In September of 2016, I began the journey of launching a digital content marketing agency and carefully crafting an environment for women to have fulfilling careers, strong family lives, and pursue personal growth. And I've learned some huge lessons along the way.
This is what I learned in my first year running a business.
Not every prospect should be a client.
My friend and mentor, Andy Crestodina, from Orbit Media shared a wise piece of advice with me in the middle of 2017. He said "Help clients disqualify you. Not every prospect will be a good fit." He was right. In that first year of business, I learned to better identify new business opportunities (partnerships, vendors, contractors, clients, etc.), where both parties are confident that us working together is a good fit. It's definitely a hard piece of advice to abide by as a new company and, truth be told, I'm still working on it. But he was absolutely right.
Don't put the success of your business in the hands of anyone other than yourself.
When you're running a business, the successes and failures of that company are entirely in your hands, or at least they should be. Don't put yourself in a position where someone else has enough power or information to taint or harm your company. Unfortunately, in many ways, this means you have to be wary of trusting people too much and too quickly, but that comes with the territory. Not everyone will have the best interest of your company at heart. I like to say "assume everyone is the devil and hope that they aren't." At least you'll be covered if shit hits the fan.
Not everything is a priority.
As an entrepreneur, it's easy to be overwhelmed and have a rolling 13 priorities. Everything can't be a priority because that statement alone is contradictory. Prioritize. Focus on things that will have the biggest impact on your business first. Then delegate smaller things to the really talented, trustworthy team you've hired. But focus. Otherwise, you will fall flat on your face, buried by to-do lists.
Prepare for the highs and lows.
One thing I've said a number of times now is that the road of entrepreneurship is filled with very high highs and very low lows. Get ready for it. Whether it's by surrounding yourself with an incredible support system, financially padding your bank account to brace for low revenue months, or splurging a little bit on happy hour to celebrate signing a big new client with your team, prepare yourself for the good, and, the not-so-good. I'll steal a saying I've recently heard, "It's like a roller coaster ride: high highs and low lows. So I'm just going to put my hands up and enjoy the ride." Truth.
Don't undervalue yourself.
For those of us Type A personalities, this is a difficult pill to swallow at times- because we are always pushing ourselves to be better, do more, and questioning our overall value because of these ambitions. However, undervaluing yourself, your time, your knowledge and resources can be detrimental to your business. If you set the precedent that your time is plentiful, your prices can always be negotiated down and you find that you're making significant sacrifices to gain new business, ask yourself if you actually want that business. Again, is this the right fit? Are you valued in that relationship? The answer should always be "yes."
It's all about people.
This is actually a life philosophy I adopted years ago, but it is 100% applicable to running a business. The foundational success of a company lies in the relationships built between people. People who work for you. People who you work for. Who brainstorm together. Who build brands together. It's all about people. Take care of the people who are investing back in you. It's an absolute must.
That first year was one of the most difficult and rewarding years of my life, but no matter what fempire you build, it has to start somewhere, and this is where mine started. Thank you to everyone who has supported Brainchild Studios and I am so grateful for your support!
Kiley Executive Coach & Consultant
Kiley Peters is a serial entrepreneur, national speaker, executive coach, and small business consultant. Having personally counseled over 100 small and medium-sized businesses on operations, business development, digital marketing, and consumer behavior analysis over the last 17 years Kiley is incredibly passionate about serving small business owners. She is the Founder and CEO of Brainchild Studios, a research and business strategy partner for small businesses and mid-market executives, and also created the Work From Home Playbook, a series of online courses guiding aspiring entrepreneurs through the steps of starting a virtual business. With these experiences in her back pocket, she understands the challenges and struggles small business owners encounter.more posts by Kiley →