By: Sue Painter
Years ago, I heard the statement "the fastest way to personal growth is to open your own business." Thirteen years after opening my first business, I can promise that statement is true. Like many people who are self-employed, I came out of the corporate world, where I was used to having support staff, creative people around me to bounce ideas off of, and the big bosses over me to handle the heat. I also had janitorial staff to clean the office and technical support staff to handle an errant computer.
When I left all that to open my own business, I soon discovered that my support staff, creative people, big bosses, janitorial staff and technical staff was the person I saw when I stared into my mirror. My business was brand new and very small, one room in an office building. I had to handle everything, whether I was "trained" to handle it or not. I had to discover what I did well, what I enjoyed the most, what I hated to do, when I could afford to hire help, and what help I needed to hire first. I had to stretch and grow quickly.
Fortunately, because I had solid experience in growing a business, the Touch Therapy Center built itself quickly. Within the year, I could hire help for cleaning and laundry service. Next came a bookkeeper. Now, 13 years later, I manage the business while other staff do most of the therapeutic massage, I'm in a medical office building with multiple treatment rooms, and I have a practice manager to handle the front desk, errands, and most administrative tasks.
What I want to point out is the rocky path of personal growth it takes to get from year one to year thirteen, turning a profit the whole way. Here are some of the things I had to learn or consider.
- Watch my operating costs and bottom line - I had to remain profitable even if I was spending more money on getting help with cleaning, laundry service, and so forth. Watching my weekly financial statements was critical, or I could have worked myself crazy and not made a dime.
- Know myself well enough to figure out what I liked to do and was good at versus what I am not so good at and am not fond of doing. One of these in the massage business is laundry. I didn't enjoy dragging home loads of sheets and spending my evenings sorting, washing, drying, and folding them. And I wasn't particularly great at it, either. On the other hand, I'm very practiced and skillful at attracting clients. I didn't need or want to pay anyone to handle marketing for me, other than getting help with a design for my business card. It was easy for me and saved me money to develop my own brochures and press releases.
- I had to find out about my willingness to take risk and how to handle the good and bad that came from that risk. Should I move into larger office space and increase my rent? If so, how much more business would I need to generate to remain at my same level of profit? Could I get larger space, spend more money, and at the same time make even more money? Could I negotiate new lease terms that were favorable to me?
Before long, I had a very busy practice and was ready to hire other staff. Now, I could draw on my past experience as an Executive Director and use my past hiring skills. This time, if I made a bad decision, it was mind and mine alone to deal with, for better or for worse. After about 8 years, I had to make a decision about opening my second business, The Confident Marketer. Other entrepreneurs had been asking me for several years how I'd built my business, how I knew what to do when, and how I got profitable. I found that I absolutely loved helping other self-employed people be successful. So, about 5 years ago, The Confident Marketer was born. And with it, a whole new level of personal growth and challenge was necessary. It's one reason I keep myself always working with top coaches who can help me face up to the personal growth and new business skills I need to keep my business successful and innovative.
The point to my story is that it takes courage to be an entrepreneur. You have to be willing to find out what you don't know, get help with those things you don't do well, and become expert at a few things that are yours and yours alone. You have to be willing to step up to intimately knowing and watching your financial statements (something I find many new entrepreneurs don't want to do). You have to make decisions using both the facts and figures AND your gut feelings -- your intuitive skills. And when there is a problem, you have to be willing to meet it and work it through, taking time to consider whether and how much it affects your customer service and your bottom line. All this takes a great deal of courage and a willingness to grow both personally and professionally.
A great business takes three things - a solid business plan, a creative and well-thought-out marketing plan, and a willingness to engage in personal growth. Behind those three vital things is courage. Step right up, and see how quickly your business becomes unstoppable!