Every entrepreneurship journey contains several valuable life lessons and business stories which others can follow and learn from.
Years ago, when I co-founded our start-up with my husband, I knew zilch about entrepreneurship. Back then, I had no formal training in business. Neither did I have any business stories with lessons to guide me. What I did have was 3 things – plain common sense, an insane fire in my belly to succeed, boldness and (even if I may say so myself) a healthy level of emotional intelligence.
As the years went by, through sheer power of observation, first hand experience, doing several business courses and constant upgradation of my skill sets, I have become, what I jokingly call – ‘finely polished’. Today, I have dozens of lessons from starting a business, which I can share right off the bat; especially so for the female entrepreneurs.
Do all the lessons from starting a business make me a fail-safe phenomenon? Heck, no! I am as human as before. But what these life lessons do is, they make me less brittle, more soft around the edges, more tolerant towards others; more so towards self and quite seasoned.
I list these below.
Top 15 life lessons from my business journey.
All of these are equally important – none being any less than the other.
1. Maintaining work-life balance is important.
New entrepreneurs, in their zeal for success or due to fear of failure, tend to lean more towards overworking. This creates undesirable imbalance in life. What’s the point of missing a day out with your children for the sake of a sales meeting when it’s the love for your family that drives you to success? Proper Planning of your time – that’s the key to having a good work-life balance.
2. Never ignore your health.
Of all the different types of wealths listed by the wise ones, ‘health’ tops all. What good will all your hard-earned money be for you, if you have to trade it for health? No health – no joy in life. That’s a million dollar takeaway for you. So make time for daily exercise or sports – anything that keeps you fit. And pay special attention to your diet.
3. Knowing your ‘why’ will keep you on track.
In my business journey, there were perhaps thousands of times when I questioned my decision to go on. There were times when, I swear, I came close to throwing in the towel and going home. It was my ‘why’ that kept me right on track. ‘Why have I started this business?’ ‘Why do I want to succeed?’ I had a crystal clear reason before me, why I should not quit. My ‘why’ helped me succeed.
4. Decide your vision and mission before everything else.
Just like your ‘why’ your ‘vision and mission’ should be ready much before you even meet your first client. Your vision and mission will serve like a flashlight on a dark and desolate road; your guiding force while you chase your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
5. Multitasking does not pay in the end. Focus does.
Nobody ever succeeded while multitasking. Not for a long time. Multitasking never allows a person to produce A-class work. Yes, it can get the job done. But not, what Robin Sharma calls, ‘your genius work’. Multitasking is like juggling several balls at the same time. Sooner or later, you – the juggler – are bound to drop one, two or many balls on the ground. So the lesson I learnt long ago was, learn to develop pockets of focus – where no one disturbs you. So that you are able to put your best in your work. Not just a mediocre one.
6. Have a team.
Carrying forward the point of multitasking, avoid at all cost, the trap of – I can do it all myself; or – No one can do it better than me – trap. Sure, your business is your baby and no one can look after it better than mama. But having a team to handle different ‘balls’ for you, different departments of the business, gives you the freedom of being focused. Team members bring their individual expertise to the work.
7. Have a team that believes in you.
It is one thing to have a team and quite another to have a team that believes in you; believes in your vision and mission for the business. They need to have full faith in the person, his abilities and his integrity, in whose business they are putting in hours and days of their life. Just like you, your team members too, have concerns about their future. And if and only if you are able to assure them that you are worth betting on, will they stay with you.
8. Sticking to your core values takes guts but is immensely rewarding ultimately.
Along your business journey, there will be countless instances when your integrity will be tested by fate. How steadfast do you remain to your core values? Do you keep your promises made to the clients, no matter what? How willing are you to throw your rules under the bus inorder to earn an extra buck? The more steadfast and resolute you remain, the stronger the foundation of your business will be.
9. Reward initiatives in your team.
Managing the team doesn’t always mean fault-finding. People who take initiatives on their own, come up with unique solutions and do more than what their job requires them to do, are rare gems. As a business owner, having such gems to work with, is a delight. Rewarding initiatives encourages others too to work in this manner. It is how office culture should be developed.
10. What’s your company culture?
Do your team members feel ease and trust while working with each other or is back biting and cutting each other’s roots a norm in your office? Is honesty, integrity and hard work valued or shunned at your workplace? Do women feel safe over there? Is there an environment of mutual respect prevalent or is it of doubt and mistrust amongst each other? It takes years of careful inculcation where company culture is concerned. Having just one bad apple in the office is enough to turn the entire environment undesirable and adverse for work. No one wants to work in a toxic environment. That is one reason for the high attrition rate in any given office. No matter how valuable you may see that bad apple to be, don’t waste even a minute in removing her/him.
11. Not all days are the same.
Do remember this – especially on bad ones. Life has its ups and downs. Keep plowing through it.
12. Each day do a little bit more than what you think you can.
Doing just about as much as you can, is not the key to excellence. Keep at it. Do more than what you can – physically and mentally. Daily. Being a leader, this sets an example for the rest of the team members. Soon, this becomes a part of the company’s work culture.
13. Be a constant learner.
Not learning is stagnation. Education is not just what you get in school and college. Constant upgradation of your skill sets makes you so much more equipped to run your business efficiently. Why just you? Your team members too, should be encouraged to do the same. Especially so with the ever changing technology these days. Not learning means being left behind. At work. In life.
14. Learn to handle criticism effectively.
There are two ways of handling criticism – positively as well as negatively. Positive handling of criticism brings about improvement while negative handling creates only toxicity. A good sign of inner maturity is how wisely criticism is handled by you. This criticism may come from any direction – be it client, team member or even from your partners. Don’t let criticism reach your ego. Instead, look at it as an opportunity that God has sent your way for you and your business to improve.
15. For accomplishing your goals, there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect time’.
Perfect time never exists. There’s always some errand to finish first, some pressing personal problem fighting for your attention or some perceived hurdle. The key is – get going. And once you are at it – keep going. Ever heard this question – what is the best way of climbing a mountain? Answer: One step at a time.
Final thoughts about my Business Life Lessons:
I urge you, my valued reader, to understand the significance of business in your life. Like everything else, making your business a success will ask for a lot from you: your time, your energy and your focus. Like everything else, business too demands something in exchange for what it can give to you. Do understand one thing –
Business is – trading your time and energy for money.
Life is far too valuable to be spent in the sole pursuit of money. Sure, money is required. Infact, I have no hang ups in admitting that, like you, I love money too. And success.
But a problem arises when we make running after material success, the one and only purpose of our life. Do keep some time and energy aside for your loved ones.
And more importantly – for your own self; for your inner growth, for activities that make you happy and healthy.
If you want your business journey to be a joyful, enriching experience, let it be a part of your life. Not the whole.