Earlier this week I noted that sustainability needs a lot of entrepreneurs, and supplied the first half of my best tips for them, gleaned from twelve years of owning and operating my own business. Here’s the second half. Feel free to add your own suggestions and experience!
Be willing to continually improve your product or service, or even change it altogether if needed. You probably have an idea of what customers should be buying from you. (I certainly did.) Your customer probably most wants something that’s somewhat different – and then that will soon change, right after you master doing it. And the market will change. Be light on your feet and embrace change. Businesses that survive are the ones that evolve.
Spend most of your time on activities that generate income. Ask yourself: does this task, this phone call, this email, help me generate income? If it doesn’t move you closer to generating income, do instead a task that will, despite it being less fun or interesting.
Be prepared for a lot of solitary work. It’s a fact: self-employed people tend to work largely by themselves. Are you a person who performs well that way? If not, how can you craft your top performance? Some people are energized by working in coffee-houses with wi-fi and stepping outside to make phone calls.
Pick up the phone instead of relying on email. Email is over-used, with many emails ignored or never opened. Phone calls are generally a richer, more powerful medium for making something happen. If someone doesn’t know me, I never assume they will open an email from me. If they do know me, I still assume that my subject line must be well-crafted, specific and oriented toward them and their best interests (not necessarily me and my interests). If I really want action, I call them up.
Get smart people around you. I found advisors, sometimes quite ad-hoc and informal, who cared about my success and financial health, and who had the objectivity I lacked. They gave me ongoing, external reality-checks on financial viability and best practices. The feedback and brainstorming sessions I had with them greatly improved the health of my business. They also made it more fun.