Today I turn 35. Here are the 6 most important things I’ve learned as a business owner.
Wow. I am 35 years old. Officially in the “mid thirties”. I know some of you might be thinking that I am still young while some of you see 35 as very old. To be honest, part of me has a little anxiety because I feel like I have not accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish by this age. But then part of me is extremely grateful for the opportunities and growth I have experienced over the years. I started my martial arts instruction business two weeks after I completed my last class in college. At 23 years old, I had already had some experience of running my father’s business but this was the first time I was completely on my own. It was exhilarating and scary at the same time. Almost 12 years later I can tell you I have made many mistakes and learned more than I could have imagined. Through the good times and bad, here are 6 most important things I’ve learned as a business owner.
1. Constantly educate yourself.
This is by far the first piece of advice I would give a new business owner. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Learn from the experts who have already made the mistakes and put their guidance into action. You don’t have to become an expert on every topic in your business but I think its important to have a basic understanding. Topics that are part of your role in the company such as staff management and business systems, should be on the top of your reading list. Grind through the research and find what works best for your business. Chances are, there is someone out there who grew a successful business similar to yours. Find that person and learn from them. They might charge you a fee for their knowledge and guidance but the return on investment will be completely worth it. It is inevitable that you will read a book, watch a video, or talk to a successful business owner who you don’t agree with. Get used to it because its part of the process of discovering what you want your business to become. Be humble and always keep your ears and mind open.
2. Get rid of the wrong people immediately.
Having the right people on your team can give your business the positive growth all business owners yearn for. Having the wrong people on your team can drive your business to the ground. Deciding if a person is right or wrong for your business actually comes down using a simple yet powerful tool we are all born with; gut instinct. If your gut is telling you that person will not fit in your business’s culture, get rid of them immediately! The longer you keep them around the more havoc they can bring to your company. I learned this lesson the hard way because of two reasons.
- I felt bad about taking a person’s job away.
- I didn’t want to deal with the awkward confrontation.
Those days are long gone and I will get rid of anyone on our team if my gut is telling me they are the wrong person. I don’t have a problem doing this now because of two reasons.
- It is not fair to hold a person in the wrong job.
- It is ultimately it is for the sake of the business.
When we allow a person to stay in the wrong job, we are preventing them from find the right job and this is not fair to them. Let them go and they will thank you later when they are in a job they can flourish and look forward to. When you have a team of all the right people, you look forward to going to your business everyday which in the end, is most important.
3. Do what you’re good at and delegate the rest.
This is something I still struggle with today. When you start a business from scratch, it becomes your baby. Your livelihood. Your identity. So naturally you are going to want to become an over protective parent who micro manages every tiny detail of the business. This is OK in the start up phase but like all parents will eventually understand, you have to let go so your business can grow. Stop answering the phones. Stop doing your books. Stop cleaning. Stop making the product or performing the service. Delegate and focus on what nobody else can do. Instead of making the product, work on the next, improved version of the product. Instead of performing the service, work on creating a training program so the service can be replicated and handed off to a team member. You are the captain of the ship and have the most important job of all. Steer it to the promise land and keep it safe from sinking. You cannot be the boatswain and the captain at the same time. If you don’t want to be the captain, find the right person and delegate for the sake of the business
4. Expand your product/service vertically, not horizontally.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, fads will always exist and fads will always die. Don’t let fads distract you from your company’s bread and butter. If you offer a product or service that fulfills a continuing need for generations to come, then let that be the heart of your business. A perfect example of this is Apple. They started out with computers and then created the iPod. From there they created the iPhone, the iPad, Apple TV, and the Apple Watch. Yes, they are all different products but they all look and feel the same when using them. Chances are, you will never see an Apple lawnmower because it is too far, horizontally, from the bread and butter of Apple; computers. It is perfectly fine to offer products or services that are directly related to the main product or service of your business but I would make sure it doesn’t significantly increase the need for more resources or labor. I honestly believe it is best to make your main product or service the best in class and then start expanding vertically.
5. Watch your books like a hawk.
Memorize this wise saying, “It’s not what you make its what you keep.” Don’t make the mistake I made and hand off the books before the following things happen first.
- Have a basic understanding of what a Profit Loss Statement and Balance Sheet is.
- Create a weekly or monthly system of you or someone you trust that combs through every transaction in the business.
- Interview, research, and get everything in writing from the bookkeeper or accountant that will be managing your books.
After you have done this, then develop the habit of constantly looking for ways to cut out unnecessary expenses. The way I see it, if the expense is not directly related to sustaining or increasing revenue, then it is not needed. This especially applies to the ongoing charges that are debited from our credit cards every month that we forget about. Don’t just focus on increasing revenue but also on decreasing expenses. Get rid of the fat and set your business up for maximum profit.
6. Don’t overthink. Just do.
Last but not definitely not least. Don’t overthink. Just do. There are three main reasons I procrastinate and don’t execute.
- Caring what people would think.
- Overanalyzing the task or project.
- Self doubt.
This is something I struggle with on a daily basis. Even writing the article was difficult to start. Who wants to work on their birthday? But the simple truth of the matter is nothing happens without action. As the leader of your business, you have to make things happen. Each day is an opportunity to either grow your business or not. Nobody in the company cares about the business as much as the owner. Figure out what the most important tasks are for the day and get them done. Accept that perfection is a lost cause and nothing is accomplished without output. Stop doubting yourself and put all your energy towards reaching completion. Mistakes are going to happen. Errors are going to be made. Understand and accept that is part of the process of leading your business into the future. Output, output, output.
There are many other lessons I have learned as a business owner over the years but I feel these are the most important today. I have no doubt there are many more important lessons to be learned in the upcoming years and I welcome them with a gracious and humble mindset. If you are a new business owner or a veteran, I highly respect and applaud your ambition to follow your dreams of entrepreneurship. It takes a lot of courage and grit to start and run a successful business. But we do it because we love it and most importantly, believe in it. Now lets implement, execute, and lead our companies to the next frontier.