In the 25+ years I have supported small businesses, what have been some key things I have learned? I had someone ask me this the other day, and it got me thinking. Because I know the truth is I am blessed to be a guide for small businesses because my younger self had many challenges. I also learned a great deal about what not to do through some of the stops I have had in my career. I got to be part of a company that grew in four years to be on Inc Magazine’s 5,000 list and then only two years later went bankrupt. The costs were greater than the revenue, and we kept digging deeper no matter how many machines we sold.
At another company, I was part of a leadership team that saw massive growth, yet they struggled to keep up with the growth and suffered a 30% percent defect rate through many of their peak production seasons. The company had no set culture or values, so the temp workers and minimum wage employees set the culture and values as the lowest common denominator. It was not malicious on their part. They didn’t know any better. Therefore hundreds, if not thousands, of products were ruined and went into the landfill. And those MBA-level learning experiences, combined with the thousands and thousands of small businesses I sold items to and then watched go out of business because they didn’t have a solid business foundation blessed me with a massive amount of learning.
Then there were my own personal challenges that I tackled throughout starting my own business several times. I made mistakes like trying to go it alone. Never looking for a mentor or advice or consulting. I relied on the free info I could find and then just a lot of hard knocks. I also tried to be everything to everyone. I have chased the shiny objects — I didn’t think values and reasons mattered. I always focused on the what. And I have attempted to out “willpower” jobs, careers, and businesses that didn’t fill me up and had no vision or plan.
So with all that learning again: If I knew what I know now, what would I tell my younger self? After rereading through all of the above, I would try to give my younger self a heads up about knowing your numbers, intentionally setting values, building a foundation, finding a niche, finding a mentor, consultant, or mastermind, stop chasing the shiny object, and find something that fulfills you. But I was a stubborn kid, so I probably would not have listened.
Fear and action
The biggest piece of advice I would like to share has to do with fear and action. If we all stopped and thought about it, everything we want out of life is just outside our comfort zone. We have to make the call, do the live video, and have the hard conversations. But we let fear stop us because we don’t stop to learn what fear truly is. It is just an acronym. F.E.A.R: Fantasized experiences appearing real. We imagine the worst possible outcome of some action we must take. But could we not imagine the best possible outcome instead and get into action? Any action and the smallest possible action we can take at the moment is perfect.
Because once we take action, we can experience the result, analyze the result for better future actions and then take the next action. Action becomes like a flywheel; before we know it, we take massive amounts of action compared to where we started, and we hardly even notice because it has gotten so easy. I would tell my younger self to stop putting so much stock in what others might think and worry more about getting their feedback after the action and making adjustments as needed.
What would you tell your younger self?