This month marks three years since I took the plunge and started Virtual Associate Services. Three years ago my daughter was still a bub, not sleeping anywhere except in my arms. And so, I juggled, snatching moments of working time while she was napping on me or gently peeling myself from under her to work at night.
I’m sure most business owners can relate to the feeling that those first few years have sped by, and yet it also feels like that version of me – the newbie fumbling her way through establishing a business – is from another lifetime! I didn’t have many examples of business owners in my life back then, so everything was a new and steep learning curve.
Naturally these milestones are a moment to pause and reflect. So, what would I tell my past self?
Your business brand needs to reflect your personality and ideal client
I guess this is top of mind because I am just emerging from a rebranding project that was four or five months in the making. It was prompted by a realisation that I was jumping on discovery calls that would go nowhere or were flashing me big red warning signs. And I realised that my brand did not reflect who I was and who I wanted to work with – so I was attracting prospects who just weren’t right for me.
When I started my business all I had to base a brand on was my experience in the corporate world. And so that is what my brand reflected. That lightbulb moment when I realised how mismatched my brand was to my ideal client led me through a soul-searching exercise to understand who I really wanted to be as a business owner.
Likewise, I didn’t have much of a clue about who my ideal client was. Which impacted all aspects of my marketing. I was pumping out blog articles and social media content, but it wasn’t getting much traction. And now I know this was because I wasn’t creating content that addressed my client’s real pain points. I was just writing content about the topics I thought were important.
It takes a little while for most business owners to figure out their brand and ideal client – I’m not saying you need to nail that from day one. But if you understand the importance of that alignment between your personality, your brand and your ideal client then you can be more aware of it as you build your client base and set up your marketing foundations.
Energy flows where focus goes
I am paraphrasing Tony Robbins here, but I think it is a universal truth. You need to have something to focus on to be able to direct your energy towards it, rather than being scattered. Running a business means there is always a long to-do list, always another ‘thing’ you need to be doing. Post more often on social media, launch a new service, build your email list, run that webinar, contact that prospect, update your website….it never ends!
It can be very easy to be distracted by the ‘shiny objects’ and spread yourself too thinly. That is why I recommend picking one or two focus areas for your business development each month or quarter and focus your energies on getting those done. Give them the love, time, and attention they need so you can see the results you want.
Set aside time to work on your business, not in your business
This is essentially what I help my clients do, so I need to make sure I walk the talk!
All business owners struggle with balancing the demands of delivering to clients with developing and growing their business. Client work puts money in the bank today, so it is easy to always prioritise it. But setting aside regular time to work on improving and growing your business can help you secure more income in the future. So, it is worth the investment.
Make sure you are also dedicating time to analysing the current state of your business, so you can make better decisions for the future. How are you tracking against some key metrics like revenue, discovery calls, website traffic, social media engagement, etc.
You need to treat that business development time with the same respect/urgency you give to clients. Block it out in your calendar, don’t reschedule it, and come with a plan so you can use the time wisely.
Do your research
Chances are you will find that you need to reassess your business fundamentals within the first three years as your business, market and services evolve. You might need to update your website, launch a new service, rebrand your business, or something else along these lines.
But my advice is to not rush into these things! Do your research first to understand the steps involved and how long they might take. Consider the best timing for these kinds of projects in regard to availability of specialists or how it might impact the flow of your own business. You also need to weigh up the pros and cons of doing these things yourself or outsourcing to a specialist.
I had no idea how big a rebranding project was when I jumped into it! First, I had to do the internal work to understand what I wanted my new brand to represent and refine my ideal client. Then I needed to find a graphic designer I liked, and they don’t always have immediate availability. Once the graphic design was done it had to be handed over to a web designer to update my website, who also don’t always have immediate availability. There was a lot of work involved for me too, making sure I updated my logo and colours and images across all the various social media platforms. I also hadn’t accounted for the timing of Christmas/New Year. If I had known what was involved beforehand, I probably would have waited a few months.
Let go of perfection
I will keep this one short – perfection does not serve you or your clients. All it does is delay progress and stop you from delivering value to the people who really need your help. No one is perfect. Businesses – and people – are always changing and evolving. Done is better than perfect.
Growth comes at the edge of your comfort zone
It’s a cliché we hear all the time, but that is because it comes from a truth! If you stay with what you know, what feels safe, what is easy, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to stretch and evolve.
Last year I took a big step out of my comfort zone to present at an online summit. It was nerve wracking and stressful, but the pay off in terms of my own confidence and was invaluable. Showing up on video is a challenge for lots of small business owners, but it is also an important part of building trust. Especially if you are a service-based business, who you are as a person is so strongly linked to your business and your brand.
So whatever it is about growing your business that you know is really important but it scares you silly, try to find a way to move out of your comfort zone – even if it is baby steps – to build your confidence.
Fill your own cup
Self-care is important for everyone. Women juggling motherhood with running a business need to pay attention to (and prioritise) their own wellbeing, because we can’t give our best selves to our families or our clients if we are pouring from an empty cup. We think we need to be able to do it all, but we don’t – or at least we don’t need to try and do it all on our own. Because when we take it all on ourselves and don’t carve out some time to replenish physically, mentally, spiritually, then our wellbeing starts to suffer. And it just isn’t sustainable.
So there you have it. Three years of challenges, mistakes and lessons learnt distilled into seven bite sized pieces of advice – how I wish someone had sat me down three years ago and walked me through each of these!
If you know someone at the early stages of building a business, please share this article with them. And if you have extra lessons to share, I would love to hear them!
Asking for business support is not a sign of weakness – it is a sign that you are ready to grow. If you would like to chat about how I can help you earn more, work less and get your life back book in for a no-obligation discovery call today.