Are you playing at “building your business”?
(+ my early days’ confession)
Important: BEFORE you actually start your website, before you think about your company colors, before you plan your marketing strategy or fill in spreadsheets with the amounts of money you want to make, please read this. If you miss these steps, none of your efforts will actually help you build your business consistently. And if you are clear on them, rest assured that your efforts are going to pay off, if they are not already.
Here’s a story I’ve never told publicly before because I felt quite ashamed about it. These days, I can’t keep silent any more. I see this way too often when I work with my clients, so I thought it’s time for me to share it and open the door for you to do a reality check.
When I started my first consulting business in 2011 with my biz partner, we were sure about two things: the 1st one was that we wanted to work together. The 2nd thing was that we never wanted to be employees ever again. So we officially set up our business. We had a rough idea about the WHAT (“creativity and marketing services”), and figured that was good enough to get us going. We lived 900km away from each other, so we’d Skype several times a day, to check on our progress, or debate “strategy”. Here’s how we spent the first 2-3 months:
- Choosing a name for our company
- Colors and fonts of our logo
- Choice of images for our website
- Hiring a web designer (I can’t believe we actually paid 10k euros – 13k USD for our website!! I didn’t even know WordPress existed…)
- Website copy
- Spreadsheets! I love spreadsheets, I used to do a lot of forecasting and planning in my past corporate job, so that’s how I thought I was being “useful” to ours then, planning the financial forecast, income projections and all.
- Creating events on FB for our “discovery breakfasts”, hoping that someone would “find us”…
What I’ve also never told anyone was that in between our Skype calls, I wished I could just disappear under my super soft blanket (the one that gives me comfort when I feel sick or tired), or crawl up under my bed and never have to face the hard truth. I was lucid enough though to know something was wrong: we were not getting clients to our discovery breakfasts, even less so to our other services. My body used to find any excuse to get me distracted, like an urgent need to go swimming, or do the groceries, or take a nap. But the truth was that neither I nor she had any clue of what we were doing. We had no idea of who are clients really were, where to find them and what they really needed from us and how we could solve their problems. We would sit in our sitting-rooms-turned-home-offices, wishing that people would call us. And I was deeply terrified to make a phone call to offer our services or just contact anyone. I really hoped people would find us and call us.
Does this sound familiar?
Today, I say that we were playing at building our business. Yes, we were busy and we had a business card saying “Proud Founder of (Name of Our Company)”. But the truth is that we had no direction because we missed to answer 6 fundamental questions – I’ll get there in a minute.
I look back to these days with compassion. We all make mistakes and we all learn from them.
Here’s a summary of my mistakes:
- Mistake number 1: You can be a truly great professional, which we both were, be a wonderful copy-righter, coach, marketing expert, consultant, baker, jewelry maker, or whatever, but that does not make you a great business owner.
Running your own business does not come naturally (not even to me, after almost a decade in corporate business development and marketing + an MBA).
Very few people actually understand what it takes to build a REAL business by yourself. And it’s taken me a while to get it in my bones too. But now, after lots of top trainings and working with the best coaches (+ running 2 businesses), I know, and I want to save you this pain.
- Mistake number 2: You may have great intentions and lots of energy, but that is not enough to build your business.
- Mistake number 3: You may think that your hunger for freedom will feed your energy and drive.
Phew. Thank you for reading this far. Know that I never take it for granted!
As a reward, now I’ll share with you the steps that CANNOT be ignored or overlooked when building your business:
- Know who your clients are. Like really, who do you want to work with? (I’m talking IDEAL clients here – just a reminder: it’s YOUR business, so make sure you create one you will love every single day, and loving your clients Is a huge part of the equation)
- What is the big problem or dreams they have that MUST be solved or achieved?
- How do YOU solve these problems or help them achieve their dreams?
- What results do your clients experience as a result of working with you?
- What makes YOU the best person to serve your clients?
- Can you clearly articulate WHAT you do and WHY you do it?
Answering these questions is the beginning of everything. If you fail to get clear answers, every single one of your efforts will be pointless. You will probably be busy (I WAS busy back in the days!) but it will be like playing a game called “business building”. And you will probably believe that (I absolutely did!!). That’s when marketing or sales feel hard. That’s when you’re running like a headless chicken, when you are spreading yourself so thin that your efforts don’t pay off. That’s when you wish you were a Starbucks and people would just walk in. And that is supremely frustrating and disheartening.
So do me a favor. Call yourself into another meeting. A meeting with yourself. Look at you in the eye and ask you this, really honestly: are you serious about building your business or are you playing at building your business?
In the comments below, I’d like you to tell me what is something from the 6 steps above that you are struggling with. I’ll read them all and comment on all with some pointers to help you move on. I really want you to build the business that you dream of. And I know you can.
To your wonderful business,
PS. Oh, I forgot to mention that that company died… 4 months after we officially started it. No wonder.
PPS. You know I’m not trying to sell you anything here. But I am sure you know that I offer a coaching program to those who are interested called Oh My Business (details here), where I help you and guide you to set up this foundation for your business. You are always welcome to email me or get in touch by Skype if you have any questions about it.