by Geri Seiberling
Small business owners come from every cross section of humanity. We are all the way from PHD to a CEO without a high school diploma. From self-aware to clinically clueless. We are wealthy. We are cash flow poor. But this is what I love about small business! All Entrepreneurs are all created equal, with the same opportunity for success.
If there is anything that unites us as small business owners, it is that we are all on a journey. Every day, we are learning who we are, who we are not, what we can do, and even a few things that we never knew we were capable of doing.
Our first real problem of the journey is that we take ourselves with us. Everything we are as individuals will come out in our day to day affairs. Our Business R Us. Behind every check-out counter are business owners that are very real people with very real lives, and funny things happen on the way to the store. I may be a bit of an idealist, but I still believe that free enterprise brings out the best in the Common Man. (Can you hear the Fanfare?) Into a nearby telephone booth, and out pops Something Incredible. Some kind of force is created in hearts and minds where nothing existed before, and that transformation is nothing short of extraordinary. Yet- we still have our own personal kryptonite.
Our second real problem of the journey is that we don’t know what we don’t know. To make matters worse, the stuff that we need to know can only be learned in the journey. A while back, I was visiting with a small business owner with great plans. I asked if he had any mentors with whom he could share some of his great ideas to get some feedback. Zero was the answer- as in that big ugly space inside the edges of the number. So many businesses owners are out there, winging it alone, without someone to encourage and support and challenge them! But what if every small business could share one small bit of wisdom, one thing they had learned, to mentor another entrepreneur? What if you, (yes- you!), could help someone avoid one peril that you have endured? Why, we would have a virtual composite MBA from the best school in the nation! This MBA would be priceless, because these tidbits are wrung from experience, and are something you could never learn from any text book, no matter how heavy or how costly that textbook would be.
So I started to collect ‘one thing’ from every small business person I know- from startups to established entities. I discovered that there is a wealth of information out there and people who are ready and willing to give it to you. All you have to do is ask.
So, from the Small Enterprise Mentor Community of 2013, please find following a heap of gold. Free for the taking. Even if it does not directly apply to your situation, there is a take away in each one. Think about it!
Do you also have #onething that you have learned in the journey that might help another small business person get a leg up? Would you also share? Put it into a one-sentence, quick-read format and add it to the comments below. I will add a bit of guilt: you owe it to them. Someone has surely helped you, and you have an obligation to pass on a random act of wisdom to another. Someone may decide to change course as a result. Someone will profit from what you have learned. Please note- This is not intended to be a place for self-promotion, but a chance to authentically share a different kind of wealth. Please keep your comments brief and to the point. One thing. Thanks for understanding!
Q- ‘What is one thing you wished you would have known before you had started business?’
Melissa Burkheimer, Social Media Expert[www.melissaburkheimer.com]: I wish I knew that it was okay to be me and to stop comparing myself to the competition.
Julie Winkle Giulioni, Author and Consultant [www.juliewinklegiulioni.com]: I wish I’d known that I’d never again have nothing to do!
David Clark, Koolclipz [www.koolclipz.com]: I believed spreading the word about a good product that was meeting a need would be easy. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Sandy Taylor, Plaza Florist [Twitter@PlazaFloristDM]: I wish I knew how the internet would change our business 20 years down the road.
Dr. Nathan Wheat, TCB Chiropractic [www.tcbchiropractic.com]: Only do something if you believe in it, otherwise people will see right through you.
Robert Terson, Author and Consultant [www.sellingfearlessly.com]: I wish I had known that there are some people you couldn’t please, even if you handed them gold bars worth a fortune.
Jon Mertz, Author Leadership Consultant [www.thindifference.com]: I wish I had engaged managers and leaders with more experience to really learn and understand their insights and lessons learned.
Dr. R Kay Green Professor, Expert, Speaker, Author [www.drkaygreen.com]: Always plan for unexpected costs. @DrRKayGreen
Take away: Don’t forget the fudge! The fudge factor has a magical way of making everything better.
Eddy Hood, Ignite Spot Outsourced Accounting [www.ignitespot.com]: I wish I knew how to build real relationships with social media. Before I started my biz, I though social media was for spreading links to try and get followers.
Paul Castain, Sales Consultant [www.yoursalesplaybook.com]: I wish I knew that I wasn’t doing half the things I loved to tell people I knew. Knowing and actually doing are different animals.
Eldon Rocca, Business Process Consultant [LinkedIn http://ow.ly/m4aRu]: Figure out what it is you want most of all, forget all the rest, and ignore that voice in your head that tells you all the reasons that you can’t.
Take away: “The most influential person who will talk to you all day, is you. So, you should be very careful what you say to you.” ~ Zig Ziglar.
Jose Laracuente, AgVision [www.agvisionsoftware.com]: If you have designed and developed a product and will be marketing that product, make sure that you understand the basics regarding intellectual property (i.e. copyright, trademarks, patents, etc. . . . ). You want to ensure legal protection of your product ownership rights.
Jeff Wangsness, Central Iowa Trucking [LinkedIn http://ow.ly/m4bNf}: I wish I had known how many hours were involved to try and make a small business, especially a construction related business, successful. It can take its toll on family life if you allow it to.
Toby Tyler, Marble Works Inc. [www.marbleworksiowa.com]: Don’t wait for your product of service to be perfect. Just sell, sell, sell.
Dick Bascom, President, Bascom Truck and Automotive Inc. [www.bascomtruckandauto.com]: Avoid debt, be ready to work a lot of hours, and have enough capital that you can afford to support your family until the company is profitable.
Mark True, Brand Warrior [www.brandhappens.com]: Understand and embrace who you are and why it’s important to your customer.
John Mandelbaum, Mandelbaum Commercial Real Estate, WDM: When I looked at an investment, I tried to see what I would do better than the seller. In other words, I had a plan on how to create additional value after the purchase. Don’t think you won’t have to continue to put more money in the “deal”. If you’re unable or unwilling to do so, don’t move forward.
Ben Stone, Insurgent, RPO Consulting [www.rpoconsulting.com]: It’s not about what it is that you can offer; it is all about what it is that people want.
John Carlson [Twitter @tmasterjohn]: Buy and read The Time Trap by Alec Mackenzie. Practice the suggestions given. Learn to work smarter, not harder.
Paul Cox, Spin Less Plates [www.spinlessplates.com/blog] Allocate time everyday to find new customers and develop existing ones. It’s more important than anything else.
Cindy Rockwell, Managing Partner Keyot LLC [www.keyot.com]: As a previous software entrepreneur, understanding the venture capital community and when to tap this appropriately for business growth. This is a definite lesson learned. (Timing is everything!)
Deb Downey, Right Teaching [LinkedIn: http://ow.ly/m4f9O]: Each day tap into your inner wisdom, which could mean a quiet time with a cup of tea, or perhaps a brisk walk to let the “stuff” settle and the creativity to surface.
Alexander Grgurich, Fresk Interactive, TEDxDesMoines [Twitter @AlexanderDSM] Become a master of the broader business model view and understand what business you’re really in.
Christine D’Amico, Over the Top Fabulicious Ice Cream & Chocolates [www.overthetopiowa.com]: Having passion for your products and service is great, but you must also learn to love analyzing your financial statements.
Jason McArtor, FarmBoy [www.farmboyinc.com] Focus on what you’re great at- but always keep learning and growing. (Take away: Learning curve goes straight up these days. If you stop learning even for a moment, you’ll fall too far behind to catch up.
Diana Kautzky, President [www.Deaf ServicesUnlimited.com]: Surround yourself with people that have expertise that you don’t have!!! Use them regularly.
Tim Rooney, PeopleMation [www.speakertimrooney.com]: Business is easy but HARD: H = Have to, A = All in, R = Resources, D = Discipline, (copyright PeopleMation)
Phil K. James, [Twitter @PhilKJames]: Before I started my business, I wish I’d discovered a way to make it scalable. Too easy to get trapped in operations, neglecting development.
Andy Merical, [Retired Small Business Guy]: When engaging in critical conversations, first ask questions instead of making statements.