Ep. 16: Business Advice from Entrepreneurs Like You

Do you ever find yourself saying, “If I knew then what I know now, there is no way in HELL that I would be doing this”? You really start questioning, truly, if I knew all the things when I started that I know now, not only would it be debilitating, but it would most likely stop you from doing all the things that you’re ultimately going to achieve.

This week on The Gutsy Podcast, we’re going to dig into insights from some other rock-star entrepreneurs. A few months ago, I put out the question to my network and said, “What guidance do you wish that you had when you started a business?”

You know, ignorance is bliss, but there’s also some things and guidance that if you can prevent certain things or go in with a little bit more mental ammo, you can make better decisions quicker and maybe even just have a broader perspective on the entire situation.

Here’s the other thing about the perspective of time (which honestly blows my mind in all capacities), we are capable of a whole lot more than what we give ourselves credit for. And oftentimes the obstacles and even opportunities show up in our life when we are ready to embrace them.

So if you’re, you know, one year into your business, three years into your business, 15 years into your business – if you were faced with all of the things that you have been through in the course of that time, if you were faced with those things when you started today, it would crumble, right? Because you wouldn’t have the right time knowledge, know-how, real-world experience – whatever the case may be. You would not be mentally or physically prepared to handle those things because it’s just simply not the time.

And every step of the way is a building block on the previous one. Right? So as I’m talking, I’m looking around in our office right now and I think about the challenges that came with that and building out the office and the timelines and the finances and all the things that came along with that.

If I had tried to process all of those details 11 years ago when I started the business, I would have freaked myself out because I’m like, I can’t. At that point, I didn’t even understand like fully how to create a functional website to promote myself. So how on earth was I going to mentally handle the weight of all the that came along with an office filled out? There was no perspective.

So for instance, if you’re in an airplane, you’re going 500 miles an hour, but you’re so far away from the ground that the perspective skews how fast you’re actually going. You look at the clouds and they go by you and maybe in a super far distance you see another airplane go by, but you don’t know that you’re necessarily going 500 plus miles an hour because there’s no perspective. But if you were, you know, let’s say 50 feet off the ground in a jet going 500 miles an hour, you’re going to be like, holy shit, this is really fast. I feel like everything’s going to like fall apart. This is the end.

Business isn’t any different, right? If you could see everything that you knew you were going to embrace, it would freak you the hell out. And not saying that these are all necessarily bad things, but even the successes you’ve had and how you’re going to handle and manage those things and the growth of your team and yeah – there’s just so many different dynamics. Guess what? You don’t need to know what’s in the future. But what’s super powerful about some of these things is it’s just little bugs – little seeds that I want to plant in your head. So that as you are learning and growing and expanding, you keep some of these instances in mind.

Kind of like a mentor. Mentors give you really great advice. They don’t tell you how to do things or when to do things, but they kind of guide you through this. So think of these next couple of insights as a mentor. These are things for you to just kind of consider as you’re going through your journey. All right? So let’s get into these things. Grab your notepad, grab your pen, get in a comfy chair. I want you to absorb these the best that you can.

So Karmen Spear says that “it’s not your job to make other people happy. It’s your job to help them be successful. If you focus on their successes, even tough conversations are easy.”

All right, let’s dissect that because I think this one is super powerful.

It’s not your job to make people happy. I think that’s such an easy thing to get roped into, whether it’s clients or family or friends or your teammates or whatever the case, we take on the role that it’s our job to make people happy.

Happiness is not something that you can teach. It’s not something that you can force on someone. But from a leadership perspective, yes, happy people are super wonderful, right? Like when everything’s going well, everything’s going well. But when it gets kind of down to brass tacks, it’s really your job to help them be successful by holding them accountable, by standing up for them, by giving them the tools and the resources that they need to be successful.

Setting goals are super important. Like if nobody knows what they’re working towards, how do you know that you have achieved anything? And I think the second part of what Carmen says is that when you are focused on their success, even the tough conversations are easy. So when you have set those goals, you’ve set the parameters, you know what everyone’s working towards, and it becomes super clear if someone or something gets off course right? It stands out like a sore thumb because hey, this is not what we talked about. This is not where we’re headed. We need to stop and reroute.

When you hold those things accountable, even when you have to have tough conversations, it’s not just based off of feeling. It’s based on facts at that point. So if something gets derailed, you can say, hey, we need to have this conversation because this is not going in the direction that we have already discussed. So it’s not talking on feeling or I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. It’s holding you accountable to help them be accountable in their own successes. These are really important things to remember, particularly as you’re growing a team.

Being the boss is some hard shit. Like it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it has only been hard because I have allowed myself to get way too into the weeds of my own emotions and how things feel and accommodating people and blah, blah.

No, this is not what great bosses do. It’s not what great leaders do. Great leaders build other great leaders, invest in their successes, and hold them accountable to it. You don’t have to carry the weight of all of the worlds that you have created around you. You’re going to be surrounded by some really incredible people that are more than willing to step up to the plate and say, what can I do? How can I help? And that begins with you creating that type of culture and atmosphere within your organization.

Matt Johnston. So Matt is what we call and what we’ve branded him as Matt The lawyer, he is our attorney and lawyer and helps us with all things legal. He says, “don’t compromise who you are just to get cash in the door. It’s better to fail at business than to fail at Your own principles.”

Can I get an amen sister? Okay, so it’s really easy, especially when cash flow is, you know, like tumbleweeds in the night, it’s so dry that you’re just willing to take on whatever the next great thing is. Even if that next great thing is actually really bad for you. So taking on a client that doesn’t fit right, taking on a budget project that you know you’re going to pour your heart and soul in, but their budget’s not aligning with yours, but you’re willing to take it because hey, that’s cash and cash is cash.

Sometimes it’s people, sometimes it’s project, sometimes it’s events. You know sometimes when you’re in that like oh shit mode, you just kind of grab whatever’s on the table in front of you and it’s so easy to do that, but it’s even more important to recognize that and hold yourself accountable to say, no, I’m not going to compromise who I am who are businesses and what we offer just to get a quick buck in the door.

Those things take up time. They take up energy, they take up mental space, and they also take up capacity for you to be able to actually take on the right clients at the right time with the right budgets who are going to give you a lot more fulfillment and you’re going to serve them a lot better, too. I would even be as bold to say that I bet 100% of the time you take on someone you’re not supposed to, either you or them ends up feeling like something didn’t go well – like dissatisfied, uncomfortable. Someone feels like they got the short end of the stick.

Be mindful of when you’re in those dry spells, in the dry seasons. And when opportunities show up, make sure they are aligning with your core principles and values of the things you offer and how you typically do business.

All right. Tony Williams from Beacon House says that “friendships don’t always make good business partners.

So many amen moments with this. I mean, okay, so let’s just break this down.

Friendships and business partnerships are very, very different things. So a lot of times people have good intentions until they don’t or until something comes up and they don’t know how to handle it. So when you go into a business partnership, it’s kind of like going into a marriage. You have to agree on things, you have to argue through things, you have to work through challenging situations and make decisions together on how to better your business. When you do that with a friend, there’s an entirely different dynamic that comes along with that.

Friendships as business partners, as entity partners, creates a lot of opportunity for miscommunication, assumptions, worry, holding back because you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, kind of tending to dance around situations. And unfortunately, and I’ve seen it happen way too many times, those friendships end up dissolving. And a lot of times in the cases that I have seen, they end up not being friends anymore. And that’s a really unfortunate situation.

So if you’re considering going into business with a friend as a legal business, I want you to really evaluate that and ask what’s more important to you, the business or your friendship. And it’s not that these types of situations don’t work. I have seen lots also work, but it takes a lot of work on both sides. Again, very much like a marriage to say, hey, there’s a middle compromise. We have to set ground rules. We have to know when we’re on when we’re off and not blur those lines.

Shelley McIntire from McIntire HVAC says that “what you allow will continue.”

Let me just say that again.

What you allow, will continue. That is like a freaking brain Ninja because I have read this one over and over and over and it couldn’t be more accurate. Half of business is conditioning people that are around you, whether they’re doing business with you, they work with you for you. It kinda goes into the concept of if you see something, say something. Because if you don’t address the situation, if you don’t get to the core of a problem, if you don’t express a process or expectations or standards, then people can’t follow those things and they can’t learn and they can’t grow.

So if you’re not voicing them, they don’t know that something needs to change or evolve, which means that previous behaviors are going to continue in the same sense. Toxicity in your workplace – if you allow it, if you don’t address it and kind of nip that shit in the bud, it’s going to continue and actually it’s going to grow and it’s going to fester and it’s going to create a larger situation that’s way more difficult to deal with.

So Shelley’s second piece of advice is to “examine your staff regularly. If you wouldn’t hire them again, then why are they working for you today?”

You may have been the founder or maybe you have purchased a business. Maybe you’re the person kind at the front of the line. But it’s your team and your culture that is really the heartbeat of your company. If you have anyone on your staff that is putting unnecessary tension, toxicity, or pressure on that heartbeat, trying to get that heartbeat to stop or to contaminate other people to get that heartbeat to stop, then why are you allowing that behavior in your organization? Because it’s easier not to deal with some of those feelings, right? But again, as Shelley said, what you allow will continue.

What are some non-negotiables for you? What are some deal breakers?

I really want you to evaluate the things that you’re currently allowing in your life, personal business, and even with yourself. You owe it to yourself and everyone around you to rid of toxicity and get to the root of the problem so that everyone can get back to the root of the why.

Jason Rappaport from Innovative Incorporated says to “create an annual budget and reexamine it monthly. You have to have the discipline to adhere to it.”

If you tuned in a couple of weeks ago in episodes, well, when I talk about my Five Biggest Business Mistakes, um, what Jason was talking about here is one of them. And I did not know my numbers. So if you don’t understand your numbers, and when I mean by that is your income, your expenses, your profit margins, what does it cost you to operate on an hourly basis, what do you need to survive, what is your baseline, how much do you need in the bank as a cushion.

I spent a lot of years just kind of winging the numbers, knowing enough to know enough and maybe kind of be dangerous, but not really like the depths of it. So I have spent the last couple of months just really wrapping my head around the numbers and I feel more empowered now than I ever have. Which gives me the power to be able to change situations, undo some of the past crap that I’ve unintentionally created, and get us to a place where we’re thriving.

So I want to encourage you to really understand your numbers. If you’re a numbers guru, you’re already doing this. You’re like, check, let’s get onto the next thing. But if you’re not, you’re thinking, oh, this is like my least favorite thing on the planet to do and trust me, I hear you because if I don’t have to look at another number ever again, I would not argue that.

But as a business owner, as a human being, it is your responsibility to understand your livelihood. And as much as we don’t want to admit it, money plays a direct role in our lives. No, money cannot buy happiness, but it most certainly can give you a lot more breathing room and flexibility in your life, which in turn allows you to be more healthy and happy in your life.

Kim Dow from SAS Magazine says that “you don’t have to do things the same way that other businesses do it. What works for them may not work for you. Just study and learn from them, but then pave your own path.”

Yes, yes, yes. It is so easy to get caught up in this is how business is done. It’s like there’s this fictitious book on the planet that says here are the ground rules of how to run a business and you must abide by them, otherwise, you are not successful.

It’s kind of like parenting. Honestly, I talk about my business is like my second child all the time. There is not like this grand one way to parent, right? Like the way that you parent is not the way the next person parents. If everyone parented or ran businesses the exact same way, one, it would be boring as hell around here and, two, everything would be expected, right? Like if everyone’s doing the same thing at the same time in the same manner, like I don’t know – it’s just not the way that the world works.

So when you’re running YOUR business, I want you to really think about that, too. You know, if you are in a landscaping company, if you’re looking at all the other landscapers and saying, well, they’re successful. So for me to be successful, I must do the things that they are doing.

Uh, what’s going to make you different and successful in your OWN business is by carving your OWN path and doing things the way that serves you and your clients best. Just because something worked for ABC Landscaping across the street doesn’t mean that that’s going to work for you because you’re serving different customers. What’s important to their people may be different than what’s important to your people.

So if you find yourself hitting a brick wall and the way that you’re doing business or in your processes or in your standards, I want you to kind of take a step back and say, am I doing this the way that I truly would want to do this or am I doing this in a way that other people think that I should do this?

Have you ever heard the saying be you – everyone else is taken. Yeah. Well, the same applies in your business as well. Be your own business. Every other business is already taken.

Mary Kate from Mary Kate McKenna Photography says that “building solid relationships takes years. You may not see that extra mile effort pay off right away, but it’s worth it in the long run.”

You’ll hear me talk a lot about planting seeds because the things that you’re doing today, you may not see the results for weeks, months – sometimes even years. But every time you show up to something – every interaction that you make with someone, every email that you exchange, any type of interaction that you have with other people – you don’t know who knows who. And I’m always fascinated by the fact that there are people watching. People you don’t even realize, and not in like a weirdo, creepy way, but think of all the people that you follow on Facebook or Instagram that you have never made contact with, but you idolize them. And then when the need arises, maybe you have an opportunity to reach out to them.

How many people do you think are watching you right now? How many people are following you on Instagram silently or reading the things that you’re writing or following your journey in your life or your business? You never know when those people are going to actually turn into something else. Sometimes they turn into friends, sometimes they are connectors to get you to someone else. Sometimes they become clients. Sometimes you just literally inspire someone. And if that’s the only interaction that you have with them, then I feel like you’ve probably done a pretty awesome job.

Try not to underestimate the power of being present with people. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have had the opportunity to speak at an event and you know it went well and I met some great people and that was that.

And then how many people kind of slowly trickled in over the months and even years to say, “Hey, I heard you speak at this conference and you inspired me by saying” blank. They repeat it back to me, which is fascinating. And then before I know it, maybe they’re our next client or maybe they know someone that could utilize our services. Be patient with relationships and know that everything and everyone is an opportunity.

And lastly today, Kathyrn Gratton, who is a volunteer SCORE says to “be humble and ask for help from people who have a skill set that you don’t have.”

My friends, the art of delegation is one of the most beautiful things that you will ever learn in this journey because when you start your business, naturally, you have to do it all. Right? If you don’t know how to do it, you learn. If you’re not learning, you’re trying to find someone that can help. But oftentimes we absorb all these things and we put on every single hat that we can possibly get on our head and then we walk around on a unicycle trying to balance them all so that all don’t fall on the ground.

Also, we’re playing a Kazoo and smashing symbols, so there’s a visual for you.

What I’ve realized is the problem though is as you start to grow, it’s hard to remove yourself from that mentality. It’s very easy to say, I’m going to continue on this unicycle Kazoo journey and I’m going to bring other people on to do other things, but I’m going to hold all of that weight myself.

One of our sayings is, just because you can – doesn’t mean that you should. So as you start to grow, I want you to really be mindful of allowing people to do things that you’re not great at. And it’s okay that you’re not great at them because you’re great at something that they’re not.

Asking for help or delegating is not a weakness. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the greatest skills that you can possess because if you can acknowledge yourself to say, hey, I really suck at accounting, I really need someone that can help me with that because if I’m constantly beating my head up against the table and I’m not learning and I’m not absorbing, I really need to delegate that to someone who’s a rock star at it because not only is that person going to take that off of your plate and free up more of your space, but they’re actually going to be able to probably help you grow because they know better and they can see things from a different perspective.

It also helps everyone to be on the right seat on the bus. Everyone works more efficiently and more proactively when the majority of their time is being spent doing something that they’re really, really great at versus always feeling kind of Ho-hum about the things that they’ve accomplished during the day. And even saying the word accomplishe is a bit of a stretch. It’s more just like, these are the things that I have finished.

Allow people to help you because you would be amazed at how many people want to lock arms with you and help you succeed.

I could go on and on and on with more business advice from other business owners because you know what – we all have our own unique stories and experiences. So if this is something that you love, I would love for you to, one, send me your business advice. What do you wish you would have known when you started your business? And, two, leave us a review because we want to give you more of what you are hungry for.

I want to thank all of our contributors for sending in this amazing information. It’s rock-stars like you that help pave the path for future entrepreneurs. Join me for this week’s #powerback as we talk about – hm, funny we ended with this – what needs eliminated or what needs delegated, so that you can focus on what you do best.

Until then, follow The Gutsy Podcast on Facebook and Instagram or for more business insights, follow me on Instagram @thatlauraaura. See ya next time!

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