Over the years, so many people have said something along the lines of: "Oh it must be great having your own business, so much freedom to do whatever you want!" Oh how wrong they've been!
Don't get me wrong, I love running my own businesses and won't be trading it in for employment any time soon (if I can avoid it!), but freedom certainly isn't something that comes fast when you start up a business.
As we celebrate 5 years in business this week, I've been reflecting on those earlier days, months and years and how far the business, and myself, have come. Being a small business owner is a journey, and getting to where I am today not only been a process but a huge learning curve!
Whilst I don't regret the journey or any of the decisions I've made, there are some things that, upon reflection, would have made things a whole lot easier if I'd known them from the get go. So I thought I'd share my top 5 with you:
1. It doesn't matter what everyone else is doing
As a new business owner, you definitely feel the need to please everyone all the time. Plus, for some reason, I always felt so much pressure to keep up with everyone else but then never understood why things like our super trendy pumpkin decorations never sold out in autumn, or why I couldn't (for the life of me!) find a brand of candles that would sell consistently well.
I don't know when the turning point was, but somewhere along the road I realised that the reason why the trendy pumpkins didn't sell and I couldn't find the right candles for us was because I was settling for things I thought people wanted and not staying true to myself. I'm not necessarily in to 'trends' or 'fashionable' gifts, so why was I trying so hard to fit them in to my shop? It's REALLY hard to sell things that you don't really like.
This is probably an unpopular opinion but I just don't get the pumpkin thing and this was probably obvious with my choices, displays, recommendations etc. My heart just wasn't in it. I'm also pretty particular about candles, I don't know about you but I'd rather have a high quality candle that smells amazing and burns beautifully than just any old bit of wax in a funky tin. Now, we don't sell pumpkin decorations and we have found the PERFECT candles for us, which sell amazingly well all year round!
So my first piece of advice is this: What works for one person, may not necessarily work for another and that's ok, go with what YOU believe in. What a difference a change of mindset makes...
2. Sometimes, there is no reason
Whilst I can't speak for all industries, in retail it's certainly important to remember that you will get quiet days - really quiet days. Hopefully as your business grows those days will become few and far between, but you always have to expect the unexpected as there are so many factors that can impact peoples buying decisions.
One thing that you should always remember is that, whilst sometimes there may be an actual, obvious justification for a slow day; extreme weather, road closures etc, sometimes there is no reason at all and it just is.
I still have the odd wobble now and again but I've learnt to not let myself become a complete wreck if I haven't had a customer by midday, or if the end of day total isn't where it needs to be. Financial stresses are bound to be a thing when you're self employed, but it's likely to be much less of a strain on your mental health if you try looking at the bigger picture.
In fact, it can be a great time to take advantage of getting some shit done, or just taking it slower that day because lets face it, you probably deserve it!
3. The success of your business isn't defined by how many 'likes' you get on social media
Who else battles with this one? I battle with it all the time and I know it really gets to other business owners too. Managing a social media account is a full time job in itself and when you don't enjoy creating content or using it personally, it can be such a chore.
A little while ago I decided to take a bit of a break from Instagram and guess what? We found absolutely no difference at all to our day to day business. In fact, I'm pretty sure no one even noticed I was gone! We still had just as many lovely visitors in the shop, and we saw no change in our online sales.
I'm sure if you have the time to dedicate to social media, or are in a position to outsource it (the dream!) then it could do amazing things for your business but it really isn't the be all and end all. And remember, your number of likes and followers are not connected to how successful you or your business are!
4. You can't do everything
This one isn't quite as harsh as it sounds! Small business owners have to wear so many hats; accountant, designer, buyer, content creator etc and its easy to develop an 'I'll just do it myself' mentality because you just get so used to being and doing all the things all the time.
I always knew I had strengths but there was also stuff that I just wasn't good at or didn't enjoy, which meant putting things off over and over again. It was procrastination galore!
Now I have an amazing team and we all compliment each other well, there's always someone whose skills and talents suit all the 'stuff' we have to get done.
Hiring staff was the best thing I have done for my business. Honestly, I wish I did it sooner and would totally recommend employing someone local, or outsourcing the jobs you don't like, as soon as you are able to - a fresh set of eyes and someone to bounce ideas around with will help you see your business in a whole new way!
5. Businesses do not crumble if you don't work 24/7
Why do small business owners always feel like they need to be working and available to everyone all the time? This one took a little longer for me to figure out, but it's probably one of the most important.
In my experience, little to none of this pressure comes from customers or people I work with, it's me that's the problem!
It all starts with "If I don't do this then...", "I'll just quickly...", "Just a quick one because it's actually my day off but...".
And then, when you do have some rare time off, you feel guilty for it.
What's all that about?!
I realised that as employer, it's my responsibility to make sure the staff are happy at work, have a work-life balance, need to have a break etc. As a self employed person, I realised that it's my responsibility to make sure I also have all of those things - especially time to switch off. It can be really hard when you're feeling all of the pressures of owning a business, but only you have the power to give yourself a break and you have to make time for it.
And, guess what? Your business will not collapse if you don't do everything immediately, or if you have a day off! In fact, you'll probably find you're better for it, both professionally and personally!
Here's to 5 more wonderful years on this rollercoaster! If you're interested, you can find out a little more about how it all began HERE
We'd love to see you to celebrate with us: