One of the amazing things that has happened in the last year as I became a business owner is that I’ve gotten to know a lot of other business owners. There is something really special about entrepreneurship, but it can also be a deeply difficult and alienating endeavor, so actively seeking a support network of other entrepreneurs should be a top priority for any new business owner. I’ve been lucky to see my network grow and blossom to include business owners that I truly admire and learn from on a daily basis. Now, in my work with Detail and Design, I get to connect with even more inspiring entrepreneurs and learn from their journeys. Here are some of the lessons I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from some of these awesome individuals.
1. What you set out to do is not always what you end up doing: stay mission-focused, and embrace evolution.
In just the short year that I’ve known some of my entrepreneur friends, I’ve witnessed some incredible transformations. Ashley Collins at Emerald Doulas went from a doula working on her own, to founding a doula agency with two other women, complete with all of the pregnancy and postpartum services a parent could need. It wasn’t a reflection of a change in mission, but rather an expansion in what seemed possible as a doula in North Carolina. Similarly, I’ve had a front-row seat to Christine Seed’s expansion of Detail and Design from a solo endeavor to a full-service communications team.
At Nido, we’ve held quarterly community meetings to find out exactly what our members need and how we can adjust to meet their needs. When considering a change, we always ask the same questions - does this support our members? Does this support our mission? Is this sustainable for our business? There is nothing wrong with change, as long as it does not jeopardize the core mission of your business (unless, of course, it’s the mission that needs to change!). Evolving the way you do business keeps you responsive to your clients, builds your skill-set, and makes you a better leader.
2. Recognize where expectations are coming from.
One of the things that I have found most difficult about being a business owner is recognizing and owning the fact that we are responsible for the expectations we place on ourselves, and in turn, the expectations our clients have of us. It is up to us to decide what is important - no one else should decide that for us.
If you do find that you are contorting your own priorities in order to meet other people’s expectations, you may do well to follow Elizabeth Johnson’s advice on reevaluating the expectations you have set, even if it is uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s necessary to step back and ask ourselves what is really, truly important to us - what makes our heart sing and what work is the biggest amplifier of our own gifts and strengths. As a business owner, we are solely responsible for these decisions. By leaving the traditional workplace, we have also left traditional expectations - we are now the expectation setters.
3. Set intentions for your day, week, month, and year.
Any business owner knows that crises come up. Fires need to be put out. Urgent emails must have a response. But if we’re not careful, these sort of things can take over our days and, in turn, our lives and our businesses. It’s up to us to be proactive so that our goals do not get sidelined due to other people’s definition of “important.”
When it comes to putting this in action, I find that working backwards is the most effective method. Ask yourself where you want to be in one year (or five years!), and then work back from there. In order to get there in one year, where do you need to be in six months? In three months? Next month? Continue to break it down into identifiable milestones so that you know exactly what you need to be doing in any given month or week. Once you’ve done the legwork of mapping out your timeline, there is no need to ask yourself what you need to do when you sit down to work - you already know.
If you are a new business owner, I hope some of these things resonate with you. And more importantly, I’d love to hear what other critical lessons you’ve learned. On my journey as an entrepreneur, learning from others is one of the most important things I can do, and I’d love to learn from you.
TIffany Frye is Detail & Design's Social Media Strategist.