11 Non-Fluffy Lessons Learned from Being in Business 11 Years

It’s spring! A time to rejuvenate, to seize the day, to wake up early and to tackle goals. A season that also caused me to pause and reflect—putting thought to paper—and express, I hope, some honest, refreshing lessons about running a business.

In my eleven years of owning a PR agency, I’ve read hundreds of company executive articles on business motivation, finding inspiration from their adages, such as “If Opportunity Doesn’t Knock, Build a Door” or “Failure is Not an Option.” Although I live by many of these, they don’t necessarily reflect some of the business lessons learned from the cold hard facts of operating and managing an organization.

After more than a decade, I can tell you that the warm, fuzzy inspirational meme or pithy statement won’t inspire you enough when times are tough, decisions are hard and money is tight, which is why I put together eleven unapologetic lessons I’ve learned from being in business over the last 11 years. These insights keep me not only grounded but also profitable:

  • No One Cares About Your Business as Much as You – I am surrounded by supportive family, friends, and staff. However, none of them think about my company and the risks as much as I do. This is natural; they don’t have the same dedicated financial and time investment, commitments, and interests. However, I will sacrifice the most time and money to make my business succeed, regardless of the cheerleading along the way.
  • It’s Lonely Being a Sole Shareholder – While this is similar to my first point, a business owner (and/or its shareholder(s)) typically are the only ones truly privy to the cash flow, trends, peaks and valleys, and the only one(s) assuming all the risk. It’s difficult to bounce ideas off of others when there are limited true decision makers. (Although, this can have perks, too!)
  • Hustle When You’re Busy – Many businesses are cyclical and unpredictable. “Always Be Hustling” is a statement that rings true for me. When I’m slammed, I do try to network, for example, so that the “lulls” in business are few and far between.
  • Market Yourself – There are a handful of businesses where the clients, customers or leads just fall into place. For the rest of us, staying relevant and top of mind is constantly important. “No One Cares About Your Business as Much as You”; is as true as “No One is Always Looking to Throw Money Your Way.” You have to do the work.
  • You Have Competition – I’d like to think our agency is the best at what we do. However, there are a lot of fantastic agencies there, with great people, many claiming they can do what we can, even better. It’s important to know your competition and follow their activities.
  • Have Savings – Whether it’s a line of credit or personal savings, having money tucked away is a mandate. You will need it someday, and you never go broke by saving.
  • Don’t Lead By Democracy – I do like to ask others’ opinions. However, I’ve found that since others don’t have the same vantage point, it can be a slippery slope to make decisions by a popular vote. Taking others’ opinions into considerations is crucial, though.
  • Staff Will Quit – Even those who are happy at their jobs quit. They want to move out of the state or simply don’t have their heart in the profession. Plan on people quitting and move on.
  • Staff Listens, And Talk About You – I’ve always been surprised that even slight comments or actions are quickly picked up by others. I think it’s easy for business owners to forget their important title of role model.
  • Roll Up Your Sleeves – Whether it’s because the staff has quit, or because the job requires it, rolling up your sleeves comes with the territory, and I’m never too proud to be back in the batter’s box for big or small tasks.
  • Contracts Are Either Iron Clad or Garbage – Some people will find loopholes in contracts and find ways to take negative action against you, neglect payment or worse. Hire an attorney and have a flawless contract.