The Hardest Thing About Starting a Business?

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I was in a reflective mood recently, thinking about my own business and how it is different from the corporate role I left 18 months ago.  A lot of things are different but what really struck me is the biggest challenge I face every day.  The challenge of not knowing.  At first it was how to set up my business.  Then how to generate business.  My best clients came from chance conversations and I still don’t know where the next one will come from.  I need to have a good working knowledge of every aspect of running my business.  I’ve never worked in roles requiring deep sales and marketing skills.  I can go on and name many others.

It can be very uncomfortable

There are times when it feels very uncomfortable.  I question whether I am doing enough or doing the right things.  When I don’t know, it is easy to fall into the story of not taking action because I don’t know how to proceed.  Alternatively, I can follow the well trodden path of working harder.  At least nobody can say I’m slacking off.

Figuring out how to know

There is an alternative.  As my coach Bob Dunham taught me, when we don’t know, we need to act in order to know, to learn.  By doing this I can figure it out the most challenging things.  Here are four things that serve me well when I get stuck and I’m not sure how to proceed.

  1. Ask for help.  If I don’t know, there is always someone else who does.  I recommend hiring a guide who knows the territory.  I have enrolled a sales coach and he is accelerating my learning and helping me practice.  (Coaches do have coaches.)
  2. Be willing to admit I am a beginner.  If we believe we are smart, there is no space for learning.  We don’t ask questions when we should for fear of looking dumb.  The opposite is true.
  3. Always be testing and do so with intention.  This one comes from Seth Godin.  He is the master of trying things out and learning.  Set up experiments.  Define what you expect to happen and track to see if it does.
  4. Be ok with making mistakes. This is the most powerful way I am learning.  I have made some very large mistakes and it would have been easy to get down on myself.  This is often my initial my reaction but after stepping back and reflecting, I quickly recognize the real value is in the learning.

Embrace learning

One of my reasons for taking this path and starting my business was to force myself to learn.  I have not been disappointed, I have learned so much.  Not having a regular wage is a great motivator to figure things out!  That said, you don’t have to take the same path as me.  If your current role feels very comfortable, ask yourself what are you learning.  Is now the right time to shake it up?  Can you take on a project in a different area?  Is it time to explore a new position?

Have you stopped learning?  Watch out, it will catch up with you sooner or later.