In the United States alone, there are over 28 million small business owners. From coffee shops to accountants, small businesses make up $8.5 trillion of all nationwide. Working day in and day out on their businesses, often without much recognition, business revenuessmall business owners deserve a pat on the back.
Since I started my company, I've learned many lessons--here's what I wish I had known before getting started.
1. Business is not always stable, but you'll learn how to get better with each passing month.
In the two years I've run my business, there have been good months and there have been slow months. When I was first starting off, I felt discouraged during times of instability and would often feel stressed. I've since learned that business will always have its peaks and valleys. Now, I try to embrace slower months and use them as an opportunity to recharge and focus on generating new ideas. Work hard to get out of the valleys and the peaks will be even sweeter.
2. Businesses owners are people too--and sometimes you'll get your feelings hurt.
I care about my customers and clients and will bend over backwards to ensure that they have a good experience. But every so often, I'm met with rudeness that can quickly turn my day sour. When you are interacting with a business, big or small, you are dealing with a person on the other end. I remind myself that each customer is a real person who might just be having a bad day. Treating negativity with kindness can go a long way and can turn both your days around.
3. It will be more expensive than you think.
When I started my e-commerce store, friends asked me if they could have a discount or free product. While I wish I could give away my product for free, I simply can't or I'd be out of business in a flash. Running a business has been more expensive than I had initially anticipated and many business owners find themselves strapped for cash. Before going into business, do a financial analysis to see if you'll be able to have enough runway for your company.
Chef Kirsten Helle, founder of Mesa de Vida cooking sauces, describes the sacrifices that are sometimes necessary for business owners: "At in-store demos people often ask if I am making our cooking sauces myself in my kitchen. They don't realize that that is illegal and that the steps necessary to get your food product approved for legal sale, and then carried by a store, involves an expensive and oftentimes months- to years- long investment."
From thousands of dollars spent on education to sourcing their products, running a business can put a huge dent in your bank account. It's important to take a look at your finances to ensure you have enough padding for living expenses if business declines.
4. You'll work around the clock, and sometimes go without sleep.
There have been so many nights I went to bed at 3 A.M. after a full day of work. I'm wearing 10 different hats to grow my business, and any given day can be a rollercoaster. Erin Andrews of Indi Chocolate says, "Most people don't realize just how much work goes into founding and running a business. It goes beyond the sleepless nights; it includes the hard physical labor of making products and moving things around on a daily basis. It's about doing a full day's work and then going home to do more work."
In the beginning I would sacrifice sleep to work on my company--now I've learned that not taking care of yourself doesn't help your business grow. The better you feel, the harder you'll be able to work on your company.
5. Success will not happen overnight.
Though I might post the positive news about my business on social media, the negative parts of running a business are sometimes hidden. From dealing with slow cash flow to product mishaps, I've spent many unglamorous nights lying in bed wondering how I was going to make my company work. If you're trying to "get rich fast," starting a business might not be for you. Entrepreneurship is a long-term game that often takes years of commitment.
"It might seem like I built my business overnight, but what people don't know is that on the marketing side, It took me years of building a network of food writers, chefs, magazine editors, and other people in the industry," echoes Luuvu Hoang, founder of Txiki Plaka restaurant.
Running a business can be challenging, but it's also one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have. With this insider knowledge and the right attitude, you'll be better prepared to start and grow your very own company.