Updated: Jul 13, 2022
July 2022 marks two years since I started my business. The result of that leap of faith is Right Hand Business Management specializing in helping small business owners and solopreneurs scale their business through systems and processes. I thought this would be a good time to press pause, exercise some nostalgic energy by reflecting on what I’ve learned over the past two years, and reflect on what I would tell myself if I were starting my business today.
To say the first two years of running my business were a learning experience is an understatement. It has been exciting, humbling, rewarding, frustrating, exhausting, and exhilarating to get to this point. There were days I celebrated and days I wanted to quit. Despite my roller coaster of emotions, starting my business has been the learning experience of a lifetime and I wouldn’t trade one second.
I could write a book on what I’ve learned over the first two years but, until the book is released, I will share some of my key learnings or important steps to consider once your business is set up (I am assuming that you have already taken care of the legal stuff (taxes, legal structure, articles of incorporation, EIN/Tax ID, etc)).
Here are just a few of my key takeaways (in no particular order) from my first couple of years in business.
It can be lonely.
I’m an introvert and, while I love my time alone to reflect and recharge, I also love sharing ideas and collaborating with my colleagues and friends. As human beings, we weren’t created for long periods of isolation. We need strong, healthy relationships to promote our mental, emotional and physical health. Starting a business can challenge your relational and emotional intelligence especially if you bury yourself in the grind and hustle to achieve business success. To combat this, I found a couple of colleagues who ran similar businesses and began meeting with them regularly. I also try hard to meet a friend for coffee or lunch weekly as a way to clear my head and focus on something other than business.
Progress over perfection.
I’m a recovering perfectionist and becoming an entrepreneur has taught me to become comfortable with my imperfections and to embrace progress over perfection. The harsh reality is that perfection never comes, but the pursuit doesn’t stop. In business, you have to get started. After you’ve done your due diligence in strategy and planning, you have to put things into motion. It’s at this point, where perfectionists get into trouble by overthinking forward progress. Let’s face it, there's always going to be a better way, and if you wait for everything to be "just right," then you'll end up never getting started at all. Quite frankly, perfectionism is a form of procrastination. Ouch! That hurt because I never saw myself as a procrastinator but someone who always wanted to have my “ducks in a row” before getting started. As an entrepreneur, I've learned to trust progress over perfection instead of waiting for everything to be just right, because perfection is neither attainable nor sustainable, and that’s okay!
Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.
It is important to stay in your lane and focus on your zone of genius. This is the thing that you’re best at, that you enjoy most, and your “why” behind getting into business in the first place. Small business owners and solopreneurs wear many hats and feel like they need to do all the things. For a season you may have to, but knowing when that season is over and when it’s time to delegate is crucial to growing your business.
I’ve seen my share of small business owners who continue to do tasks that aren’t in their zone of genius to “save money”. Really? They refuse to relinquish tasks and invest in someone else to complete them because they believe it’s cheaper and faster for them to do them rather than to delegate or hire someone. Honestly, nothing could be further from the truth. Hire your weakness (I’ll discuss hiring more in the next section) which allows you to focus on those revenue-generating tasks that only you can do. I’m administratively gifted and there are many tasks in my business that I can do, like create Canva graphics. But that doesn’t set my world on fire. It's not where I do my best work, it’s not why I got into the business and it takes time and energy away from my main focus of being a strategic partner to small business owners by helping them reclaim their time and run scaling businesses through systems and processes.
When I first started, I was doing all kinds of things to draw in clients: project management, operations, and administration. Not only did it get exhausting trying to do everything myself, but it also decreased my value—I wasn't staying focused on what I was good at! Now, when a new opportunity presents itself or a client asks if I can help with something outside of my zone of genius, I always say no thank you so that I can focus on activities to grow my business. Delegate as much as possible. Fewer tasks on your plate come with less stress and more focus on your clients, more time for yourself and your family. It’s a true win-win-win situation!
Hire or bring on help BEFORE you need to.
That’s right, before. If you wait until you need someone, it’s too late as you’ve probably already burnt out. Hire before you feel like you're about to be in over your head because the hiring process can take longer than you think. Start looking for someone when you can still handle everything on your plate because if you wait, you run the risk of becoming overwhelmed with work, and it'll be a lot harder for you to find the time to recruit and interview. And, you may end up bringing on the wrong someone who is not a good fit for you or your organization. Is hiring a good thing? Yes, if done well. The idea of bringing on someone new or building a team may seem stressful at first, but having good talent around you will not only help your business grow but there are also benefits such as collaboration, fresh ideas, mentorship, and probably most important, the ability to take some time off. If you see your hire as an investment in your business, not an expense you will see the benefits of letting go of tasks that you don’t need to do. One of my goals as I entered the new year was to increase my social media presence. I knew that I had zero interest or skillset to build exposure. So, I invested in a social media manager who has done a fantastic job of helping me build my social media presence. This investment has allowed me to get new clients and focus on serving existing clients and grow my business.
Beware of information overload.
When starting a business, you need to be knowledgeable and well versed in many different things, and educating yourself on best practices is a must for future success. However, there is a staggering amount of information readily available at our disposal. As I was preparing to launch my business, I consumed so much information from various sources that it felt like I was drinking from a fire hydrant which ultimately led to me feeling overloaded and overwhelmed. It didn’t stop there. I realized that my quest for information left me paralyzed with fear because I didn’t know what to do next or if I would choose the right information. I was confused but I knew I had to come up with a plan to avoid information overload. So how does one avoid information overload? Here are a few tips that helped me stay focused and alleviate the need for high information consumption.
Decide what you want to learn and invest in it.
Become picky about what you spend your time learning.
Decide if this information will benefit your clients.
Establish time limits for consuming information.
Take time to process information before consuming more.
Learn the software needed for your business.
Whether you’re a solopreneur, freelancer, small business owner, or a large company trying to better run your business – there is a role for software in helping you be more productive – whether it’s administrative, customer service, or analyzing your existing business data. Several key factors go into selecting the right software for your business not to mention all of the available options. When starting, it’s important to keep software selections simple and easy to use. Don’t waste time on software that doesn't work for you or costs you an arm and a leg. Look for free versions with high reviews. Most free versions will be sufficient to get you through the first couple of years.
When I started my business, I needed software that would allow me to build my client relationships and stay organized with all my projects and tasks. I ultimately decided on Dubsado as my customer relationship management tool and, initially, Trello for project management, I have since switched to ClickUp. The only other software I used to get started was the Google platform and Quickbooks, which integrates with Dubsado and keeps my accountant happy. It is important not to use too many different types of software at once —if you're using four or five different tools just to stay organized or monitor customer interactions or track inventory, it's likely time to consolidate those programs into one streamlined solution.
All money ain’t good money.
The grammar may be bad but the sentiment is true! Every potential client is not good for business. When starting in business, it can be tempting to take on every client that comes your way. I get it, you need the money. But taking on and investing time and effort in the wrong client can be draining on both your emotions and bank account. I learned years ago while selling real estate that if clients see that you are desperate for the commission, that’s exactly how they will treat you. No matter how much I needed the commission, I always operated under the premise of “I don’t need your business, I want your business”. Let that sink in. Needing and wanting are two vastly different dichotomies. I have found that if people sense that I need their business, they are less likely to value me or my time. This may sound harsh, but the point I am trying to make is to know your worth. Don’t spend time with people who don’t value you or your time. Here are a few suggestions to help you avoid taking on clients that aren’t for you.
Know your audience. Does the potential client fit the buyer persona you are trying to attract? If not, keep it moving.
Do they align with your mission, vision, and values? Do they respect your boundaries?
Conduct a Discovery Call or Free Consultation to weed out people who aren’t serious, or can’t afford you in the first place. Again, know your worth!
Set up systems and processes to help streamline and organize your business from the start.
Systems and processes are my jam! It’s my wheelhouse, it’s where I add value to my business. That said, systems and processes can be a minefield for many entrepreneurs just starting in their businesses. When it comes to helping small business owners and solopreneurs grow their businesses, one of the most important things I focus on is helping them get organized. Having the right systems and processes in place will help your business run smoothly, boost productivity, and see your profits increase. The better organized you are, the easier it will be for you to understand where your time and money are being spent.
When it comes to losing time and money in a business, some business owners might attribute losses to a myriad of things including poor planning, inadequate marketing, or staffing issues. While these factors may certainly be contributions, the real culprit may be lurking in the background. The culprit? The lack of systems and processes to operate efficiently and effectively. Time is money, and if you're wasting time with repetitive tasks or not working as efficiently as possible, that's costing you in real dollars.
Having inefficient systems in place can drastically hurt your business. These are the most common mistakes I see with Business Operations Systems and how you can avoid them:
Setting up the wrong system: Don’t fall into the trap of seeing how someone else is using specific systems to run their business and blindly copying the process without adapting it to the specific needs of your own business. When choosing your system, keep in mind that every business is different (even when they seem the same).
Skipping systems entirely: Without proper systemization, you will be left with a shaky foundation for your business. It is important to consistently build out your systems from the first stage of your business.
Not utilizing the systems you have in place: Your system will only work if you are consistent with your business policies and practices.
If you need help setting up systems and processes in your business, please connect with me at myrighthand.online. I’d love to help!