20 Life Lessons I Learned in 20 Years While Running a Business

I’ll be honest. I didn’t realize it been 20 years since I started working for myself until I saw it on LinkedIn. In that time I’ve worked with a wide variety of brands, projects I never would’ve anticipated, with different types of companies, a myriad of personalities and work styles, and ever-changing technologies.

Here’s a list of 20 life lessons I have gained from my years of owning a business that can be applied to so many part of life.

  1. Partner with smart, reputable, trustworthy colleagues, vendors, and clients.
  2. Targeting customers remains the same, even if the technology has changed. The hype may get an initial response, but it’s the quality that keeps people coming back.
  3. Be honest.
  4. When you end a project, always try to do it with a handshake. You just might meet that client again working for another company.
  5. Keep learning.
  6. Be curious. I ask a lot of questions, and it often inspires further conversation.
  7. Actively listen. Take a breath. Then respond.
  8. Read a few days worth of your emails before you send them out. Are you sending them out with a positive tone or starting off all your emails with the negative? (I literally changed my email tone after monitoring them about 10 years ago).
  9. You will make mistakes. Admit it when you do.
  10. If you are stuck, walk away. I resolve a lot of issues when I shut my computer and go for a walk.
  11. It’s okay to say no to a project, especially when your gut tells you to.
  12. Check your emails at specific times each day. Otherwise, shut it off. It’s amazing how much more productive you can be without the distractions.
  13. It’s easy to get comfortable working alone. Face-to-face meetings can inspire change and a new direction.
  14. Have a schedule. I find that time blocking my day (Using the Best Self journal) has improved my focus and productivity immensely.
  15. Try something new.
  16. Keep reaching. What’s your goal?
  17. Most people really don’t like networking events. Do it anyways; set a goal beforehand. Someone may become a future colleague or customer.
  18. Be flexible.
  19. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to clarify, if you don’t understand.
  20. If you are bored on a regular basis, it might be time to change what you do. Or how you do it.

And remember that if you have a stressful phase, sleep on it, as a fresh day and mood awaits you.

The journey continues.

Cindy

Yes, I am a Consultant. And a Business Owner.

I have been a consultant for 18 years. Long enough to know some people roll their eyes, think I only work 2 hours a day, or can make my own schedule around my favorite TV shows. Wrong!

I am a business owner whose clients depend on me to achieve our set-upon goals.   If I didn’t work diligently, honestly, and flexibly, I would not have some clients for 10+ years. Yes, still take the time to search out new and exciting projects.

As an audience development/marketing/database management consultant (the role changes with the project) on a daily basis I have to:

  1. Get work done on schedule.
  2. Listen to my clients’ needs, sometimes helping them to articulate their goals.
  3. Regularly communicate project status and ideas to current clients. Also attend in-person and phone meetings.
  4. Be vigilant to make sure that my customers respond to emails and phone calls, so projects don’t stall.
  5. Know a variety of vendors my clients can work with—email providers, telemarketing, database management, email, auditing firms, copy writers, others I can partner with on certain projects.
  6. Stay involved in the marketing industry by reading, attending events, and doing.
  7. Have experience working with different social media platforms.
  8. Keep abreast of changing rules impacting outbound and inbound marketing emails ie. CAN-SPAM laws , telemarketing, BPA, USPS with regards to mailing periodicals.

Plus, there is ongoing work to do to keep my business running:

  1. Have trusted professionals who help me with design work, accounting, legal, and financial issues.
  2. Seek out new prospects, put together proposals as requested. Revise pricing for current clients as projects change.
  3. Keep my blog updated, to communicate my business knowledge and perspective to clients and prospects.
  4. Keep up with billing, processing payments.
  5. Handle marketing, create a new logo and website.

Every year I think I learn to run my business more effectively. This year, for the first time, I have followed the lead of successful business owners and set aside weekly time on my calendar to focus on growing and honing my business. It’s too easy to spend all day on project work, not focusing on the business. This set-aside time has made me more efficient, given me some new ideas to try this year.

The balance of client-related work vs. running the business is delicate, yet important to manage. So yes, I am a consultant. And a successful business owner.  And proud of both.

The journey continues.

C