10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a BusinessSep 02, 2022
Like most entrepreneurs, I started my business with a dollar and a dream. I had a vision at that time and felt like I had the skills to provide excellent services.
I started my first business in 2013 as a Therapist/Life Coach (insert pic in pink or blue suit). At that time, I was serving as a full-time Sales/Marketing Director in the healthcare industry and was doing quite well but something in me continued to yearn for starting a business. What better way to start a business than to go back to what I initially set out to do?! After 7 years of college, two degrees, and burnout later, I chose to take a hiatus from counseling. I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I wanted to own my private practice, but after burning out, I chose to take a break to fill my cup back up and learn a new industry and skills that I knew I could get in the corporate sector. That one move completely changed the trajectory of my career but that nagging feeling never left me so when the opportunity presented itself. I decided to jump head and heart first into the world of entrepreneurship.
I did not know how to properly register a business, launch a website, market to gain new clients, or even how pick a business name but I had the willpower and faith that I could make it happen. Over the years, I have learned so many lessons, and here are a few I wish I knew before starting my first business.
1. Build a community with loyal fans
When I started my first business SkyeMari Solutions (therapy and coaching services), I had no clue who my exact target market would be. I just knew I was a Mental Health Counselor offering therapy services and coaching. I did not have a specialty in mind, nor knew the importance of building a community of loyal fans early on. I cast my net so wide that people struggled to connect with me or even understood what my services were all about. Building a community is more than just creating a support system, it’s more about developing a niche and connecting with people on a different level to properly serve them.
2. Build your Product/Service...then Branding (in that order)
For years, I offered simple one-on-one services to clients. Occasionally creating the special 4-8 session packages but never really creating a program or system that had proven results and processes. Blame it on the Therapist in me, but my business model suffered greatly because I lacked the programming to truly scale once I transitioned my business from a therapy practice to a coaching practice. Have you ever heard the saying “Push the cart before the horse”? Well, that’s essentially what I did when I decided to start creating a brand without a true product/service OR client in mind. In retrospect, I was building a personal brand that was not connecting with the clients I truly wanted to serve because I did not know who they were. By understanding your target market and your signature product/service, you are more likely to build a brand that resonates and makes others want to buy from you with ease. The minute I learned this idea and shifted my business model, my life began to change.
3. A pleasant, memorable customer journey will lead to more customers
Systems, Systems, systems... It is one of the major differences between large corporations and small businesses. Large corporations have taken the time and spent the resources to develop an end-to-end customer journey that can be tested and repeated (a.k.a bring in consistent income). Though familiar with the customer journey due to my corporate sales career, initially it did not occur to me to create my process for clients. From introductions to onboarding, to the end of our time working together as Clients/Coaches - all of these steps matter. Your customer’s experience can be the difference between them becoming your loyal fans and sharing their great experience with others or you just being another person they worked with...Meh! Deciding to develop this process sooner than later, can truly impact your business growth.
4. Perfection isn’t necessary but quality is. Don’t rush the process.
With social media highlighting what looks like “overnight success”, it can be easy to fall victim to the Hustle Culture mentality. But here’s the thing...only YOU know what exactly your product/service is supposed to entail. Don’t rush the process trying to keep up with the Joneses and risk the quality of your work to reach unrealistic deadlines. For years, I struggled with this. I thought I had to release a new product/service, t-shirt, video, podcast, etc. for my business to thrive. Hear me and hear me good...All that is BULLISH!T! Do what works for you, your business, and more importantly the people you serve. Quality over perfection is always better!
5. Your brand will change...don’t get so stuck on the details
I could probably write an entire book about this but instead, I drop a few quick gems that I wish someone would have politely told me when I first started my business journey. Yes, invest in a professional photographer. Buy the logo and business cards. Build the website. Pick the brand colors and nice fonts. Invest in perfecting your messaging. However, do not marry the concepts because they will change because you are going to change and so will your target market! To launch the website, post the pic and keep going!
6. Hire a coach sooner than later
One of the best decisions I made for myself and my business was hiring a Coach who was 100 steps ahead of me. My only wish is that I had found her earlier in my business journey. Before connecting with this particular Coach, I hired two others and honestly, the results I got with them in comparison to working with her are truly not comparable, and here’s why...She spoke my language. She was a Therapist turned Coach that understood the many challenges that come from making that type of transition and could provide the guidance I needed to restructure my business model AND get my mindset in check. Before hiring a Coach, understand what it is that you truly need at that moment to get the momentum you are looking for.
7. Beta test every product/service before “launching”
As entrepreneurs, many times we have millions of seemingly great ideas that we want to share with the world. However, the truth is every great idea will not be great for your target market. Therefore, it is best to put your toes in the water to test the temperature before diving in. If you’re considering launching a certain product, try hosting a Pop Up at a local market or store. If you’re considering launching a new service, try offering it to previous clients to gather their feedback before investing in a full launch campaign. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and money by taking this approach.
8. Sometimes your biggest supporters will be strangers
I’ll never forget that day I shared on social media that I had officially launched my business website. I was honestly so overwhelmed and overjoyed with the support I received from family, friends, colleagues, classmates, and every other person I’ve met throughout my lifetime. It was a wonderful feeling to know that people were happy for me, but here’s the thing...just because someone supports you, doesn’t necessarily mean they will buy from you. The majority of my clients have been strangers. Learn to be ok with that.
9. You will fail so make a decision today to fail forward
I have made so many mistakes along the way and I am sure there are more to come in the future. However, that is just proof that I am choosing to grow and so are you! Yes, the failures will hurt, humble you and may even cost you some money and/or customers, but make a decision to take each lesson and make improvements every step of the way.
10. Always Be Selling AND Closing
When I first started, I was so shy about marketing my business and services (which in hindsight is hilarious considering I was a Sales/Marketing Director for another company and #beasting at it). There’s something different about marketing your own products/services though. Many times we are emotionally tied to our businesses because it is our intellectual property or it is an idea we birthed. However, if you are not confidently marketing or selling your products/services, who will?! Remember to stand in your light and share the talents/gifts you’ve created for your ideal customers. They need it!
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