I started Brighter Messaging out of a desire to help people who were saying things like, “I know I need to show up online, but I have no idea how to do it,” or “No one can find me on Google.” Reflecting on the last few years, I’d like to get real about the rocky road of running a small business.
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are over 31 million small businesses in the United States, employing close to half of the private sector workforce. How do they all do it? Well, starting a business is the easy part; successfully running a small business is another matter.
With this in mind, here are 8 hard truths that shouldn’t get lost in the perceived glamor of being an entrepreneur.
I want to empower talented people to do great work for wonderful clients. That means we aren’t the right fit for every client or every creative professional out there. Not everyone is your customer, and that’s ok! Your business isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You have to understand who you’re selling to—whose problems can you solve better than any of your competitors? Focus on their pain points and craft solutions that genuinely address them.
Don’t dilute your offerings to please everyone; be exceptional for those who matter most. If you can master that, your work running a small business will be mostly focused on empowering a team of people to be successful within the system you’ve created.
Your team will rely on you, not only for a paycheck, but also for leadership and strong decision-making capabilities. You’ll need to steer the ship, nurture their growth, guide them through challenges, and empower them to contribute ideas. Invest in your team, and they’ll invest in the success of your business.
If you’re new as a leader of people or struggling to get everyone rowing together, check out Traction by Gino Wickman. Although we don’t follow the full EOS process, it’s been hugely influential to me in thinking about how to organize and accomplish our work.
No one else is going to care about your business as much as you do. Sure, your loved ones, employees, and clients want you to succeed, and that’s wonderful. When times get tough, however, it’s really you and only you (and your business partners, if you have them) who shoulders all responsibility and feels the pain of each typo. Your business is your vision, your passion project, your dream turned into reality—and it’s up to you to steer its future growth.
Remember that you are also your business’s most important client. Set time aside every day to work on your business, strategize, and ensure it’s growing in the right direction. Treat your business with the care and dedication you’d give your best client.
Really great people are hard to find. Once you find them, give them every reason to stick with you. Cherish them, appreciate their contributions, and empower them to take ownership of their work. Our core team members are the ones who make the magic happen around here, and I know that our success would be impossible without them. I’m here to support their creativity and productivity.
Meet the team here; I couldn’t be prouder to work with them!
Processes might not be the sexiest part of entrepreneurship, but they are the unsung heroes behind a successful business, even more so than having a great product or service.
Scaling too quickly without a solid foundation can lead to chaos, and everything will fall apart if you can’t execute. That’s why you need to prioritize building robust processes that support growth. From customer acquisition to service delivery, efficient processes ensure your business operates smoothly, even during rapid expansion.
Setting up workflows in Asana has been a game-changer for us. We also regularly assess our processes to see if we need to make changes or improve things. If I come across a mistake on a client deliverable (yes, they do happen occasionally), the first thing I do (after fixing it) is identify whether anything about our current process may have contributed.
6. Money talk
Ah, finances—the lifeblood of your business. The money can be great. Money can also be really tough at times. As the owner, that responsibility rests on your shoulders.
My top money tips:
- Track every penny you spend. You can’t simply look at what’s left in the bank account at the end of the month to decide whether or not you’re making a profit. You need to consider all of the direct and indirect costs that go into delivering your product or service.
- Get professional help to manage your accounting. Bookkeeping is simply not the highest and best use of your time (unless you’re a bookkeeper!), and you may be surprised to learn that professional accounting assistance is more affordable than you realize. I sleep better at night knowing our finances are squared away.
- Understand your cash flow. This is one of many areas where an accounting professional can help you out—cash flow can be surprisingly complex.
- Maintain a clear picture of your business’s financial health. Again, not just the bank account balance, but the big picture. Where do you see your business going in the next few years? What are your long-term goals? What do you need to be doing with money today to make sure you can get there?
- Celebrate the wins—being able to run a profitable small business is no mean feat!
Setbacks and challenges are inevitable. They’re not roadblocks; they’re detours that lead to growth. Embrace these learning experiences—they refine your strategies, shape your business, and mold you into a resilient entrepreneur. Success isn’t about the destination; it’s about the journey and the lessons learned along the way.
Working with a coach or mentor can be a hugely beneficial experience. As we discussed in item 3 above, entrepreneurship is a lonely road. While your friends and family are probably supportive, they don’t really get what you’re going through unless they’re also running a small business. A coach can get into the trenches with you and help you think through decisions, while a mentor brings the experience of having done what you’re trying to accomplish.
8. You can’t do everything associated with running a small business
I worked alone as a freelancer for years before adding my first teammate because I couldn’t wrap my head around how to collaborate effectively. I’m an introvert. I like doing stuff my way. (And maybe a little stubborn, too.)
Getting over that mental hurdle opened the floodgates of possibility!
My business now offers services that I can’t do myself (e.g. website development and graphic design), but I’m also not doing all of the stuff that’s within my wheelhouse (looking at you, copywriting). If you’re not willing to let go of even your favorite types of work, you’re limiting the growth potential of your own business. That’s ok, but realize that you’ve made a decision to limit the amount of work you can produce.
Also consider outsourcing business functions that aren’t your forte or consume too much of your time. Collaborate with people who complement your skills and share your vision—they’re the ones who can help your business soar.
If your digital marketing needs some expert help, or you simply want to hand it off so you can focus on other things, don’t hesitate to get in touch to learn more about our services. Helping small businesses make a big impact online is why Brighter Messaging exists. We’d love to hear from you.