We feel like we have been drinking from the fire hose called Small Business Start-Up for the last year. It's exciting to look back and see how much we have learned and how far we have come. As we take time to reflect on our small business journey we have decided that starting a business feels a lot like going on a road trip.
- There is a ton of preparation to do before you even hit the road - picking a route, researching, packing, shopping, the list goes on and on. The same is true with starting a business. You need to have an idea, do a bunch of research (competitors, clientele, legalities, etc.), acquire the tools of your trade, get a client base and... Like planning a road trip, the things to do before you actually begin seem never ending.
- No matter if you just bought your atlas yesterday (remember paper atlases?) or have the most state-of-the-art GPS, you just might get lost along the way. Things like traffic jams, accidents and road closures all have a way of sneaking up on you and potentially throwing you off course. Starting a business has its own version of getting lost. You may suddenly find yourself having to spend all your time on the administrative tasks and not the thing you started your business to do. Or maybe one day you get paralyzed by fear and fall into a two-week Netflix binge as feelings of impending failure wash over you (dramatic yes, but it can happen). Whatever it is that gets you off course, stop, breathe, re-orient yourself and then keep moving forward. Although it may not be the exact route that you envisioned, it can still produce good things for your business.
- As you venture into new cities and down random unmarked roads you will undoubtedly stumble upon cool things and people you didn't even know existed. Stopping off at local coffee shops and taking side roads instead of the freeway will lead you to Ms. Charlotte, the gregarious town diner owner or to the the world's largest ball of twine (who knew that was a thing?!). The Ms. Charlottes and balls of twine for your business might be the client you never saw coming your way or the conference filled with like minded people you didn't know were there. Keep your eyes open and be willing to take a pit stop at some random places along the way - you never know what little gems you might find.
- Car problems will be inevitable. Need we say more? No one sees that flat tire coming or anticipates the smoke streaming from under the hood. Likewise, you don't plan on a slump in paying clients, or sinking money into new equipment or unexpected software fees. The only thing you can do is prepare the best you can. Get the right kind of insurance, talk to your financial planner, set money aside each month for emergencies, but at the end of the day remember that unexpected things are a part of life and they will happen. Don't let them throw you off course or into the pit of despair (any Anne of Green Gables fans out there?). Again, these things become part of the adventure and may lead you to places, people or experiences you didn't know were out there.
- You'll get frustrated or annoyed (or both) at your road trip companions (aka partners and clients) from time to time. Maybe your friend in the back seat won't give up control of the music selection, or the navigator thinks they can decide where every pit stop should be. People are people and we don't always get along. Whether it's a bad day, relationship drama or family crisis, we all have bad days, moody days, sad days, you get the point. You and your business partner won't always see eye-to-eye. Your clients won't always love what you produce and may even ask for changes you don't agree with (gasp!). When these kinds of things happen, and they will, don't be discouraged. It's just a part of the game. Take 5 minutes to breathe (and maybe sip a cocktail) and then jump back into the adventure that is running your own business.
(And one last thought, remember that good music and delicious snacks are a must for all great road trips and small business start-ups - oh, and caffeine may just become your new best friend.)