What I learned in 3 years of business
It would only be fitting to kick off my first blog post of 2017 with a reflection of the lessons I have learned this past year. Honestly, these reflection posts are my favorite to do each year - and sometimes the only ones that ever get done. But I promise I am making more of an effort in 2018!
Let's get started.
5 Lessons I Learned in 2017 (year 3 as a full-time business owner)
1. Delegate, automate or eliminate
This lesson was a big one for 2017. It really ties all five of my top lessons together. If you're wondering what the heck it means to 'delegate, automate or eliminate,' let me explain.
I first heard this clever phrase on the Amy Porterfield podcast (Online Marketing Made Easy) in reference to a system that she learned from another online marketing entrepreneur. To sum it up, it's important as a business owner to focus on doing the work that fires us up. This is typically the work that made you start your business to begin with. But once you get into the trenches of running a business, it's easy to get lost along the way with everything else that gets added to your to-do list. Therefore, you have to be smart about how you use your time and energy.
My goal going into 2017 was to streamline my business, grow my income significantly and focus on doing work that I love with brands that I feel excited to support and are equally excited to work with me. In order to make my big, scary goals happen, I knew I would have to eliminate the work that wasn't moving my business in the right direction. This meant, cutting clients that were no longer a fit and removing certain services, like event planning, from my offerings.
I knew it was also time to delegate - and build a team of individuals I could trust to hand off work to that I was doing previously (i.e. accounting - why did I ever do this? I'm terrible at financial matters) or work that I may have enjoyed offering to my clients, but was taking to much time for me to do on my own (i.e. photography or graphic design).
Finally, I had to really push myself to learn to automate. Of the three, this was the hardest area for me to implement. Mainly because the systems I had in place for my business were learned from many years of working in non-traditional small agency settings. I didn't know the power of systems and I had to really teach myself to map out this area of my business. This involved a ton of testing different automation programs and tools to see what worked and what didn't.
I will share more on the systems I learned and favorite tools soon!
2. Learn when to let go and move on graciously
It seems like January 2017 was eons ago at this point because so much has happened in my business this year. One lesson I learned early in this year - and a theme that continued throughout the year, was to learn to let go and move on graciously. Not always easy, but so important.
At the beginning of 2017, I was tired. I was overwhelmed and overworked. I had all of these exciting ideas of things that I wanted to do for my business, but I had no idea how I would accomplish these things mainly because I was committing my time so much to various projects, organizations, and events. I was heavily involved in a local company that planned and produced bi-annual events in the spring and fall. My role was extensive, truly almost a part-time job. However, I was not feeling creatively inspired or supported by the team and the workload was getting too much for me to bear with my growing business. My investment started to outweigh the return. I decided to cut that project in order to allow my client work to grow.
While the decision was not easy to make for many reasons I won't dive into, I knew in my gut it was time to let go. I also knew that the timing was right because I was able to leave graciously and on good terms with their team. You never knew when people will come in and out of your life. It's so important to always leave a project or partnership feeling positive and supported.
Beyond this commitment, I went through several other breakups in 2017. Break-up's with clients (sometimes mutual, sometimes not) and even break-up's with members of my team. Letting go and moving on is never easy. But it's part of life and running a business. Move on graciously no matter how difficult the situation and always make the most of it. I promise, things get better.
3. Continue to learn, grow & evolve your brand
Coming from a small business agency background, I learned how to run a business a certain way. This process and set-up are pretty standard in the industry. You have multiple clients, they pay a monthly retainer and if they go over certain hours will have to be billed extra. You do the work outlined and as you grow, you build a team of people that can help you take on more work.
When I started KES Studio, I didn't really have a long-term business plan. Starting my business was truly out of urgency. I just knew I had to make the leap because the timing was so right and I had this instinct that it would all work out the way it should. I didn't hurt that I had several clients lined up and ready to sign a contract to work with me when I went off on my own. So crucial!
But as I've continued to learn, evolve and grow each year in my business, the one thing that I cannot control is my love to learn. I keep learning new things, new skills and new ways to do things for my business and the brands I work with. This love for learning has also led me to teach. I've hosted workshops and seminars to share my knowledge with the goal to help others turn their dreams into a reality. This passion for learning, teaching and providing value keeps me going.
So, my lesson here is that you do not have to stick to the same path. You can evolve your business, your services or the work that you provide. Does that mean I will eliminate all of the services that I am known for in the industry? Not necessarily. But I will make room to offer new things and to continue to grow. This has helped me continue to grow as a person and as an entrepreneur.
This year, that meant offering new services to the mix. Instead of just offering traditional monthly marketing services, I evolved my business to include coaching, brand launch projects, workshops and more. These different income streams helped me to stay creative and on my toes. It also brought in new income streams - beyond my monthly retainer clients to help me reach my 6-figure goals.
4. Don't forget to set aside to create for YOUR business
THIS was a huge lesson for me. I am so lucky to work with brands that I love and people that inspire me. So much so, that I don't want to let them down. But I also found myself working so hard on my clients, that I would forget to invest time into working on my business.
What does it mean to work on your business? Creating content for your brand. Taking time to plan and map out campaigns, launches or new services. And just little things like allowing yourself to be creative in looking at how you run your business and what the experience is like for clients.
I got into a cycle of only doing client work for several months and when it was time to come up for air, I was too tired to work on my own business. I finally had to force myself to set aside time. I did this by simply adding 'Business Development' days to my calendar. And while you're at it, don't forget to take personal days, too! I've learned over the years that even one day off a month will do wonders for your mind, body, and soul.
This lesson is one that I am continuing to focus on as I prepare for 2018.
5. Feeling comfortable may lead to change
This one is pretty straight forward. But the second you feel too comfortable is often when it is time to make a change. I am known to be resistant to change. I like comfort. But this year really pushed me to embrace change, as it happened.
There are things that will happen in your life that will be in the master plan. Things are constantly shifting. But I truly believe that every little change is getting you one step closer to where you want to be. You just have to be open to it.
There you have it! Those were my top 5 lessons from 2017 that I learned in my third year as a full-time business owner. I am feeling very calm as I prepare for 2018. Bring it on!