Solopreneurs are solely responsible for the failure or success of their business. It’s a rewarding feeling to know that you’ve put yourself in a position where you alone determine your future, but with that power comes greater responsibility.
You may have heard that before, but I don’t mean a responsibility to yourself. Not only do you and your family heavily depend on your success, but many other people depend on it, too. Your customers and clients directly depend on you, as well as the people you inspire every day. Anyone you’ve ever given advice to, any struggling entrepreneur trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel, anyone who’s ever told their friends about you, vouched for you.
They all depend on you to provide them with consistent inspiration and motivation. They silently cheer you on because they see themselves potentially being in your shoes. If you thought that was overwhelming, think of the people you respect and admire.
They depend on you as well.
You and those like you, motivate them to work harder, to continuously challenge themselves and do their part to make the entire market more innovative. In other words, they need you to keep them on their toes! They need you to remind them that their field is still alive, and kicking!
If you can believe it, they need you to succeed so they can learn from you, as well.
The Essentials to Running a Business
Track, Evaluate & Refine
Entrepreneurs who’ve been in the business for a long time will tell you one thing we wish we’d done differently is to keep better records. Tracking the goings-on of your business regularly is crucial because it enables you to spot problems long before they can do serious damage.
Not only is keeping record a preventative measure, but as the owner of your business you need to know two very important things: what works & what doesn’t.
When you know what works for your business, you get a glimpse into who your customers are and what is truly important to them. Your data reveals the best ways to communicate with your audience so they receive and understand the message.
When you know what works, you stop leaving things to chance and start being strategic in your decisions.
Go beyond simply collecting data…
Tracking data is only part of it. We also need to be able to see our data objectively. How can you look at your numerical data and make a neutral decision as to what didn’t work after you’ve spent months planning, researching, creating, and working on a campaign?
How can we look at numbers & metrics without considering the amount of work we’ve put into our business and all the false assumptions we made in the very beginning.
We tend to point out the things that took the least amount of effort as reasons for failure. For example, we’d say “I should have included the end date for the discount period in the original email. That is most likely why purchases were slow the first three days.” But, we’d never say, “My copy wasn’t convincing, all the colors in the ad were clashing with each other, and the product itself isn’t something people even want.”
No, we’d be very hesitant to say that.
Find a way for someone to look at your data objectively.
Locate someone who has nothing personal to gain from your success, nor your failure. Your mother, for example, has potential personal gain from your success and equally potential personal loss from your failure. Because she wants you to succeed, her opinion would be skewed in that direction.
It would help to hire a business coach whose only interest is to see you become better, more skilled at your craft. They have the experience and are far enough removed to be brutally honest with you.
Another option is to reach out to someone in your field who’s achieved a bit more than you have – an entrepreneur who has been around a little longer.
Your peers have been there, done that.
They are also well aware that one bad egg can stink up the room. They don’t want you out there doing anything that can potentially hurt the industry they’re in. So, they have good reason to lead you in the right direction.
When in Doubt, Simplify.
Do you know that crazy, whacked out feeling you get when you can’t seem to keep up with everything? I believe it’s called feeling…overwhelmed?
Most of the time, this happens when you’ve implemented too much, too fast into your business. As overwhelmed as you felt putting it all together, is likely just as overwhelmed as your customers will feel trying to take it all in.
If you’re not a skilled graphic designer, then don’t try to get fancy. Keep it simple.
If you want to offer a subscription for customers and don’t know how to integrate monthly payments, then offer only one-time payments.
This line of thought can be applied to everything we stress over, every day in our business. Over-complicating things will get in the way of quality service & quality products.
When you see your peers doing really neat things for their tribe, of course, you want your customers to feel just as special.
You want to go above and beyond. You want to deliver the glitter, the gold, the lights & cameras. You want to show them you care with an armful of bells and whistles. Let’s be honest, they don’t need all of that.
When the time comes to upgrade your business, it will be an organic transition. You’ll know it’s time and they’ll know it’s time. It feels right, rather than forced.
Be better at what you’re already doing.
To avoid making things more complex than they need to be, work on perfecting the core thing you offer to your audience. Is your core thing a service? Find ways to better that service.
Use small tweaks to make it faster, easier to understand, a smoother process. If you offer a beautiful product, find new ways to describe your products. Use better copy, take better photos. Give your products a better story.
I’m telling you, your customers care more about that than you having the latest software, the largest marketing campaign your money can buy, elaborate stunts and other shiny stuff. They just want you to deliver consistently. Keep showing up – show up with the mindset of trying to improve on your yesterday.
The 2.0 is Vital to Your Business’ Success.
The 2.0 is something I introduce to clients within our first call. If you were to ask anyone who’s worked with me, they’ll tell you that The 2.0 is a big deal.
Anytime you set out to launch something new for your business, have a plan which will follow. The plan doesn’t need to be completely thought out and detailed, but you do need to know what comes next. I say this for two reasons.
When launching a new extension of your business, your mind will be buzzing excitedly with ideas. Small ideas, big ideas, grand ideas, expensive ideas, elaborate ideas… (Oh, hey Dr. Seuss).
Some of these ideas are wonderful and can go a long way in growing your company. However, some of these ideas make more sense for the 2.0. Because most entrepreneurs aren’t thinking of the 2.0, they try to throw it all in with the first launch and fall victim to the over-complicating I mentioned earlier.
How does The 2.0 work?
Let’s say you’re writing a book. Your 2.0 is what comes after the book. Another book? A book signing tour? A small film adaptation of the book? What is the next logical step for what you’re doing right now? What will get you closer to your end goal?
When your mind begins to wander, you won’t have to force yourself to cut off the line of creativity. You can take breaks from your primary launch to think through the ideas for your 2.0. As you refine The 2.0, there’s a direct correlation to how well-structured your main launch will be.
What can happen without a 2.0?
I mentioned that there are two reasons why the 2.0 is something I fiercely stand behind and push on to all my clients (particularly new entrepreneurs). The first reason was that it helps give you a more comprehensive original launch and gives you the freedom to explore your creativity.
Here’s the second reason.
I’ve watched businesses FAIL (literally. I’m talking shutdown, lights out, crash and burn, everyone out of a job kind of failure) because of their inability to ride the wave of momentum.
I’ve seen it happen so many times that I can usually recognize the signs early on. It’s like watching a train about to crash and all you can do is grit your teeth, knowing that destruction is soon.
It’s worse for your new product or service to become high in demand and have no follow-up plan than to live in a cloud of obscurity where no one knows you or your business. You never know which launch is THE launch. The one that seems to grab hold of people, spreads naturally like wildfire, the one that publications begin talking about, and customers tell their friends about.
You don’t know until it happens.
And suddenly, there’s an expectation higher than the one you set. You’ve got expectations that have been set by OTHER people. They want more amazing. They think along the lines of – this is great, so whatever you have for me next must be GREATER!
It’s a downward spiral from there
The process from peak to destruction is cringe-worthy.
For a short while, everything is great. People are coming by the dozens, everyone is showing so much love, peers are slapping them on the back, they’ve gone from being busy to being productive.
Then, come the questions,
“This is great, but we’d love to see…”
“Now that you’ve done this, is there a possibility of….”
& every last business, without fail, starts making shit up. They make promises they haven’t thought through, entertain possibilities that don’t even make sense for their business model, and get to work on launching things they know nothing about at the request of customers.
It’s like bringing the fish onto the boat and watching it flap around until it dies. Please, put it out of its misery. Then, there are the updates. Loads of updates,
“Here’s what we’re working on,”
“We’ve taken a lot of what you’ve had to say into consideration and here’s what we think…”
Afterward, there’s either silence or a terrible follow-up. Either way, that curtain’s closed. The momentum has gone. A considerable time later, there may be a crowdfunding campaign for a completely different idea – trying to revive the lost momentum.
I always expect to read about these failures somewhere on Medium titled something like, “How we made $1 mil in 6 months, then lost everything.” Everyone understands what they did wrong in retrospect, but very few try to avoid the pitfalls in the first place.
The 2.0 matters…
The businesses that thrive are the ones that are prepared for momentum at all times. They always know what comes next. They’ve defined their brand and know what does and does not make sense.
That’s how prepared I want you to be. I want you to know as sure as the sky is blue that great ideas are not born in an instant.
They’re developed over time, deliberated, and only implemented once they’ve reached a state of maturity. Otherwise, you end up with a concept that was far bigger than the execution.
Never Devalue Your Company
There’s a certain balance to be said for running a business. You want to reach as many people as possible, but you don’t want to cheapen yourself to do it. When you do things that directly contradict the message your brand is sending out, the value of your business decreases a little every time.
Devaluing your company is not necessarily lowering valuation or anything else numerical. It’s about trust. How much or how little people trust you has a huge impact on your potential reach, your revenue, and your reputation.
It’s safe to say that when the majority distrust your business, you may be in trouble.
Some ways you can devalue your business:
#1 Making incorrect statements and passing them as facts. This can be in the form of data or statistics. But, it can also be less intentional like commenting with strong opinions on a bogus story or sharing information that either isn’t true or comes from an untrustworthy source.
#2 Lying to get more sales. Offering something for a limited time, but never shutting it down. You’ve been on those websites where it says: 20% off for a limited time. You check back in 6 months later and it still says 20% off for a limited time. When you run specials or discounts and don’t follow through with your claims, the entire thing can backfire and hurt your sales and reputation rather than help it.
#3 Being inconsistent.
Imagine there’s a local food truck that shows up at the park every Monday and Friday. You always see it there on those days, but it takes a few weeks for you to buy.
When you do, the food is delicious, mouth watering. Mondays and Fridays, you find yourself deliberately leaving the house with your wallet in your hand.
Some days you even arrive early because you don’t want to risk missing it.
Every single time, the food is delicious. One Friday, the food truck isn’t there. “He must be sick,” you think. You’re disappointed and rightfully so. However, you come back on Monday, wallet in hand. Still sick? Friday, same thing. Monday, again no show.
Friday, you reluctantly show up at the park. You arrive late and you’ve almost missed him. You get the usual but the food is nowhere near the quality you remember it to be. It’s oily and sloppily thrown together. Monday, you weren’t inspired to go to the park, but a friend tells you the food truck wasn’t there again. What do you think will eventually happen?
You will stop going, stop telling everyone who will listen, “There’s a DELICIOUS food truck at the park twice a week!” You stop posting images of the food truck meals on your Instagram.
Think of consistency in that way. He had only one job: to show up and cook. If he’d been consistent, your underwhelming meal may have been overlooked, but put that together with the fact that he couldn’t even live up to the expectations he set in the first place…. well, you’re moving on to a service more reliable.
#4 Another way to devalue your business is the most obvious – charging less or more than you or your products are worth.
I wrote an entire guide for new entrepreneurs to create an applicable revenue model and set your prices in a way where everyone wins.
Involve Your Customers
The fastest-growing businesses find ways to involve their tribe as much as possible. If your business is a new one, you should think of some ways to get your customers actively involved in the development of your company.
There are very, very simple techniques you can use to draw potential customers in and get them more involved.
#1 Bring them into your world: Use programs like FB live, Periscope, or Snapchat to allow customers to see what your life is all about or to view the culture of your business. How do the team interact with each other?
#2 Send surprise, mystery gifts to your customers and invite them to share it!
#3 Shout out your customers on your primary platform! Post a photo on Instagram, include them in your next post, shout them out in your newsletter. (All with their permission of course).
#4 Don’t be afraid of controversy. If there’s something you feel strongly about, state your case and allow your audience to voice their viewpoints. Give both opinions an equal platform which means acknowledging the comments and sometimes revising the original piece.
#5 Participate in unrelated functions. So, you sell office supplies, but have a deep-rooted love for dogs? Go to an adoption event, and bring your audience along with you! Invite them to meet you there, offer to do a giveaway at the location, take loads of photos and share them with your tribe.
Most entrepreneurs forget, the most unique thing about their business is who they are. Sharing your interests and passions with your audience helps them feel connected to you in a very loyal way.
Continuously Increase Your Skills
Having a wide array of skills is always an advantage for your business. While you can outsource most things and hire employees with skills you don’t have, the more you know, the better. By increasing your skills:
~ There will be fewer communication issues within your team.
They don’t have to break down everything to you, every time you need to make a major decision about a faction of your business. By learning that field and their jargon, it makes it easier to articulate exactly what it is you want.
~ You will be more creative.
You are working under a false sense of parameters in terms of how far you can take your business. You can only think as far as you know.
Here Are Some Basic Skills You Need in Any Business
Accounting: budgeting, revenue, income, & expenses, bookkeeping, projections
Photography: composition, lighting, contrast & saturation, exposure
Online Marketing: SEO, social media, email newsletters, video production
Data Compilation: surveys, excel, infographics
Graphic Design: fonts, overlays, files (.jpg, .png, etc.), Photoshop, Illustrator, usability, typography
Legal: contracts, agreements, labor laws,
Departments: sales, marketing, advertising, social media management, client outreach, onboarding, funnels
But, you can still stay sharp without learning new skills…
Tip #1 Maintain relationships with others in your field.
Go beyond simply emailing and checking in with your peers. Instead, make it a habit to ask them out to lunch, attend their events, or even grab a cup of coffee.
As you build relationships, you also keep each other abreast of what’s new, what’s emerging and how it can help or hurt your business. Having other business owners as friends is invaluable because you can get the perspective of someone who “gets it.”
They understand what you’re going through at times and can identify with your struggles.
Tip #2 Work on creative projects that have nothing to do with your business.
If you’re a writer, you can experience burnout from writing about the same topics day in and day out. Try working with other brands on different matters without considering how it will help build your current business.
It’s okay to have other hobbies besides the one that supplies your income!
Tip #3 Travel as often as you can.
Having your own business means you are not completely restricted to one schedule. While entrepreneurship isn’t as glamorous as taking off on a plane on a whim, you can certainly enjoy considerably more vacation time than an employee is allowed. You also have complete control over when your vacation time happens.
The benefits of traveling are insurmountable.
The exquisite places you can see are great, but you also get a chance to witness other cultures, other behaviors, experience other people’s truths without the basic fundamentals already ingrained in your home country. You can go around the world and find the best aspects of each place, then bring it home to your business.
Talk about standing out among the competition!
As long as you and your team are on the same page, you have detailed systems and manuals in place, and there is a distinct chain of command in your absence – there’s no reason you can’t take frequent vacations throughout the year!
My only suggestion is to make sure you come back.
Your Business Needs For You to Be Present
These are skills and techniques that will only help to advance your business. By making an active effort to learn new skills and challenge your expertise, you ensure that your business will never outgrow you.
Hiring others are more of a convenience than a necessity and you can maintain a large degree of control. All of these techniques are mindset changes to help your business reach a state of maturity. What new hacks have you been using in your small business?