If I Knew Then What I Know Now

By Gina Buchanan, Managing Partner & COO Buchanan Virtual Office

The journey to become a successful business owner isn’t a smooth one. It’s filled with bumps, forks, and unexpected detours.

Surprisingly, most business owners wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s sort of like a badge of honor that we proudly display.

That doesn’t mean that there have been mistakes that I wish I hadn’t made. Not that I’m embarrassed. These mistakes have helped me get to where I am today. It’s just that it could have prevented them, perhaps Buchanan Virtual Office could have run a bit smoother and less stressful.

With that in mind, here are some of the 15 “If I had only known then what I know now” things before we launched Buchanan Virtual Office.

1. Running the business is always the top priority. The biggest misconception about starting your own business is that you’re only focused on chasing your passion. In other words, you’re not just going to be making handmade jewelry, cooking in your own food truck, or designing websites 24/7. That’s maybe going to consume 15% of your time. Instead, you’re going to spend the bulk of your time on developing business strategies, marketing, selling, interacting with customers, and doing administrative tasks like bookkeeping, invoicing, and payroll.

In short, you’re a business owner first and then a web designer, chef, or creator of handmade jewelry.

2. Networking - Start networking as soon as you can. It helps with confidence, focusing on what support you’re offering, and can get you work and referrals. It can be a slow burner, and that’s okay, so the sooner you get out there the better. I have received 90% of my work through networking. Put together a 30, 45, and 60-second elevator pitch and use it to tell everyone that you already know what you’re doing. Word of mouth referrals are worth their weight in gold.

3. Make sure that you have the proper contracts to use with clients, that you have insurance, and that you have all the proper registrations. Track your business expenses and keep your receipts.

4. The importance of cash flow management. Make no mistake about it. Cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. When you don’t properly manage your cash flow you end up spending more money than you’re bringing in. And, how long can you expect to stay in business when you don’t have enough money to pay your necessary expenses? The most effective way to manage your cash flow is by creating a budget and justifying every expense so that you know exactly where your hard-earned money is going.

5. If you’re in the service industry, DO NOT do any work until you have a signed contract.

6. Remember we are our own worst critics. So, remember, good is good enough! Don’t wait for everything to be perfect or you’ll never get started.

7. Don’t give your time for free – nobody expects this. Backup work constantly to the cloud.

8. Believe in yourself! Be confident! Everyone is scared, you just need to turn the fear into excitement and go for it.

9. DO NOT lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing, remember to ask lost of questions, be prepared to make mistakes (make sure you learn from them) and know when to tweak something to make it work better.

10. Just provide top-class service and you will always be busy! Follow-up and never take no for an answer. Ask for help and advice from fellow professionals.

11. Discipline yourself – that applies to staying focused on tasks, setting goals each day/week, setting boundaries, and sticking to them, keeping true to yourself and your skills.

12. Let’s talk about boundaries for a second, manage expectations in terms of availability and turnaround right from the beginning and don’t be tempted to break those rules as your clients will soon expect you to flex to their every need/whim/demand.

13. DO NOT offer every skill under the sun because people get confused. Cut it down to a few services, try your hand at a few things, you may be surprised at what you can do and take joy in doing too.

14. DO NOT get hung up on having the latest equipment or latest platforms.

15. Activity DOES NOT equal growth. It’s not all of the fancy features that you just added to your product. It’s not the new swanky office or the 20 new employees. It’s not the glowing review you just received in a leading industry publication. Even though all of these things are GREAT, it doesn’t constitute growth.

Growth means that you’re building a product and adding customers. That’s it.

I’m not going to lie, it gets tough sometimes, mentally, and financially but don’t give up. Reach out to people and be honest about it. I have received so much support from people I never expected because they loved what I was doing and wanted to help me on my way.

Remember, mistakes are part of the process. Experience makes fast learners and reminds you to attention so that you can learn from these mistakes.

So, tell us, how many mistakes did you make with your business?

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