This time of year, I’m typically writing articles about the importance and value of sending clients gifts. While I completely advocate doing so (and am pretty proud that I ordered my client gifts in November!), this post is about something more intangible.
I’ve been in business nearly 12 years. While I’ve worked with my share of divas and slave drivers, I have to say, I’m pretty proud to have a roster of clients who genuinely are a joy to work with.
Not every entrepreneur is so lucky.
I’m reflecting on the many gifts I’ve gotten from them. Not cookies and flowers, though I occasionally am delighted to receive those, but more lessons and experiences that help me be better as a business owner.
Sometimes I’m so busy focused on what I’m doing with my own business—both the wins and the challenges—that I don’t know what’s going on in the world around me. I find that there’s comfort in knowing that others share the same frustrations (and successes) as I do as a micropreneur. So I asked a few of my contacts what their micropreneur struggle has been. Do their answers ring true with you, too?
Being a One-Woman Show Is Lonely
For the first few years, I found it hard to not have a team to bounce ideas off of and brainstorm with. When presenting campaigns or projects to clients, I always felt so confident with my ideas when I received positive feedback from co-workers. Once on my own, I lost that and had to just go with my gut and work it out on my own. Luckily I am still connected to old colleagues so when I really need it, i’ll shoot them an email. For the most part though, I do what feels right and it turns into a success and a happy client.
Around Thanksgiving, you see a lot of posts on what to be thankful for. I myself have written many. But here, I’d like those of us who run small businesses on our own — us micropreneurs — to give ourselves a pat on the back instead, and to thank ourselves for a job well done. After all, we know that the sleepless nights, difficult business decisions, and stress of waiting for clients to get around to paying us aren’t for the faint of heart. We deserve recognition! Let’s celebrate our hard work in six ways.
1. Take Time Off
Hear me out, you workaholics! We’ve gotten to an epidemic point in the workforce, with Americans taking fewer vacation days than they have in 40 years. And yet, research shows that stepping away from our businesses — even for a short break for coffee — can have huge improvements in our performance and productivity. Why the disconnect? I blame it on technology. It makes it difficult for us to step away from our businesses, and so we never fully do. Here’s your chance to thank yourself: take time off. Eat some turkey and browse Cyber Monday deals in your pjs. Or go to a tropical island where Thanksgiving doesn’t exist. Just shut down and get out.
Egg celebrated its 7th birthday this summer. Every year, I’m grateful to have another year of doing what I love. In looking back, I think I’ve learned a few things about entrepreneurship. Maybe sharing what I’ve learned will help you as a small business owner!
1. There’s a Reason People Tell You to Find Your Niche. Despite writing about zeroing in on a handful of products or services, it took me a while to learn this lesson. But I realized about three years ago that I was doing a lot and some of it not so well. It’s tempting to take on new streams of income when the opportunity arises, but if you can’t give it your all, you’re really not helping your company’s reputation. That’s why we’ve gotten out of pitching news to journalists. It’s challenging for agencies who work with bigger budget clients than we do, so trying to convince journalists to write about clients on small business budgets just wasn’t a value add for us.
2. Never Stop Marketing. This is one my husband has to remind me about fairly often. When we’re flush with work, I don’t look for more. But when things are slow, I’ve tended to scramble to find more projects. This summer, we saw the first slow season we’d seen in five years. I wasn’t prepared. Next time, I will be.
If you’re like 1/3 of small business owners, you’ll take time off this summer. But if you’re like me, that doesn’t mean you can completely shut off from your business. Even if there’s someone else running the show, as a business owner, you probably find it hard to not worry about your business.
Small Business Expert, Mike Pugh, offers the following tips to help you maximize your relaxation time, and if you have to do a little work on the beach, how to prioritize your communication while on the beach:
Let People Know You’re Out Catching Rays Set up an automatic email response or update your voicemail greeting with a vacation memo. If people don’t know you’re on vacation, chances are they’ll keep on hounding you or feel offended that you haven’t returned an email or call. Simply letting people know you’re out is one of the best ways to cut yourself some slack and enjoy your time off.
As I was driving today, I heard a Beastie Boys song. Now, I’m a huge fan and have been for a long time. I started to see some parallels between these rappers and small business owners. Here are the lessons on business success I think we can all take from them.
1. Defy the Odds. Three Jewish white guys did not fit in with the hip hop demographics of the early 1980s. They weren’t even tough looking. But they didn’t let that stop them from making seven platinum or better albums over an 18-year period.
For those of you in industries that haven’t yet been saturated by competitors, you’re lucky. Yes, it’s scary, and tiresome to have to explain what it is you do over and over, but you’re a frontiersman. You can lead the future of this new industry or your new take on an old one. Don’t be afraid to do what hasn’t been done before.
Small business owners, more than anyone else, embody their company’s brand. They become a true representative of that brand in everything they do. For many, there is no separation between the brand itself and the person running it.
Consider the last small business owner you met. I’m willing to bet that now whenever you think of that brand, you think of that person (kind of the way I tie CorpNetNellie to CorpNet!). The owner or company leader now represents the brand to you.
If you’re like me, it’s hard for you to shut down shop to go on vacation. You sneak a peek at your email now and then, or work from your hotel room. But not this time. This very moment, I’m exploring the green grasses of Ireland with my mother. But you wouldn’t know it.
First, let me make the case for completely unplugging from work. I run a very small company, so pretty much nothing happens if I’m not working, though I do have a writer who continues to work while I’m gallivanting across the UK. But when I’m too much in my business, I’m not really helping it. I need to step back and have some space to continue to be a good President (it’s the same for parenting, but that’s another post).
So completely forgetting about my business for a week or two actually helps it grow.