Lessons of a Business Owner: Year 1
Today, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I didn't mean to, honestly. My green smoothie was prepared, my lunch was fixed and in the fridge, and I had more than enough time to get dressed and jump in the car for my commute. Yet, somewhere between my snoring (sorry Ross) husband, my dog who was content to lay on top of me, and the blaring alarm clock, I let my anxiety get the best of me. I started the day with an "ohmygoshIhavesomuchtodo" attitude, which is never good for anyone. I rolled into the studio with my lukewarm coffee and phone already buzzing. I was dreading the fact that I needed to be physically active in an hour and grumbling as I made a feeble attempt to stretch my sore legs from the drive. Somewhere between flicking on the lights and stereo and chugging the rest of my coffee, it hit me: tomorrow is my studio's one year anniversary. An entire year has passed since this journey officially started.
That fact makes my heart swell with a bunch of pride and thankfulness, and of course, stress, because where would a business owner be without a healthy dose of that, right? Anniversaries and holidays always make me a bit nostalgic as I reflect over the vast amount of changes that can happen in a year's time and the lessons that undoubtedly needed to be learned. And sometimes, all you need is a bit of gratitude to make the worry of the day fade into the background.
So, instead of doing some of the tasks I probably (definitely) need to be doing, I decided to create some space today to focus on what I've learned in the last year. I don't claim that this list is all inclusive or universal, but it is fully mine, and I hope some other business owners or prospective entrepreneurs take comfort in it.
Your timeline is irrelevant
As a new business owner, I had many plans. I had financial spreadsheets that would make an accountant's head spin and marketing plans for months to come. I had projections and goals, and all of these are wonderful things. In fact, I think they're necessary because they make you feel sane before your business is open. However, after the doors are open, just know they are probably irrelevant. You can't plan your clients, your market, the snow days, or the days the ceiling begins to leak. Business isn't about being all-knowing, it's about being willing to learn, constantly.
Bring a change of clothes
This one may be a little bit more relevant to my industry, but when you sit at your business for 12 hours and make an attempt to both work out and teach classes, it's probably a good idea to pack more than one outfit. However, this lesson goes beyond practicality in my mind because there are many days that I need to figuratively "change" halfway through my day. Sometimes a situation drives you up a wall or you received an email that threw off your entire day. There's value in a figurative re-set button, so don't be ashamed to use it. Change your clothes, get a second coffee, and start your day over, unashamed.
There will always be more to do. Let's say it together, shall we? There will always be more to do. No checklist in the world is big enough to hold the amount of things that need to be done. As a business owner, you need to be months ahead of your business, already thinking and planning for the future. With a standard like that, how can you really ever "finish" the work on your plate? Well, call me crazy, but I don't think you can. So, you have to create a time to clock out. Shut your computer, go to bed early, catch up on your favorite show, talk to your family, you name it. Don't sacrifice your life to save your business, I promise you aren't doing either one a favor by overextending yourself.
seek wise counsel
You'll doubt yourself, a lot, unless you're a superhuman, and I am not going to pretend to understand you. No one who works for you or with you will really understand the pressure you're under because it's not their baby, and you've got to be okay with that. Someone out there understands, so find those people. Find veteran entrepreneurs and the maestro's of your industry and ask them lots of questions because they get it, and they want to help. We were created for community, and even if you are the sole owner, you need a sounding board. You need wise counsel to keep your life and your business intact.
grace and coffee go hand in hand
Your really good days might be followed by really bad days, and grace is the glue that holds it all together. Have grace for yourself when you snap at your mom for throwing out a new "marketing" plan and you literally can't take in any more ideas. Have grace for your employee when she goes on vacation at the exact time you need her because, guess what, her life doesn't revolve around your needs. Have grace for the client that gets angry over something small, and realize that you still need to be the bigger person, even when it hurts. And then get coffee, because coffee.
magic moments happen every day
I would love to tell you about all the beautiful moments that have made me sometimes cry at work because they meant so much. There was the client who gave us all champagne and letters when she moved away, or the overworked mom who still found time to come to 6:00 am every day. Seeing people's lives and bodies literally change in front of your eyes is a beautiful thing that always reminds me of the bigger purpose of this business. Even when I have a day of low sales or small classes, hearing a client sound giddy when they tell me that they've lost 40 pounds and finally wants to wear their new tank top, well, that just takes the cake.
It's the tip of the iceberg
Year one is a big accomplishment because I assume, like marriage, it's often the hardest year. But, I am fully confident that year one is only the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure I will look back on this blog in years 2, 3, 4 and beyond and laugh at the wisdom I thought I possessed. But, you know what? That's kind of exciting. It's thrilling that the adventure is just beginning and there's so much more to be done. I'd be lying if I said this thought doesn't often terrify me, but when I look at it with some perspective, I know it's a great thing.
Elizabeth Gilbert said in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, "Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with." I'm so thankful for a whole year full of creativity and fear and magic moments. I know enough to know that I'll continue to have days where I wake up flustered and nights when my legs physically don't want to move. But, I want to keep diving in, taking the challenge, and dealing with my fear. Here's to the next 365.