Business owners are big men in grey suits, who sit in offices shuffling papers and drinking coffee while their assistants answer phones that ring every second. Hey, wait a minute, that’s not true. Nevertheless, that’s how many people – including me — came to envision business owners. Until I became one. We’re all different, with different goals and interests.
However, I know that no matter what, we all share an entrepreneurial spirit and no two paths to success are the same.
How you came to be a small business owner is probably different from me. When I was nine years old, I figured out what I was going to do for the rest of my life: be a journalist. I became one and started my career as a reporter. Then, the world changed. Journalism is a dying profession and with the slow death of newspapers, my career went with it. I had to start doing something else. With my interviewing, writing and layout skills, I decided to start a memoir writing business.
I thought I could just fire up my laptop, start writing and start make money. Done. But no, it’s not that easy. First, I had to build my business with plans and cash flow forecasts and marketing strategies. Then I had to network to bring in clients. All while figuring out how to pay my bills and if I could afford to buy the person giving me free advice that $2 coffee. (I couldn’t but I did anyway.) I spent a lot of time and a lot of hard work building my business and for a year, I hardly made any money. I was spinning my wheels and going nowhere.
It seemed that every time I attended an event for small business owners, I would talk to someone who had just started out and they were doing fantastic.
It was great to hear that a fellow entrepreneur was doing well but I felt like I was falling behind. I hadn’t reached a monetary goal or a specific number of clients. I was way behind in the business race. It made me question myself. What was I doing wrong? What wasn’t I doing? Maybe I should just give up altogether. My boss wasn’t supportive.
As small business owners, we’re the boss. All the time. What we say, goes. What we don’t say also goes. That means we take all the glory and we take all the blame. Don’t want to go to that networking event? Then don’t go. You’re the boss! But later in the week when you don’t have any clients, you’ll be angry with someone: Guess who?
We’re hard on ourselves because we have to be. We have to go beyond our best to get and keep clients happy and fulfilled. We’re constantly learning how to stretch and bend to withstand the winds of change while also managing families, friends and resources. We don’t give ourselves breaks because only hard work gets us ahead.
In my business, challenge seems to find me easier than success.
But without these obstacles, I wouldn’t learn any lessons, the kind of lessons needed for success.
When I launched my memoir business in 2011, it was proving hard to peddle. Everyone thought it was a great idea to record life stories — but no one hired me. I had been networking, cold calling, warm calling and advertising and nothing was working. (Pun intended.) I had to make money and so I started doing gigs like being a sample promoter in a large chain store.
As a sample person, I handed out face cream for eight hours a day. A couple of times, I showed up, but the face cream didn’t. I still had to be at the booth in case anyone had a question about the product. No one did and the shoppers who passed me by pitied me and said how sorry they were that I had that job. I replied, “Hey, they’re paying me good money to stand here. I can do this.”
This is how I put money back into my business. I didn’t care that the shoppers felt bad for me.
I was willing to do anything for my business. Besides, there’s nothing wrong in doing an honest day’s work. I wasn’t upset at myself or the lack of progress because I was doing something on my own terms. That is exactly what we as small business owners have to remember – our own terms.
We have to let go of the beliefs and expectations that we’re not living up to so-and-so.
That we’re failures if I have three clients this month and you have eight. It’s good to be ambitious but it doesn’t mean changing your self-worth based on what you perceive as a breakdown in your company. Stop comparing your business to others because you have no idea the road that owner took to success. It’s a lot different than yours.
About the Author
Lea Storry is a writer, editor and publisher. She owns a corporate memoir writing business, Our Corporate History (ourcorporatehistory.ca), as well as a personal memoir writing business (ourfamilylines.ca), Family Lines. Her clients are self-publishing authors, businesses, non-profit associations and families. Follow her @familylines.