#123 – 13 Lesson From Starting A Storytelling-Led Business
And it actually surviving!
Hi hi and happy new year! (I know, it’s late but I wasn’t in your inbox last week and wanted to wish you well for 2023—forgive the rule breaking).
A friend of mine reminded me a few days ago that my business, Ramsay & Co has done what 98% of new businesses fail to do: survived its first year. I sort of brushed it off with a shrug and a smile, but he forced me to pause and celebrate the win—being able to live and thrive based on this thing I developed and work to grow is a big deal. So I thought I’d start the year off by looking back a little. Taking stock after completing my first full year of running a business and helping others grow their own. There are so many lessons that were learned that I think are also worth sharing with you. So here they are 13 things I learned while running R&Co for just over a year.
1. It’s okay to go slow. This is a marathon not a sprint. I want to be here for longer than just a year, so I need ensure I don’t burn myself out trying to become the biggest and best the fastest. There’s no rush. This was a serious lesson of my burnout healing journey but also one I’ve taken with me as I worked to establish my business and started to grow it last year.
2. Avoid Comparison. This is a tough one. Especially as an entrepreneur and given how much our culture currently glorifies the always hustling, super successful influencer entrepreneur. It’s easy to get caught up in wondering what they have that you don’t. (The answer is often a few more years of a head start or invaluable personal connections). Comparison is human, it’s just essential not to get stuck in it or become hard on yourself because you think you’re not measuring up. You’re on your path and they are on theirs—you’re probably not even headed in the same direction so why stress yourself? (I ask myself almost weekly 🙄)
3. Stay connected with others on a similar journey. BUT it’s also so important to learn from people trying to do what you’re doing. Share your wins and your failures so you can teach each other and not feel so alone in it. Because running a business can be lonely if you let it be. It has become part of my job and weekly routine to reach out to folks and make time to connect around work with other non-client business owners.
4. Find your focus. Storytelling is a vast and beautiful thing. Something we all do to differing degrees. I feel lucky to get to help others do it well. With my background, I COULD dive into it in so many different ways. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. This past year of working with different clients and providing a range of services has allowed me to explore and start to nestle into a niche that feels right for me. I fill up with something special when I help folks share their career stories and will be trying to do more of that this year on top of helping business owners.
5. Prioritize the things you love and do it joyfully. The other side of this one is let go of the things you don’t. This is one of the BEST things about being an entrepreneur, you’re in charge. If I wanted to be miserable and unmotivated, I could go get a job doing something I hate. I chose this and I have to remind myself to continuously choose the joyful projects and people and not just chase a paycheque—that’s no fun and can be done anywhere.
6. Beware the lure of social media. It can be an important business tool but is also a time suck. It’s essential to find a balance that doesn’t waste your time and feels authentic to you and what you’re trying to do. I have timers set on my phone that forces me off it after 30 minutes every day and I do all my posting (with the help of a VA) on my computer.
7. Stay curious. Tied to which is always be learning. I invest in my development. I don’t know it all and I never pretend to. Especially when it comes to marketing and communications, there are new approaches to consider and try out and new tools and perspectives all the time. I try to stay open and learn as much as possible so I can pass that knowledge on to my clients. And stay flexible. It’s nice to have a plan. In fact I think they’re essential. But it’s also important to go in knowing things may not go according to it and that’s okay. Plans are a map with a route, but there are many routes to any given destination. Be open to them.
8. Organize your time in a way that makes sense for you. I use a calendar three of them in fact. I really encourage you to use a calendar. But this one is more about knowing your own unique rhythms. What time of day you work best—when you’re best able to do deep focus work and when you have the energy you need for meetings or any other element of your work. This is one of those bonuses of running your own business, you can take the time to understand your rhythms and organize your day accordingly. I wake up early, get my deep focus work done before 12, take lots of breaks, and use afternoons for meetings. And I don’t work Fridays, those days are for reading and creative exploration.
9. Experiment and be okay with failing. This is not a startup gimmick, I’m not telling you to fail fast. But it’s important to accept that you’re not always going to get it right. And that’s okay. I tried a lot of things in the last year. Some of them didn’t work out. But I learned from them. I made better things on the other side of doing them. This is tied to staying flexible because when things didn’t work out (for example not hitting my targets for course enrolment) it was a chance to evaluate, learn, and try again based on the feedback.
10. You can’t help everyone. It’s business and marketing 101, I teach it to my students and clients almost weekly. Yet I had to relearn it for myself in my business. While your product or offering could help so many people, as a marketer and business owner you need to get super specific on your ideal customer and help them first—the business will grow from there.
11. Some days you won’t want to do it. Seriously. I have had moments where I have said to myself, “ugh, must I?” And the answer was almost always, “yes if you want to keep living this life, you do.” Discipline is probably one of my core weaknesses, but it’s a muscle I’ve had to flex A LOT in the past year. Because even when you don’t want to do it, it has to get done in a business you want to last. Or in a career you want to grow. Studies have actually shown discipline is the one attribute consistently tied to success of all sorts. There were definitely days I had to say “not today,” and change my Fridays off to that day (usually a Wednesday), but that is also the beauty of running your own small business.
12. There’s nothing more valuable than a good bookkeeper and accountant. I know, this one sounds boring, practical, and not really the energy I like to bring to things. But when you’re running a business that you want to last a long time, you need to be on top of and stay on top of your finances. And it takes up a lot of time. The minute you can afford it, pay someone to manage your books and finances, they will save you 10x whatever you pay them.
13. It’s hard but worth it. This shit is hard. This path and the pursuit of a stable business that impacts people and the world in a positive way takes a lot. Especially if you’re on a path to do it in a sustainable way which I am. The unexpected challenges, the late nights, the money worries, the client worries, it can add up. But then one day I’ll look up from an afternoon walk in Mexico City and think, this is my life, I’ve created this space and freedom for myself—this is worth it.
I hope you find these helpful. They’re a good start for creating a solid foundation as you start to grow a business or career or anything else. These are my 13. I’m sure there are more. Let me know in the comments what’s one thing that has helped you establish and grow your business or career? Remember, these are the foundations and rules that will help make your story big and beautiful.
A Story Well Told
The New York Times did an amazing profile of pulitzer prize winning rapper, Kendrick Lamar, over the break. It gives a glimpse into his artistry worth spending time with. Whether your a fan of his music or not, it’s an excellent read and the story of a lifelong collaboration and legacy.