4 Things I've Learned About Owning A Business
4 Things I've Learned About Owning A Business
Photo by Ivana Cajina
The transition from corporate America to self-employment was pretty rough.
I quickly realized that I had taken many things for granted, such as having my health insurance paid for. The American education system grooms us to be productive members of strong organizations, and that's all. Our schools do a piss poor job of teaching self-reliance, creativity, and quick thinking. We are taught to believe that if we aren't born with those traits, then we are SOL.
I don't claim to know everything there is to know, nor do I claim to be anywhere near as gifted as my family is in running a successful business.
What I do know is that I've learned a hell of a lot in one year.
1. People Skills Are Huge
This is by far the biggest thing that I still have trouble with.
I've always been more introverted, so dealing with the constant barrage of human interactions every day was a tough pill to swallow. But as you can imagine, running a customer-focused business means a LOT of human interaction.
Whether I was talking to customers, answering phones, calling vendors to place orders, or making small talk with my employees, there were days when I went home exhausted, feeling like I had accomplished nothing.
These little moments in my day felt like massive distractions when I first took over. I was coming from a job where I had one or two major projects, and no distractions in my way to having those projects done by their deadlines. I could go an entire day without speaking to a single coworker, which sounds crazy to me now.
I've realized that taking the time to have a short conversation with a customer, or greeting someone with a smile, or joking around with my employees can be way more important than spending hours trying to complete the pile of busy work I gave myself.
2. Learn How To Prioritize
When you're in school or working for someone, your entire workload is outlined and prioritized for you.
You're told what to work on, when you're expected to have it completed by, who to go to for help if needed, and how to approach the problem you're given. If you're given other assignments, you're also told which ones are more important and which ones can get pushed back.
There are no training wheels like this when you are running the show. You have to be able to prioritize everything not only for yourself but for other people as well. If you can't do this, you could end up wasting everyone's time and costing yourself productivity and money.
As a self-diagnosed control freak, it can be difficult for me to delegate things, but I had to learn in order to preserve my sanity. If I can offload certain things to other employees, that will help ease my workload and will make things easier to prioritize and accomplish.
3. Grow A Thick Skin
I have always been the type of person who wants to make sure that everyone around me is happy with the work I do. But that gets difficult when you have an irate customer screaming in your face, insulting you and your employees, and making vague threats.
You're never going to please everyone. I had heard this so many times before I started running a business, and I didn't really understand it. There had to always be a way to make sure everyone got what they wanted, right?
After dealing with customers literally crying in order to save $5.00, being threatened with physical violence, and having customers taking trash OUT of the trash cans to put on your office door as a way of voicing their displeasure, it finally sunk in.
You're never going to please everyone, and you're stupid if you try.
4. Act Quickly
One of the best ways to show your customers and employees that you care about their concerns is to act fast to address them. While some things do take a lot more deliberation and thought than others, the majority of the issues I'm met with have easy solutions.
It's important to seize these little victories as quickly as possible, not only to be attentive and help someone out, but also to make sure that these smaller requests aren't bogging down your main priorities.
Whether it's a good or bad review, a repair that needs done, or potential issues with employees or customers, quick and decisive action is absolutely necessary.
I'm not even close to perfect on the items listed in this post, but I am working on them every day. Owning and running a business is a lot harder than people may think, but it's even more rewarding. I've learned so much in my first year of entrepreneurship, which has helped to make me realize just how far I have left to go.