Every entrepreneur has a different story for how they came to run their own business, whether they inherited a company from family or associates, or struck out on their own with a dream of working for themselves, building something new that would inspire them professionally and give them the life that they always dreamed of. But no matter how different the origin story, the process of building your own business is a similar journey of growth and discovery for every single leader.
We asked business owners: What have you learned that you wish you’d known when you started out? Here’s what they told us.
Your business vision and values are invaluable tools
I’ve learned [things] about myself that have been invaluable in providing a deeper look into what it’ll take for me to be satisfied and confident with my business model moving forward. You can’t see the future of your business, let alone make it happen, if you can’t articulate your Primary Aim, Values and Brand Promise.
-Aaron Hague, Resilient Human Performance
Being an entrepreneur takes strength and resolve
You need a much tougher, thicker and durable skin than you ever imagined. You cannot be all things to everyone—you’ll let people down, you’ll fail people and they’ll make absolutely sure they tell you this and that you feel it. You need to be able to brush all this off and keep moving.
-Lisa, Business Owner
You don’t have to do it all—really
Just because I felt it was important that I did a specific task doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done by others. One thing that always comes to mind is when Mark, my EMyth Coach, tells me, “You’re the CEO. If you’re not working on the business, who is?” I now have a different perspective on the work I need to prioritize and get done as the CEO.
-Matt DeRuyter, Signs & Services Co.
You alone don’t have all the skills needed to run a business
I wish I’d known that an entrepreneur cannot know, cannot possess, all the skills needed to run a business. Had I realized that limitations are normal, I’d have sought out coaching sooner, developed a senior team earlier, not gone to the end of my rope before getting help. I had compassion for the client and team, but none for my [own] limits, and as a result, the team and the clients suffered, and I was pretty broken before I woke up. Knowing that I didn’t have to be all—that there were other people who would and could help build the company, processes and systems that would ensure quality work could be done without me doing it—would have taken a huge load off my back and enabled me to enjoy more quality of life.
-Janice Hughes, Hughes Communications, Inc.
It is possible to build an amazing team
You can hire talented people with values and goals that align with your business’ values and goals. In many cases, when the position is properly systemized, your employees can be better than you are at the tasks you eventually learn to delegate.
-Gregg Biché, Quality PM, Inc.
Systems save you from stress and wasted resources
I wish I’d known how important systems and processes are. So much of my anxiety, stress and inability to grow were directly related to not having any systems and processes in place to keep me organized and efficient. There was so much wasted energy and unneeded steps […] And had we had [systems and processes] in place from the beginning, I know we’d have grown much quicker and with less drama.
-Nolan Hong, POP Creative Media
You need to actively build and guard your personal time
Book off your time to rest and recover first, before anything else, and do not let anyone force you to negotiate these times. They are yours and you have a right to space. This also goes for home time. Make sure you are untouchable by your business, clients, staff, etc. when you’re supposed to be home with family. Build your bubble and protect that bubble with all your power.
-Lisa, Business Owner
Being your true self in the business is critical to growth
By manifesting yourself through your business, by being open, honest and curious to learn, you provide for your team a culture that embodies growth. Growth not only of the business, but for the team, the individuals and for yourself.
-Owner of Moonacres Farm
A mentor or business coach can be exactly what you need
I was thrown into business ownership without warning and/or adequate training, mainly hoping to keep the company moving and the employees actively employed. … I felt very alone and wished I had a mentor more than anything else, but had no idea where to find one. I searched in every possible area I knew for someone who could guide me within the industry, but everyone else seemed to be just as frantic. I’ve learned that having a business coach to help guide me to create the foundation and structure necessary for a thriving business is absolutely imperative. I wish I’d known in the beginning that I could find a business coach … And while I certainly had a chaotic level of growth and discovery while stressing and floundering on my own, my coach has given my growth and discovery order and a sense of direction.
-Bella Johnson, Kalo Clinical Research
What lesson have you learned since starting your own business? Share in the comments below.