Have you ever heard the saying, “ignorance is bliss”? That was pretty much the approach with which I started my business. I had just had my first baby and decided to study interior design by correspondence, adding to an earlier attained arts degree. I enjoyed it so much, I decided to chuck the corporate job in marketing (when maternity leave was up) and start my business in colour consulting and interior styling. I was going to build up a highly successful and profitable business around the kids and all within a couple of years!
I mean how hard could it be? I’m great with colour and people, I like providing good customer service, can source things like no-one else and am sensible, reliable and am ok with figures. All I had to do was go find some customers. Right? Ha!
If I’d known then the challenges I was going to face over the next five years, I may not have had the courage to continue with the dream, and gone back to my soul-destroying corporate gig and lived a boring life for the remaining years left to me. And yet here I am, about to celebrate five years in business, and loving (almost) every minute of it. The dream of building it to a bigger and better is still burning within and I’m pleased to say I am moving towards the fantasy goals slowly but surely.
Research, Research, Research!
Research your chosen industry and the marketplace so that your eyes are open and you are realistic about the challenges you will face. Having said that, if you’re willing to back yourself, you will find a way to make it happen. The difference in being aware, is that there will be fewer nasty surprises!
Build Your Skill Base
Most small businesses are run by people who may be great at the actual job, but have no real training or knowledge about running a business. And this was a bit of a rude awakening for me. I had never had to worry about the financials involved in a business as I had always worked in a large organisation with lots of staff and big budgets for marketing campaigns. As an entrepreneur, I suddenly had to handle EVERYTHING, while trying to do the actual creative work of interior design AND run the home and family. There are days I look back and think I had rocks in my head!!
But through experience and great support you get through these hurdles. I’ve had contractual issues, non-paying customers, been reported to Fair Trading, and had advertising that returned not a jot. And with each challenge, I have added to my terms and conditions, tweaked and improved my processes and financial reporting and have gotten a business coach.
As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your business skills. But be honest with yourself. What are your strengths and what areas do you need to develop. Put together a list with time frames for which to either develop those skills yourself, for example, MYOB training, or hire someone to get these things done for you, such as a virtual assistant.
Other areas to consider getting some training are marketing and customer service short courses. As your business grows, you’ll be able to employ people to focus on particular areas of your business and free you up to do more of what it is you enjoy. When starting out, most people have to be the Jack or Jill of all trades.
Persistence is Key
One of the main lessons I have learnt – which takes a lot of pressure off – is that you do not have to have THE answer to everything right here, right now. Trial and error is the name of the game. Whether it’s testing an advertising avenue or a Facebook campaign, the more experience you get, the clearer the path needed will become. Remember, it’s better to get it 80% right and active than striving for 100% right and never get the campaign under way. You also have more to lose if you don’t try then what you can gain if you do!
I once read an article about Anthony Pratt of Visy and he named persistence as perhaps the most important tip for success. You can have brains, money, and luck, but you won’t get through the hurdles without committing to the finish line.
I try to attend as many business events as I can to speak to others in a similar boat as me and learn tips from them. I try to read as many articles and blogs from quality sources for tips and inspiration. But there another great resource accessible to almost everyone – Youtube! There are so many how-to’s on Facebook campaigns, Google analytics, even Photoshop, that you often find answers in that direction. It is simply amazing what resources are out there when you start looking – you’ve found Start Up Australia, right?!
Monique Sartor is a Sydney-based interior stylist, who is somewhat obsessed with colour and things to make your home simply gorgeous. Her aim is to make the world a more beautiful place, one room at a time (while saving her clients time, money and angst)!
Check out her gallery, blog & shop here www.sartorialinteriors.com.au
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