Starting a business is not for the faint-hearted. You will be challenged in every way possible and the responsibility always rests with you. But it is also an incredibly mind-expanding and fulfilling experience that will change you forever. Here are the top five lessons I learned through this experience – I hope you find them useful.
1. A “No” is never final
Rejection is a big fear for many of us. Often it is what stops us from pursuing our goals whether it be a new career or a potential romantic relationship. I have even covered this topic in another article (read “Change the way you think about rejection”).
You wouldn’t be human if you were not affected by rejection. But one lesson I learned quickly after launching Rama is that the fear of rejection can be tamed and a “No” is never final if you persist long enough.
I have sent literally thousands of emails promoting our products and most often I receive a polite “No, not at this stage sorry” or complete silence. The funny thing is, about half of our current stockists said they weren’t interested when we first contacted them. But after months of persisting and trying different tactics, they agreed to trial our products in their stores.
No one is going to find you and beg you for your amazing product (at least not to begin with). Keep showing up and take rejection as part of the game. Not everyone succeeds because not everyone is willing to put in the graft. Life would be boring if you heard “Yes” all the time, don’t you think?
2. Being sweet in business doesn’t work
It is a sad fact to admit but if you are too sweet some people will take advantage of you. Business is business and everyone is trying to get the best deal possible for them.
Of course, relationships are very important, and you can’t go around being rude to your business partners because you think they are trying to get one over you. I am just saying keep a wary mind. If people feel they can get away with murder, they will.
I remember when I was working at a law firm in London and it was always the most demanding clients that would be dealt with promptly. It is sad but that is how things work.
Don’t expect people to treat you well just because you are a nice person. Get everything in writing and be prepared for the worst. There are no friends in business!
3. Your business will give you courage
There are many horror stories about starting a business and although it is a very tough path, it is also one of the most rewarding. I have had times where I felt down for personal reasons (we all do, no one has a perfect life) and my business helped me through it because I did not want to let my customers down.
Even if all I wanted to do was to curl up in bed like a baby and wallow in my own misery, I had to wake up because I had an important meeting with a stockist, or I had to pack some orders.
Having a business gives you the courage to put one foot in front of the other when life gets sh*tty. I have spoken with many entrepreneurs who told me that their businesses helped them through tough times. The lesson here is when you find something you love it will give you a sense of purpose, something we all need.
4. Have the discipline to stop
Launching Rama taught me that you need time off or your head will simply fry!
When you work a 9-to-5 job you tend to have some type of work-life balance built – generally you aren’t expected to work outside of hours, and you get benefits like sick leave and paid holidays. When you start your own business, you don’t get any of these perks.
The work also grows and grows. The more you do, the more you learn what you can do. The work is a mountain that never stops expanding and a lot of the time it is up to you to get it done.
To combat this, you need to be selective in what you do. There is a phenomenon in the world known as the 80/20 rule whereby 20% of your effort gets you 80% of your results. When applied to business you might realise that 20% of your customers drive 80% of your revenue and that you should be focusing on them in order to grow your business. If you want to read more about the 80/20 rule, I have written a blog about it here.
You also need to recognise that you cannot be effective working yourself to exhaustion. You need to know when to stop working for the day. Eventually you will burn out and need an extended period away from work. By limiting the available hours for work, you will achieve more as you focus on priorities rather and than admin.
5. The more you give the more you will receive
Before launching Rama, I sought a lot of business advice and one piece that stuck in my mind was to not share my ideas because someone might steal them.
After launching Rama and meeting so many entrepreneurs I believe the complete opposite! I have found that the more knowledge I shared the more knowledge people were willing to share with me. There is enough room for everyone to succeed because everyone’s brand is unique to them.
I hope you found these hard-earned lessons useful! Please share your own in the comments section below.