Every business owner has his/her fair share on things they have done wrong or have had those "oop" moments along the journey (me included). What mistakes do most people make when starting a business.
I started my business in 2018 and kept it as a side hustle until I took a leap of faith and turned it into a fulltime business in Nov 2022. I personally don't (or try not to) view my mistakes as failures, shames or time wasting activities. Every mistake and lesson will always lead you to more eye-opening moments and momentums that help you leap and grow.
I'm sharing my 4 BIG lessons I've learned over the years plus ways to help you overcome them if you experience them too:
1) Having doubts whether running a business is really going to work out:
To my surprise, the most difficult part about running a business is not the amount of work BUT "believing that everything is going to work out"
This kind of thought usually occurs when a business starts to slow down. There is no sign of clients or no money coming in. Fears and uncertainties arise, we start to panic and wonder if this is really going to work out. Sound familiar?
Strangly enough, I notice that this thought pattern occured even when I had a secured corporate career and consistent income (while keeping my business as a side hustle), yet I still didn't feel secured. So I knew I had to dig deeper to understand why I felt the way I felt.
When I dove in deeper, I found that my insecured feelings and uncertainties had a lot of to with my physical condition that day. When I didn't feel 100%; for example: if I didn't sleep good at night, my energy was low and sluggish which, in turns, made me think negative and moody. That's when I started having doubts.
When we run your own business, we tend to go 100+ miles per hour but don't give ourselves enough time to rest and recover. It's important to observe and understand ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically. Notice how your body feels when those negative thoughts arise and give yourself a permission to take a break. I know many people feel guilty that taking a break will slow us down because it's an unproductive time.
We sometimes forget that - there's a peak time, a steady time, and a down time for everything in this world.
If we pay attention to things around us. Nature has its cycle. During winter, everything rests. During spring, everyting wakes up and starts to get into motion. During summer, everything is in full bloom/force. In a fitness journey, you work out a few days in a row, then you need a break for your muscles and body to rest and recover before you can go in full force again.
A downtime is often perceived as a bad time in business to a lot of people. It translates as a lack of income and a sign that your business is not doing good financially. In reality, it may OR may not mean a bad circumstance.
Tips to help shake those fears and uncertainties to open up for possibilities:
If you are like me (tend to go down that negative dark tunnel when feeling tired and slugglish), I find that morning and nighttime meditation routine helps move my mind to a more calmful, peaceful stage which ,in turns, quiets my negative thoughts and opens me up for possibilities. These meditations are designed to help reframe your thoughts to focus on the goods rather than the thoughts and feelings that do not serve you. I highly recommend this Morning Miracles meditation, my absolute favorite. For nighttime meditation before bed, this one is one of my most favorites. Her voice is so relaxing. If you're a spiritual person like me, learning about the law of attraction is very interesting as well.
Exercise is magical! Get your body to work especially for me whose work is involved around sitting in front of my laptop. Try to incorporate some physical movements like walking, weight exercise (my favorite routine at home) or cardio. Just 30 mins a day makes a HUGE difference. I always feel like a new person after getting some workout in the morning. PopSugar and Juice & Toya on YouTube are my two absolute favorites to work out along.
Rest - yes R-E-S-T. Many of us feel restless at night because we have 500 things on our minds that keep us awake and worry at night. Listen to your body and allow yourself to rest well. Look at it as a way to recharge so you can do better.
A downtime can mean a time for you to rest so you can feel rejuvenated, fill your cup, and become the best version of you again. A downtime can also mean a moment to revisit or reflect on what work and what doesn't work so you can make adjustments.
How often do we have the time to sit down and re-evaluate our business when we're constantly on the go?
When you feel your best, you brain is clearer, your body feels good, your energy is high, you're motivated and excited then clients, projects, money will flow in. Notice that people want to work with a person who is calm, relaxed and has radiant energy rather than someone who is tired, moody, scared and radiates negative vibes. Who would you rather want to work with?
When you are at your full potential, all the good things will come your way. Pour your heart into your work, do you best but also remember to take care of yourself.
2) Trying to do everything in order to save money, but end up losing time / energy & sanity
This is a starting point where every single business owner embarks - me included. I found it to be very hard to justify when you just start a business and not making any or much money, then you have to spend on all kinds of things like website, accounting software of accountant, a system, new tools. So there we go the DIY route - we try to do everything that we can to make it work right? That includes DIYing a website, marketing materials, accounting, social media, videos, photos and the list just gets longer and longer - on top of creating/providing your amazing products/services to your clients/customers.
Don't get me wrong - these are all great learning experience that allow us to oversee every area of our business operation to understand what it takes and what all will be involved to run your business.
BUT what I finally realized was - we don't have all the time in the world to be able to do these things long-term in a sustainable manner. Many of us have a family, kids or pet(s) to tend to, chores needing to get done, aging parents to visit.
What is left of us at the end of the day after trying to juggle it all?
I don't know about you but I felt deflated like a deflated bollon or an empty cup. No energy - all I felt was exhaustion plus frustrations because there's still so much work to do but no more time. I run my business on frustrations instead of excitements and creativities.
It's impossible to be DIYing/juggling our business all day/night 365 days, yet still have all the time and good energy left for youself, your family and your business.
It's hard to be the best version of yourself when you feel exhausted, frustrated, burned out. Then losing passion in what you do. Been there, done that.
Tips to help justify and prioritize things in your business:
Sit down and write all the tasks that you have on your plate: then divide them into 2 columns. One list is for the tasks you have fun/enjoy doing and another list is for those taks that stress you out / weight you down.
Decide on an area where you can justify spending. Remember you don't always have to go crazy spending a large amount of money that you don't have (yet). These days, technology is a blessing and avaialble to all of us. There are several softwares, systems, tools that alleviate administrative tasks, help you keep tracks of things, keep you organized. Pick a task on your "I don't like doing this" list and see if one of those systems can lift some heavy weights off of you.
Start transforming the way you think about money: I know this is extremely challenging for many people - my included. My money mindset used to be all about scarcity / limiting. I held on to my money SOOOOOO tight and in return no money came to me when I was in that state of mind. If you look at businesses that contiue to grow, they spend money on improving their customer experience and businesses. They hire help, deploy technologies, invest in things that will yield even more returns. Of course, we are not Amazon and I am not asking you to invest like them. What I'm referring to is - find an area in your business where you can comfortably invest. Start small and slowly add so they can help you free up more time to make even more money.
3) Focusing your time and energy on the wrong activities and people
Have you noticed that sometimes you work so so hard, instead of seeing a significant amount of progress / making more money, you stay stagnant and feel even more frustrated?
For new business onwers, oftentimes, we lose more time and energy (and our sanity too) while not making much progress because we overthink.
Let start with overthinking:
I've heard this so many times - especially from brand new business owners who spent 3-6 months trying to decide what platform to build their websites on. Three to six months???
That's a lot of time where you can make many momentums in your business. You could be doing your market research, starting a business acount on social media, telling a story on your blog, connecting with your potential clients, building your community, testing out your ideas/products, building a website on a free platform to see how it works and so on. This goes back to the previous above where we sometimes overthink / overcomplicate things then lose sight of everything.
Or it may be too complicated or too difficult to figure out now so let's just put it off. Then you delay the possibilities of having money into your business as well.
Another point I'd like to address is when we're new, we feel alone and scared to embark on this unknown and scary business journey. Then we feel the need to "connect" with our new biz friends so we can exchange experience and help each other. Once again, I had been there - done there. I am not saying that we shouldn't connect with other new business owners because you just never know what collaborative opportunities could be in store for you or you may end up finding a really wonderful support system. That happens and it's a blessing.
But chances are your new business friends don't know much more than you do and both of you aren't going anywhere.
What happens is we end up spending more time chatting/talking to each other just to go in circle instead of making progress in our businesses. Most likely, we will also vent out our frustrations.
You see where I'm heading? When you're new, every moment is an opportunity to test, learn, and impletment your business. It's incredibly important to network as well. As business owners, choosing who to spend your time with will make a big difference. You will have different types of people that you interact with which include those who can be your support system, those who can help you learn/improve, and those who can send more business your way.
Choose your circle carefully and where to invest your time so that you can have more positive/vibrant energy for people and things that matter to you.
Tips to deal with things I don't want to do, or too difficult to figure out right away.
Not that I don't procrasinate in my life at all, but when it happens, I give myself a timeline to force myself to get it done. If not today, I will give myself maybe a week to sort things out so I can move forward. Of course that timeline has to be reasonable so you can make progress. Remember you can always make more money - but time won't 'wait for you. Once you lose it, it's gone.
4) Trying to make things to progress/move fast
I know this one can relate to many people. Many of us are result/outcome-oriented so we tend to focus/measure our success on money. I mean what else to focus on when you run a business right? You want to make momentum, bring in clients, complete the projects so we get paid. So the faster we can go from point A to $ is what most of us focus on.
We often feel like our business is not where it needs to be. It can feel things are moving soooooooooooo slow. It feels as if you haven't made much progress, connections, and money.
Sometimes moving and getting things done fast is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it is NOT. Let me share my personal story. Back in the summer of 2019, I discovered disposable plates made from all natural materials (leaves from different trees in Thailand). Those leaf plates were made by villagers in a rural area of Thailand which would also help create jobs for villagers there. Everything sounded just right and really got me excited to import them to sell.
I immediately contacted the lady back in Thailand, started telling every potential buyer I knew about it, tried to figure out an entire product-based business and boy excited was an understatement! The whole idea just made me feel alive UNTIL I had to deal with FDA! Who would have thought that selling disposable plates would be complicated?!? Well it became very complicated becasue food will touch the plate surfaces (which made a total sense).
For months, I swear! For MONTHS. I went back and forth...back and forth with 3-4 different FDA agents trying to sort things out because this kind of plate wasn't widely available to use in the U.S. I was given different answer each time by each different agent and that my plates would have to be tested and coated with certain substances to make it safe and so on. So I went on to consult a few people who had scientific knowledge about food safety substance/surfaces and the whole shebang. See now it started out as wanting to sell plates to talking to FDA, then scientists and what else.
About 6 months had passed, still couldn't get things straight. AND BANG - COVID HIT. The whole world shook as well as my plan. Food industry got hit really hard (my goal was to sell in bulk to eco-friendly caterers and restaurants). Our entire world shifted and changed drastically.
I went back and thought about it.
If everything moved fast and went smoothly, I would have imported a ton of products in 2020 just for them to sit there and lost my investment. Thinking that, it made me realize that sometimes, moving slow could be a sign and there's a reason for everything. Perhpas timing was not right or it wasn't the path I was meant to do (but more like a practice run or learning experience to help me for my futur endeavors).
By nature, I am not someone who easily gives up if I face obstacles or challenges. I always fight unitl I get what I want. But for this particular circumstance, it was a clear sign that all of the obstacles I ran into with FDA were there to slow me down and help me from losing my investment.
On the bright side, I've gained so much knowledge from this experience. Knowing what product-based business involved, the FDA regulations and much more.
Tips to embrace the process
The biggest lesson I've learned from that experience is to try my hardest to trust the process. I say I "try" my hardest" because it isn't easy for me to do as an impatient person. So it's extra hard for me to wait for things that take time.
Many occassions in my life have proven to me that things will work out when I let go of uncertainties and fears. Have you noticed that when you are frustrated and tired - but you keep pushing, working hard. You do not only feel worse, the work do not turn out as good as you wish. Give yourself some grace and many pats on the back. Look back at when you got started, how far you've come. We don't look back often enough or keep track of small progress we've made over the weeks, months, or years. Make it a new habit to celebrate every little milestone/victory, document your momentum in some forms (photos or journal) and embrace the process and journey. Like what people say - stop and smell the roses.
Phewwwww...I know this is crazy long but I hope this post helps you feel that you aren't alone on your business journey and those tips come in handy to help you cope during difficult times. Which one out of the four points do you reasonate with the most? I'd love to hear.
Thank you for reading. If there's anything I can help you with your business that you can't find on my website, feel free to ask :)
Believe that you can and you will,