5 Eye-Opening Realities That New Small Business Owners Need To Know
As someone who has gently dipped their toes into the world of business ownership, I can say without a doubt that it is one of the wildest emotional rollercoasters I've ever ridden.
When you're first opening up shop, signing all of the legal paperwork, and printing business cards, it's fun. Confidence is high because you haven't had an opportunity to fall flat on your face yet. The first week or so, you're getting a sense of your surroundings and making plans for meeting potential clients. Emails are flying out of your outbox so fast that you forget to eat lunch and skip dinner repeatedly, instead opting for a strong coffee and a few Saltines. You've told yourself very matter of factly that "I have work to do and I'm not going to let a few measly meals get in the way, dammit!"
Between weeks 2-3 you're still feeling pretty good, but you thought you would have heard back from some leads by now. You're starting to sweat a little bit, but no worries because you haven't even been in business for even a full month yet. You'll start panicking around week 8 if things go any further south.
You notice that your website could use a little tweaking to help attract more visitors. You do a little A/B testing, feeling pretty confident that you know what you're doing and lo-and-behold, it works! You get 100 new visitors in the first 24 hours. Thanks to your Google Analytics knowledge, you made a smart business decision. You can go home happy, crack open a beer, and buy yourself a new pair of shoes from Zappos.
By week 6 you're really starting to feel the burn. Only 5 of your 30 leads have responded to your email and none of them are interested in your service. They tell you gently that they "appreciate you reaching out to them," but they can't afford to take on any extra expenses. Damn! That sucks, but what can you do except reply back and thank them for responding.
Week 7 is an especially dark week. You look at your web analytics and your website visits are at an all-time low, your bounce rate % is too high, and you have zero conversions. Ok, now it's time to freak out a little bit!!! So not only are your leads turning down your offer, but no one is paying attention to your custom built site either. Yeah, that same site you paid a lot of money for and made recent "improvements" to. At this point, the money you've spent on your business versus what you've brought in is about 1,000 to 1.
The good news is that nothing can break you. You understand better than anyone that if you give up then you'll never know how successful you could have been. You know that the reason most small businesses fail is because the owners retreat too quickly. You have tasted humble pie before in your life and although the thought of eating it again makes you gag uncontrollably, you realize you have no other choice. Open up and say "Ahhhhhhhhh"!!!
This post is semi-autobiographical. Being a business owner is difficult physically, emotionally, and mentally, but those who persevere through the hardships often prevail. I think a lot of people get into business in order to become their own boss, make their own hours, make decent money, and live a glamorous Mark Cuban lifestyle. As I write this blog post at midnight on a Tuesday, I realize that I have no other option. My day is filled with emails, phone calls, consultations, typing up estimates, sending invoices, etc. and very little time is left for blogging. The reason I choose to stay up and write is because I care about building a brand, a reputation, a community of like-minded individuals. One day, it will pay off in dividends and I'll be chilling on the Google mega yacht, eating grass-fed Unicorn and jet skiing with my best friend Dave Grohl, but until then, I have to keep grinding. No crying. No pity parties. Just hard work and dedication. In this scenario, the good guys/girls can and will win.
Here is a very small, summarized list of 5 depressing realities of being a new entrepreneur:
- Customers aren't finding you & you're spending a lot of energy finding them
- Longer hours w/ few breaks (forget your typical 8 hour/day job)
- Target audience seems to lose interest in your service
- Spending way more money than what you're bringing in
- You quickly realize that you have no one to blame but yourself if you fail
Despite the depressing aspects of entrepreneurship, you will see little glimmers of hope that will hopefully turn into big business. The lesson to be learned here is to not give up. It's too easy to do that. If something isn't working in your business, then immediately fix it and if it can't be fixed then ditch it and change paths. The key to maintaining your status as a relevant business is that you offer your customers something useful. Whatever you do, make your value shine so bright that customers will go blind if they stare at it for too long. Depression is a common side-effect of business ownership, but don't let it get between you and success. You're the boss, dammit! You have the last say in every decision and of course you're bound to make some mistakes, but you're only human and you'll learn quickly from them.
Just remember that you aren't alone in this fight and there are a lot of supportive folks trying to do the same thing that you're doing. Don't feel ashamed to reach out to your social community and ask for help or advice. We sure as hell do! Like... a lot!
-Chris Parks, Owner of Founding City Social
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