Confessions of a Small Business Owner

Words by Emma Webb Words by Emma Webb

Running a small business can be tough at times. Something I found out only too well during my second year of operating One 360 Marketing. Here's what I got wrong in my second year of business!

The first year, of what was a new venture for me, flew by so quickly that by year two I sat back and confidently thought 'I've got this (small business running game) in check!' But by the end of the second year, I felt beaten down and exhausted. I had worked so hard and not moved forward at all. I was left asking the question, 'is it time to stop and get a real job?'

Along with having a trustworthy accountant and using a planning 'power hour' before all client meetings, here are the main lessons I learned during year two:

Lesson 1

Don't put all your eggs in one basket – Spreading your income sources reduces the risk of being too reliant on one revenue stream and also gives you a greater flexibility to be in control of your own destiny.

My mistake: I almost ran the risk of doing too much for one client. He soon realised which left him thinking I was at his beck and call, leaving me neglecting other clients and no time to grow and develop my business.

Lesson 2

It's ok to say 'No'! Whether you are meeting a potential client or discussing a new project with a current client, if it isn't the right fit for you and your business it's ok to say No! It might be costs, timescales or personalities that don't fit but by being honest from the outset will keep your good reputation and not question your integrity.

My mistake: During year two I met with a potential client (whilst trying to distribute my eggs more evenly) and from our first meeting I knew something wasn't quite right but I took the project on anyway. The client struggled with deciding what he actually wanted to achieve, meaning the goal posts were moved on several occasions and the overall project was very fragmented and not a success for either party.

Lesson 3

Running a small business can be a lonely place, everybody needs help from time to time. Surround yourself with a good network of people and join communities that will inspire you to be better, support you when you're flagging and offer quality advice when you need it.

My mistake: I thought I could deal with a non-paying client on my own; it was the first time I hadn't been paid for my work. I know in the world of business it isn't that uncommon but I didn't realise how personally I would take it.

After many failed attempts at having a conversation with this customer and trying to understand what his issue was, I engaged in email communication during which my professionalism was called into question. The work had been completed and there was evidence that I had achieved the pre-agreed remit, so I was left bemused by these comments.

My only lack of professionalism was my response to his email; I was too close to the situation and should have called on a third party to help me deal with this issue as I was out of my depth. Had I gone to my business network and asked for advice and support I would have probably received (some or all of) my payment and kept my self-worth but trying to deal with it alone left me feeling helpless and looking foolish.

My final comment (before moving on to year 3) – remember that running a small business can be tough but is can also be very rewarding - A mistake is a lesson yet to be learned!

Words by Emma Webb of www.one360.co.uk