Every business owner knows that the real rewards of owning a business are the lessons learned, and the growth that happens from those lessons.
Pay attention to your mistakes and let them fuel your fire! These are the lessons I can turn to now and they are what keep me in business.
Here is a list of some of the best lessons I've learned from my business. Number one is the most repetitive lesson, the one we all have to keep on learning:
Don’t Take Things Personally
As a business owner or as a sales professional, you will sell things. You’ll book your sessions and you’ll sell your products, yes. That’s pretty much a certainty— as long as you don’t quit, you will sell.
You will also not sell. That’s the other certainty. You’ll get No. You’ll get it a lot. And you’ll get crickets. You’ll send out an email about the promotion you have running, and no one will respond to it.
It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter how much your audience likes and trusts you, and it doesn’t matter how great your product or service is. People are busy, people have budgets, and they are simply not always and forever at the ready to lay down some cash for what you’re selling.
The mistake many of us make is applying too much meaning to the No or to the Crickets.
What a No means is that one person is currently unavailable or uninterested in what you’re selling.
And Crickets means, in a nutshell, the same thing. It means the person received your email while they were busy at their desk at work, at the same moment their spouse texted them to let them know the babysitter just cancelled for tonight. They’ve got bigger fish to fry.
It doesn’t mean: my product sucks, no one likes me, no one cares about what I’m doing, I need to give this up and do something else.
You need to keep sharing about your work and what you do: using it yourself and sharing about your experience using it, and inviting people to experience it for themselves.
If you do this in an authentic way for long enough, more and more people will become curious of the value of it and wonder if it might help them too.
The operative phrase is "for long enough." Most of us will quit. We quit before our business has really had the time to get off the ground.
Your audience knows that. So, they’re not really giving you much attention yet. They are waiting to see if you are committed and if your business has legs. They are waiting to see if the product is really so great that you stay in business for longer than a few months.
If you are the person who does not quit, you will reap the rewards.
As long as you are not going broke, and you feel like you’re aligned with your highest values in the work you’re doing, don’t quit. Even when the voice in your head is saying “No one cares about this.”
You Don’t Have To Be Salesy. But Let’s Talk About "Salesy."
I opened a private massage therapy practice in 2013. I rented a room and I furnished it with a massage table, a chair, an air conditioner, and a plant.
Then I had to tell people I was open for business.
Then I had to keep telling people, via various means, that I was open for business.
I didn’t just have one person walk through the door and then word spread like wildfire about how amazing my work was and my schedule was booked out and my bills were paid for the rest of my life.
Nope. Each week— every week— I have a certain number of sessions that I need to fill in order to meet my income goals. And it’s part of my job to actively fill those sessions, and proactively fill them for the future.
Doing that is part of my work.
I don't get to "just help people." I also have to consistently remind them that I am available and qualified to help them.
Of course, this gets easier the longer you’ve been in business— you know more people and more people know about you. But the activity requirement is still the same: I have to be willing to tell people that I’m in business. I have to be willing to reconnect with people who haven’t visited my business in awhile and say Hey, here’s what’s new at my massage practice!
Which brings me to “salesy.” You sell just by being public about the fact that you have a business. You sell by raising awareness about the benefits of your product or service. There is no need to “be salesy.”
When people say, “I don’t want to be salesy,” or “I’m just not a salesperson,” I think what they mean is, I don’t want to use cheesy, empty statements to try to entice people to buy what I’m offering. Well then, don’t.
Instead, be consistent in talking about your business: your experience running your business, your experience working with people, and the benefits you see your product has. That’s all you do.
If you’re not willing to invite people to your business, why should anyone plunk down cash there? Seriously...why?
Do you believe in what you’re doing? What are the benefits of it? How does it solve problems for people? How does it improve quality of life?
...Do you want people to have improved quality of life? OK, then. Go out and share the message about how your work helps people.
They are going to spend money anyway, so be someone who is consistently reminding them that your work is available as a place they could spend their money, and that it would improve their quality of life if they made that choice.
Be specific about how it can help them. Because, again...
They Are Going To Spend Money Anyway
Do not feel bad about “taking someone’s money.” This is especially a problem for those of us who are in the industry of serving people. You just want to help people. I get it. You’d do it for next to nothing.
That is wonderful. But how many people are you going to be able to help if you can’t pay your office rent or you can’t afford to keep great product in stock? Not very many.
You have to keep the lights on. You have to be able to take care of yourself and keep your body and mind feeling strong and resilient. This is the way you can serve your mission of helping as many people as possible.
Speaking Of Serving Your Mission, You Need a Mission
Being in business (any business, or any independent sales gig) is hard, and you need a personal mission that keeps the home fires burning. If you don’t have that, you will quit. Or you won’t quit, but you will be unhappy in your work.
You need something to turn to when times are tough, something that reminds you that being in business for yourself is 100% without-a-doubt worth it.
Your mission — the reason you are doing what you are doing — needs to be deeply personal and specific. As specific as you can make it. You don’t even have to share it with anyone else.
Here’s a little known fact, that will possibly transform your business:
Your mission doesn’t have to be super noble.
If you sit down to write your personal mission and your intention is to think of something noble because you think that a mission “should” be noble...that’s probably not going to put you where you want to be with your business.
Why? Well, I’m guessing the desire to be noble is not something that keeps you up at night and drives you to jump out of bed every morning eager to go crush goals.
You probably aren't looking in the mirror while you brush your teeth, thinking, "I just want to help people."
So what are you thinking about? What are your dreams?
It’s more likely that you would be deeply, organically motivated by a goal such as: Wouldn't it be great if we could afford to take the kids to Disney World next year?
I know that doesn’t strike the same righteous, emotional cord as “my mission is to serve my community,” but you have to look at it this way:
A 5 day trip to Disney World (which costs a lot of money) is the deeply personal goal that keeps a fire under your ass...
...and the only way to achieve it is to help lots of people through your business.
You can write a super righteous, noble personal mission...or you can try the technique I just told you.
Make a goal that is super personal and practical for your household, then watch how that homegrown mission transforms you into an effective, enthusiastic servant of your community.
You Can’t Pour From An Empty Cup
This phrase is most often used when talking about self care, and self care is vital to any business owner.
But I actually think about this a lot in terms of “pouring into my cup of inspiration.”
I maintain a state of creativity and excitement about my business by engaging with the work of other people who are creative and innovative.
Who inspires you? Do you make time to be fed by other people who are doing heartfelt work in the world?
Make a list of 3-5 sources of consistent inspiration for your life and your business. This works best if you make it people who aren’t in the same business that you’re in — you want to light the fire of creativity, not the fire of comparison and copying.
Engage with your select group of creatives in a consistent way (such as subscribing to all their email newsletters).
Do this instead of scrolling around the Internet willy-nilly, clicking on articles and Instagram posts which may or may not give you the shot of focus and inspiration that you’re seeking.
Find the core group of creative people who inspire you, and then be fed by them. Do not waste time scrolling around at random, looking for soul food.
Speaking of scrolling...
Time Is Precious, Don’t Waste It
You’ve made the short list of content you know inspires you and that you want to consume regularly.
Now, you can stop “hanging out” on the Internet hoping to catch something interesting, or hoping to catch the attention of potential clients. (Read: How to Find Your Clients).
Time is money. Your money. Time is also your life ticking by.
Enough said? I think so.
What has your business taught you? Leave a comment or send me an email and let me know what questions you are facing right now in your business!