It’s been a little over a year since I started BlueByrd Strategic Sales and Marketing, and it’s safe to say that I’ve learned a lot since then. As I began reflecting on all the things that have happened, I thought why not share? Maybe my insight can inspire any fledgling entrepreneur out there and alleviate some of their fears.
Because yes, it is frightening to start something new, leave a well-paying career, and have no steady paycheck. I'm the main breadwinner in my family, so when I ventured out to start BlueByrd, I had this picture of me, my wife and son standing in a soup line and begging for money on the side of the road. That is an exaggeration to be sure, but realistically there's a lot at stake when you start your own company. So let me offer a little help beginning with my first bit of advice:
There’s a quote, "The hardest thing about walking on hot coals is taking the first step.” Once you're on the hot coals, your feet don’t burn as long as you keep moving. That’s the perfect analogy to starting your own business—once you take that initial step, you're kind of forced to keep moving. You have to keep pushing toward the goals you set for your business. Once you are doing that, you won’t have time to think about the “what-ifs.”
One of the tools that can help you meet objectives as you're pushing forward is called a vision traction organizer (VTO). A VTO is a tool used in the EOS process. It was really helpful for me because it helped me set my goals for the next three years, broken down by quarter. After that I was able to focus on the tactical things that were going to help me reach my goals, 90 days at a time.
When your bank account gets lower than the amount of bills you have coming in, it can be anxiety inducing for sure. You might realize like I did that some of your clients are slow payers. Even though I billed for a lot of services with the promise that the money was soon to come in, it was a little disconcerting when 90 days came and went and the payment (that was supposed to arrive 30 days ago) hadn't come in yet.
The worst thing that can happen to you is you run out of cash—that’s what kills most businesses. You have to be able to be conscious about billing and collecting your money whenever you get your business up and running. So if your clients are slow payers, fine. Use all the help you can muster to get paid in a timely manner and keep that cash flow rolling. Another tip: save money and keep it in the bank for the tough months. Have that little cushion to support you when clients take a long time to pay you or revenue gets low.
I’ve had the fortune to begin BlueByrd immediately working with three solid clients. That alleviated a lot of my worry because I knew that I would be able to have money coming in from the start. Plus, great clients not only support you, they're accommodating. They’ll see you as a partner and forgive your mistakes, which helps you to grow your business. You simply can't do great work unless you're doing work with great clients. And of course, you want to collaborate with people who elevate you and won't drag you down and waste your time.
Some clients will naturally push you out of your comfort zone, but that just makes the work a lot better. But there's a fine line between clients who are going to challenge you and make you reach your potential and those clients who just waste your time. You are tempted to work with anyone when you start up, but trust me, bad clients will end up wasting your time and you don’t have time to waste when you are starting up a business. It's better to find clients who value you and are going to be loyal and support you. Look for clients who are going to challenge you to do your best work.
This one is a no-brainer: Having a trusted group of people you can lean on makes all the difference in the world. There are a couple of big reasons. When you start your own business, you eventually get what I call decision fatigue. You're simply get tired of making decisions. I remember going out with my wife and saying, "You just pick the restaurant. Whatever movie you want to see, I don’t care." I'd been deciding things all day, and I just didn't care about making any more decisions, however small. When you have a network of friends, business people, and clients to help guide you, you can eliminate some of this mental exhaustion. You’ll be more present, more active. You’ll have more energy, and ultimately, you’ll make better decisions. As my Vistage Chair, Ken Proctor says, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
And of course, people in your network can also be a great referral sources for potential clients. If you are looking to build your business, it’s always those organic connections that turn out to be the most profitable and long-lasting. Remember what I just said about great clients? One of the best places to get introduced to great clients is through your network. You can’t do this without a great network of trusted friends and colleagues.
My dad told me something that he realized when he started his own business and began working for himself: his employee was a lazy bastard and his boss was a demanding asshole. And it’s true. That's the dynamic in a sole proprietor, start-up situation. Since I started my business, my boss hasn’t let me have a weekend off!
My question to you, if you do want to start your own business, is this: what are you doing this weekend? If the answer does not involve working on your business, you're probably not doing it right. You're going to be accounts payable and accounts receivable. You're going to be the CFO and the CEO. You're going to be sales and marketing. You're going to be human resources, office manager—hell, even the janitor until you have the cash flow to fill all these positions. So be prepared to work. You're going to have to roll up your sleeves and do everything for a while.
That’s just a few of my lessons learned, but there’s so much more. Be on the lookout for my next blog post, where I will share the rest of the top things I have discovered in my first 365 days. And on a related note, I’d like to thank all those whom I’ve referenced here in this post—my clients, my colleagues, my network, and most of all, my family. BlueByrd isn’t just me, it’s all of you. Until next time...
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