinking about all the possibilities and trying to do them all at once. What is unique about you and your product and your brand? What will set you apart from everyone else in the industry? Definitely read Purple Cow. Seth Godin knows what he’s talking about.
8. Find balance. I’m a mother. I get it. Juggling many roles is hard work. If it’s not the right time to start a business, you’ll know. When it’s the right thing to do, and you just can’t deny that, and you know with all of your heart that you have to start a business – you are in for a ride. There will be less sleep. There will be sacrifices. You will struggle to get homemade meals on the table each night. You may shed a few tears from the stress. You may gain a few pounds (*clearing throat*). The key is to have balance and how you achieve that is personal because everyone’s circumstances are different. Know when to stop. Know when to turn off all distractions. Know when to take care of yourself and shift your priorities back into place when they slip a little.
9. Believe. Believe in your work and believe in yourself. If you don’t absolutely believe with 100% of your soul in whatever you’re offering, you should reconsider what you’re doing. If you’re passionate about what you do, others will get that. They’ll feel it. They’ll believe in it too, and ultimately they’ll be a loyal customer for life. This isn’t a strategy. This is just what happens when you believe in what you do. Also – believe in yourself. Maybe you didn’t finish college or you haven’t got a clue about how to write a contract or what kind of accounting software to use. Believe that you can learn to do anything, and that you can find resources to help.
10. Don’t be alone. Part of finding resources to help you is involving others in your business. Involve others to help in different areas so that you don’t have the be the expert in every area. It’s okay to wear every hat in the beginning (in fact, it’s a good idea so that you really understand the whole spectrum, and the inside work of every part of your business). But you have to know when to hire others so that you can maintain balance (#8) and sanity. If you burn yourself out, you no longer have that really wonderful thing to offer. That fire in the beginning will burn out if you’re not careful. Let others do what they do best so that you can stay focused on the vision – and what you do best.
I could go on and on and on … but this isn’t the time to elaborate extensively. I’m in the middle of more product development and some other projects right now and have to stay focused. But I wanted to just share these quick thoughts with you because I just feel like someone needs some encouragement, some recommended resources, and perhaps a cheerleader saying GO FOR IT! Or perhaps you are getting the feeling that this isn’t the season. Maybe that idea in your mind needs to develop a little more before you run after it.
Never say never.