So you’ve graduated or are close to graduating your chosen course. You’ve probably started thinking about how you’re going to translate your studies into a viable business – but where to start, right? When working with coaching clients, there are a couple of consistent small actions I find myself sharing. These tips are above and beyond the basic business needs like organising the following:
- modality insurance;
- a business name;
- finalising your qualification;
- opening a separate business bank account; and
- establishing a place of business.
In fact, riding the rodeo of small business is often associated with stepping right out of your comfort zone and learning to wear all the hats – finance controller, administrator, marketing to name just a few, all before you work as a practitioner! Crazy right? In my 15 years of running my own business, and 25 years of working for corporate businesses, I’ve learned to adapt my investigative and audit skills.
You’ve got to bring the focus right back to you.
Want to know more? Here’s my top tips to embrace your dream job!!
Tip number one is to ensure your focus is on you!
I know that sounds a little weird but the age old saying that “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is so true!
When you’re wearing all the hats in your small business, it can very quickly get overwhelming and exhausting.
Furthermore, when you work with people, you’re going to use a lot of your energy to maintain and hold space for another person. So, it’s a good idea to regularly review how you look after yourself.
Some people scoff at me when I advise that I book all my self care appointments in advance. Come each and every new year, I’m booking in appointments with the hairdresser, chiropractor, massage therapist, kinesiologist for the coming twelve month period. Why? Because I matter and when my bucket isn’t overflowing with energy, I don’t do my best work. So I book for me first, and then block these times out of my online booking system.
You need energy to maintain the ability to run the marathon that a business requires. So schedule time for yourself each and every day to nurture the energy you have. You’re going to need to be able to ramp this up in order to deliver your heart felt service.
So, if you’ve been feeling sluggish, I strongly recommend you re-assess how you’ve been caring for yourself.
Great food, movement and even moments of mindfulness (like meditation) all contribute to filling your vessel with self love
And don’t forget, before you started your small business you already had a life! You’re going to need to figure out how to balance your time and energy between business and everything else in your life – family, friends, sport etc. So remember this, focusing on you and your schedule is vital.
Your race your pace
In other words – schedule yourself first in your diary!
Tip number two is to ‘accept the to do list’
Two of the biggest lessons I’ve ever had to learn are (1) that the ‘to do’ list for business is ENORMOUS. And (2) the list NEVER ENDS!!!
Once you get your head around those two facts, small business is easier to get your head around.
Creating a ‘to do’ list is vital to ensure you align to all the tasks you need to complete in order to satisfy your business plan targets. Additionally, having a ‘to do’ list helps you prioritise what you do each day or each time you decide to work.
There’s a couple of tricks with a ‘to do’ list. Be sure to scratch off each completed task as evidence YOU CAN DO IT! Often we need visual sensory input to remind our motivation that we are making progress!
Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of the list. If the stress creeps in get it sorted pronto. There’s nothing worse than having stress to derail you away from the dream life you are trying to achieve.
When looking at your ‘to do’ list, be honest in your assessment of the tasks. Identify what is the most cost effective tasks for you to complete quickly. The reason I say this, is because there are going to be times you can engage a sub-contractor to get things done. They’re going to be quicker and more efficient that you, and they’re likely going to be cheaper than you wasting time figuring it out yourself.
So where possible, outsource small finite tasks so you can concentrate on being a practitioner, not a web designer! If your current budget doesn’t permit outsourcing, talk to your mentor about options.
Tip number three, get a mentor!
I learnt very early on, when I started working out of university, that what I learnt from books meant jack shit when it came to the real world. I had foundation knowledge, but I needed to learn how to apply it.
I was fortunate that when I started working in a government job, I had to pair up with everyone in the team to do my work. I was the youngest by at least fifteen years, so I was so gifted working within such an experienced team.
This meant I learnt different tips, tricks and methods to approach all manner of different facets of my job. This also meant that I got good at checking the ego at the door, and, asking for help when I was stuck so that I didn’t fall behind in my work.
There is no possible way you are ever going to know everything on how to run a business when you start out, or even when you want to grow it.
The learning curve when starting your small business is extremely steep, and, can often feel very lonely and overwhelming. I find the trick is to accept you’re running a marathon, and pace yourself accordingly. If necessary, break down the task into small actions (hence the ‘to do list’) and schedule them into the diary. The list often helps me identify that what I initially thought would be a ‘quick and easy’ gig turns into something much more time consuming. So, it all comes back to the planning.
Additionally, scheduling these small actions into my diary helps me map out the prioritising of tasks each week. My forward planning improves as I gain understanding and experience of implementing actions. This helps me not overload my expectation of what I can reasonably achieve in a single week, whilst still being a member of a family and friendship circle. Remember the balance and focus on you!!!
I’ve got three mentors who I regularly touch base with for various reasons. One for money who has helped me gain understanding of profit and loss, turn over and budget forecasting. I’ve got a marketing mentor who has assisted me enormously to step out of my comfort zone and through social media show the world who I am. And I have a third mentor whom I refine the application of my technical knowledge.
Why would I want to waste any more of my time in learning things my mentors have already mastered? It’s a complete waste of unpaid time and energy to attempt to resolve the ‘hard stuff’ all by yourself and work yourself into a stressed-out meerkat.
Additionally, picking someone’s brains will navigate a path that often avoids a mistake they made in terms of learning lessons. This navigation is invaluable to the small business operator, who’s cash flow is often not high and trying to keep overheads low and do things yourself.
I strongly suggest in your first year of business, invest and book in regular touch bases with your mentor or mentors! They have helped me stay on track and kept me to task in terms of my strategic business plan and the targets I set myself. They also shared with me their contacts of subcontractors of who helped them. This was extremely useful because it meant I could use a model already created- rather than paying to reinvent the wheel.
Now that I coach myself, I’ve got standing arrangements with my virtual assistant who I send my biz clients to and we arrange the fabulous Deb to “do the same as Karen”. I’ve already consented to reapplication of my material with a change of brand. It’s lovely to pay this forward and help out those in my network where I can. Afterall, we are all ambassadors for change in our own way!
Here’s the classic mentor questions you could ask:
- Have someone you trust in your corner for support
- There’s no harm in asking “what did you do when this happened?”
- How do you approach this?
- What are the words you use?
- What do I need to be mindful of?
- Is there someone I can outsource this to?
Top tip number four is have a strategic plan
The strategic business plan helps you identify the four most important facets of your business:
- Forecast budget;
- Professional development;
- Brand; and
The plan helps you to identify a realistic forecast target (what you are capable of making if every appointment is filled) and subsequent spending budget.
I find my strategic plan is exceptionally useful in driving at what points of the year I can afford to study, or, place my focus on marketing because my forward bookings are down.
It’s vital to ensure you have ongoing professional development – yep more study. This keeps you apprised of developments in your field. It also provides new stimulus for you and your clients. Additionally, you build your network with every course you participate within.
The strategic plan helps you look ahead each month or quarter and identify the big gaps in your booking calendar. Where there are gaps, this is the signal to communicate now with your network to generate conversation about you and your services. Identifying who you will bring into your network each year is vital, as this steers where your business will grow both in demographics and services provision.
The best thing I love about my strategic plan is that it’s not complicated – it’s one page! Yep, one page. Most people I work with are baffled by this. My plan provides me a rapid overview of where I want to take my business each quarter.
I get to review it easily and quickly each quarter. It literally keeps me on track in terms of where I invest my energy and efforts. Often when I am reaching for the stars, I can share elements of my plan with either my mentor or virtual assistant to give them the heads up that I’m going to be talking to them more often in a given time period. This is often the impetus for me to schedule time out of clinic to meet with these contacts to ensure I get all the actions done. There’s nothing more satisfying to a control freak who loves to plan, than ticking stuff off the to do list.
Top tip number five is ‘be prepared’!
Being prepared for absolutely everything and anything to be thrown your way.
Small business is like riding a roller coaster. There’s the euphoric highs, and nauseating low times. There’s the thrill of the bends and turns and surprise of the view from the top. There’s the poo inducing feeling when you step out of your comfort zone and your outlook on life changes and you realise you really can do it.
And be prepared to back yourself and that dream you had when you first started studying.
So be prepared for a long list including but definitely not limited to:
- Stepping out of your comfort zone
- For big lessons about who you really are and what motivates you
- Heartache and frustration
- Sleepless nights
- Judgement from family and friends thinking you are NUTS to follow your dream because it’s hard work
- Joy from working with repeat clients
- Elation from seeing clients change because of your service.
In my experience the first step to small business is believing in yourself and what you plan on offering. Don’t allow anyone to pull you off your path. Surround yourself with awesome, and, call in the abundance! When stepping out of your comfort zone, be sure to have someone experienced in your corner to help you ride the rodeo!
Always remember you can choose to change and embrace the real authentic practitioner within, and bloom from within.