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Success and Sanity Lessons from My Small Business

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blog 10.29

In the digital world, 2 years is a long, long time. An eon. A straight up eternity when you consider how fast everything moves and how much information we create every single day.

If we hop in the wayback machine, 2 years ago I was in the process of ripping apart my business and putting it back together to focus on small businesses and online entrepreneurs who wanted to use marketing to get results. While I’d been running my own business for more than 8 years before that as a marketing consultant, as well as a very successful side business as a blogger/teacher in the papercrafting world, I truly consider the last two years trial by fire.

Nothing could have prepared me for the lessons I learned every single day about myself, and my business. Just when you think you’ve got it nailed – surprise – you don’t.

Which is why I wanted to share three things that I do think I’ve done right (well, I’m doing them right at this point…more on that in a moment) to help you as you navigate the rocky path of small business ownership and choosing to be an entrepreneur.

Let’s face it, this shit is hard, and can be super lonely, but nailing these things down has made a massive difference in my success and sanity:

#1. Making Brilliant Business BFFs

You know that moment when you’re like “OMFG, what the hell am I doing and what is the point of this?” The temporary lapse of reason where you’re ready to get a 9-5 because it would be so much easier?  Or when you’ve taken so much abuse from a client who’s on a rampage that you’re in tears and so done it’s not even funny?

This is why you need business BFFs. Because when the shit is hitting the fan and you need to vent or to get support, only someone else in your shoes really gets what you’re saying.

Because to a non-business owner, getting a 9-5 or doing the safe thing seems like the most reasonable answer. After all, that’s what normal, sane people do, right?

When you bring these issues and challenges to your business BFFs, they’re going to tell you to get it together, how to fix it, give you a shoulder to cry on and if need be, tell you to get over yourself already. It’s a wondrous mix of support, figuring out the answers and tough love plus ass kicking in one place.

Sure, you’re building a business and this is going to seem like work, especially if you feel like you’ve got enough friends already. But this isn’t about being social, it’s business.  Taking the time to seek out and cultivate business besties isn’t frivolous, it’s a necessity.

If you’re on the lookout for business buds, watch for people you bump into around your online circles. Likely if you’re in the same places, you have things in common, and that’s always a good starting point.

Start by suggesting a get-to-know-you call, share their stuff with your tribe and generally get to know them. It’s no different really than making friends in real life. (And a word of warning just like real life, befriend them because you genuinely dig them, not because you think you can get something from them or are trying to get ahead. That’s so uncool, that I can’t even go there.)

In my case, my closest business friends – some of whom I’ve met in person  and others I’ve not – are people I’ve met in Facebook groups and as part of paid courses/communities. And I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Business BFFs aren’t frivolous. It’s a necessity. New blog post from @magspatterson.” quote=”Business BFFs aren’t frivolous. It’s a necessity. New blog post from @magspatterson.”]

#2. Establishing Boundaries

In some ways I’m reticent to talk about boundaries, so here goes nothing.

Let’s preface this boundary discussion with this – boundaries change and evolve over time. Different stages in your business demand new boundaries. But when you’re just starting out, you need to earn the right to establish harder boundaries over time.

Should you be a doormat? Absolutely not, but playing the games with clients over the scope of work when it’s really no big deal is a recipe for failure.

So when I talk about boundaries, I mean the ones that are unbreakable for me as a business owner, which are really quite simple: payments, time off and respect.

I don’t screw around with money and nor am I a credit lender, ATM or debtor  for my clients. This for me, is the fastest way to trigger me into a complete tailspin so I make my payment requirements clear. This took a good 9 years to get to this point of being a complete hard ass about it, but I’ll tell you this: I’ve only ever had ONE client not pay me and that was in year two of my business.

Taking time off from my business is a hard boundary that is unbreakable. Once a year I take a digital detox which means no email, no Facebook and no work. Clients or potential clients who raise eyebrows at this aren’t a good fit for me.

The rest of the time, I’m pretty flexible and my clients are cool with my Monday to Thursday work week. It works because I’m clear on delivery deadlines and I manage expectations. When you’re on time consistently, people respect your time boundaries.

And respect, well, that explains itself. I do my absolute best to be kind and thoughtful, and I ask that people I work with do the same. (Apparently that’s some type of crazy request for some people.)

Occasionally, there will be a complete communication meltdown – it happens to everyone at some point. But every single time it does, I go back to the root cause and work to figure out what happened.

Usually this means I have to be clearer about expectations or change contract language to guard against the same issue happening over and over. (Hint: When the same thing happens multiple times, it’s not the clients, it’s you. You need to own it and stop playing the blame game.)

[clickToTweet tweet=”The good/bad of business boundaries. New blog post @magspatterson” quote=”The good/bad of business boundaries. New blog post @magspatterson”]

#3. Invest in Coaching and Communities

In the last two years, I’ve worked with a number of coaches and been active in a number of communities. Some short-term and some for the long haul.

It’s not all been good. Like the coach who literally couldn’t remember what my business was, or the communities where people were epically annoying because they were too lazy to Google things before they asked their questions.

But there’s been some amazing experiences too. And because of all of this…at this point, I know exactly what I’m looking for. If there’s group coaching, the coach better show up and answer questions consistently and have a team backing them up.

If it’s a community, I don’t want to be in a group where I’m just another number and everyone is wrapped up in self-promotion or social BJs.  The second I start rolling my eyes as I scan posts, that’s a sign I’m in the wrong place.

Being part of a community should be enjoyable. You should actually like the people in there instead of worrying about how you’re going to form alliances and get to 7-figures.

For me, less is more with coaching and community.

Take the time to curate your experience so you can get the most out of it and maximize your time (or financial) investment. Because what good is any of it if you can’t use it or it consistently stresses you out? Or if you kind of actually hate the person you’re paying to coach you, or worse yet,  you don’t respect them?

This past year, the Conquer Club has been a big part of offering me the coaching and community I’ve needed. Which is why I’m SUPER excited to invite you to join us for Conquer Club 2016.  It’s coaching, community and sheer amazing-ness for anyone building their small business.

Details are below on how you can join us – and if it’s not your jam, find a community and/or a coach that is.

Conquer Club Promo Graphics Email Header

I’ve teamed up with Natalie MacNeil, the creator of the Conquer Club, to offer you an amazing bonus if you sign up for the 2016 Conquer Club. When you sign up through me you’ll get a spot in the Inside Scoop Academy: Marketing School’s Winter class that starts in February. (This is the course formerly known as the No B.S. Marketing School – but that’s a story for another day.)

For the price of the Conquer Club – you’ll get the Inside Scoop Academy: Marketing School for free. (A $749 value). Plus, if you sign up by November 5th, you’ll get my new mini-course Stories That Sell for FREE when it launches on December 1st.

Click here to get all the details on this sweet deal.

The need-to-know. If you purchase, you’ll be purchasing directly through Natalie MacNeil and She Takes on the World and will be sent to her sales page and checkout. For this, I will be receiving a commission for my referrals.

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