22 Lessons I Learnt the Hard Way from my first Small Business

It’s been almost 3 years since I decided to leave my job to take the first step into entrepreneurship. Although I might not be successful yet, I believe that was the best decision that I made in my whole life.

In these 3 years, I feel like I’ve grown so much, so fast, in so many ways that I don’t think that I would ever grow if I stayed in all my previous jobs. This journey is the most tiring, heartbreaking, heart-wrenching but satisfying one I have been through and I don’t think I will ever go back working for anyone.

These are lessons that I learnt, mostly the hard way. Hopefully, you won’t make the same mistakes as I did.

1. You cannot do everything alone. You have to learn to trust and delegate.

I kept thinking that I cannot trust any other employee to do as good a job as me and I ended up feeling burnt out. There are times when you just really need to close one eye and trust that your employee will get the job done.

2. You need to have a system.

If you want to grow, you need to have a teachable system so that your employees can easily follow the system and get the job done. If you don’t have a system, you cannot blame your employee for not being to do exactly what you expect them to do.

If you want to grow, take a look at McDonald’s. They are so systematic that their fries taste the same in every country you go to.

3. You never stop learning.

Every part of the business is a learning opportunity. Whether you fail or succeed, you still get to learn.

When you succeed, you learn because you have to learn how to move on to the next step.

When you fail, you learn why you fail and learn how not to make the same mistakes, you learn how to improve your business. You learn from your competitors or other entrepreneurs how to make things work. There are just so many aspects of the business to learn.

I’m grateful that I can use the skills that I learnt from my own business to help other small businesses now.

4. You have to be a master of time-management and prioritisation.

Because you have a million tasks to complete but you only have the same 24 hours.

You have to be in charge of operations, sales, recruitment, marketing, finances and business development.

When you cannot complete the tasks, you have even more tasks the next day. You will feel burned out.

5. You need to be prepared.

You need to be prepared for unexpected opportunities that will come knocking on your door.

Throughout this journey, I have had so many people who wanted to invest in my business. But I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared for growing my business. I didn’t know how much percentage of my business to let go and how much my business should be valued for.

And because I was unprepared, I let all of these opportunities go.

6. You are the face of your business.

Everything I did, directly or indirectly affected my business’s reputation. There are times when my customers supported the business because they wanted to support me. You are more important than the product or service that you are selling.

As long as people like you, there is a higher chance of people buying from you or wanting to support you.

7. You have to be the hardest worker in your company

Your workers will only be 2/3 of you. So you have to be the best example for them.

8. You won't be able to please all your customers

Your product won’t appeal to everyone. But stay close to all those that you can appeal to and don’t be affected by those that you cannot appeal to.

9. You are not really working for yourself

Your bosses are actually your customers and your workers because you need them for your business to survive. You will never really work for yourself because you will still to depend on others (landlords included) to make your business happen.

10. You will feel lonely.

Suddenly you will feel that you and your friends have different topics to talk about. They will be complaining about their jobs, but you can’t and don’t really want to complain about yours. They will be looking for TGIF but you’ll be pleased to be working every day because when there is business means there will be more money!

They will have regular hours but you won’t.

11. You need to choose your business partner wisely (if you ever need one)

You have to make sure that your business partner has goals and principles that align with yours. Do you trust this person and vice versa?

You have to make sure that you will be okay if you were to lose this relationship with this person because, in business and money related situations, things can always turn very sour. You might not only lose the relationship, but also money and the whole business. Can you afford it?

You need to ask yourself if you need a partner in the first place, and how can this partner complement you.

My advice is not to make family members your partners because things can get really awkward. Conflicts in businesses are unavoidable.

12. You need to be fearless.

Trust your gut. Take action. If you keep sitting on that idea or keep waiting for yourself to be prepared, nothing will ever happen.

The worst that can ever happen is you fail. You lose money. But you gain an experience that you can take with you to your next venture.

I am fearful of everything and in the end, I took no new action but the same things that I did every day.

Doing the same things will only get you the same results.

13. Dare to invest

Invest in yourself, invest in things that will smoothen your business process. Invest in things that will increase your sales or help you to save money or time in future.

Invest in yourself because you are the biggest asset in your business.

14. Don't blindly copy your competitors

See what they are doing, take it and make it even better than them.

15. Be patient.

Results won’t come immediately. But you have to give enough time for results to show.

16. You have to be consistent

You have to show up every day. Show up even if you don’t feel like it, even if you fought with your partner, your family, or if you feel sick.

And you have to show up with 100% energy every day, at all times.

This is the hardest part because we are so emotional. There are times we will just show up with 40% of the energy and just go through the motion. It just doesn’t work because your customers and workers will feel it.

You have to show up, even when you feel like quitting. But there is no quitting because this is your business.

17. You will get to see who are your real friends

This might be me just being sensitive but to me, real friends would support your business. They might not buy your product, but they will help to like, share your social media pages. They won’t ask for discounts, they will refer their friends to you.

Yes, I take this very personally!

18. You might not get any support from anyone

Your family or friends because they might not see the vision that you have. Only you will know exactly what you’re doing.

But when results show, you will win 100% support from your family. And there will be people asking to join you on your journey.

19. You cannot be complacent.

You are never good enough. You have to keep learning, keep growing every day to keep yourself relevant. To keep coming up with new ideas for your business.

You cannot be satisfied with the income now and stop working for this month because you will never know what next month holds for you. So keep working.

20. There is no short-cut

The only short-cut is hard work. If you’re not willing to work your ass off, don’t start a business. Go get a job and work 9-5 and go back home to watch Netflix and chill.

If you want a 200% increase in results. You just need to put in 200% more effort. If that doesn’t work, you need to put in 300%, 400% or 500%, whatever it takes to get the results that you want.

21. Tough times don't last. Only tough people do.

Cheesy, but it’s true. When things are doing well, it’s easy to have big goals, big dreams, motivation to move on. But when things are not doing well? Can you still see the same vision that you had initially?

Once your vision gets blurry, it will be so tempting to give up.

When sales is bad, it’s so easy to blame everything around you like the weather, the economy, the product, the location. But as a business owner, you have to wake up, the find the solution to the problem because blaming won’t help you get more sales.

You have to have enough grit to get through these tough times.

22. You have to be quick, firm and decisive

Seize every opportunity and make decisions firmly if you believe in it. Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t listen too much to other people’s opinions. Only you know your business best.

My small business is still small after 3 years.

But now, I know exactly why I haven’t grown my business. I will be bringing these lessons that I have learnt to relaunch my business once Covid is over. 

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap