In 2010, at the age of 34, I created a list of 40 things I wanted to accomplish before turning 40, and #6 on that list was starting my own company. I would spend the next two years noodling over the idea, researching, consulting peers, and flushing out what it was I thought I wanted to do. Then, in 2012, with a note-filled copy of Consulting for Dummies in hand, I put pen to paper, created a business plan, and in April of that year, Scooter Media Company was born.
Over the course of the past ten years, I’ve learned a lot about running a business, myself, and who I am as a business owner and leader. As we celebrate Scooter Media’s 10th anniversary, I thought I would share a few of my lessons learned with you.
1. If you’re going to start a business, make sure you love the work.
While passion for your industry is most likely the reason you’re interested in starting a business in the first place, it is absolutely essential to make sure that passion is sustainable over the long term.
As a small business owner, you are going to be living and breathing that industry 24/7, especially when you’re starting out. If you don’t find yourself getting excited and energized by the triumphs and challenges your unique industry brings with it, you need to carefully consider whether the investment of starting a business — in time, money, and commitment — is worth it.
2. Get a mentor.
No matter how much you know (or how much you think you know), having a mentor is invaluable. Your mentor doesn’t even have to be in your industry; anyone you trust enough to be everything from a sounding board to a shoulder to cry on can fill the role. Many small business owners think that they can go at it alone, but you’ll be glad to have someone in your corner to keep you on track, celebrate your successes with, and counsel you whenever things go wrong (and trust me, they will go wrong from time to time).
3. Hire slowly, but smartly.
Scooter Media prides itself on being a “people first” agency. Simply put, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your team, and especially in a small business where employees may be expected to fulfill multiple roles, it’s vital to hire the right people. Don’t just consider the skills on a resume or a LinkedIn profile; get to know prospective employees as people first, and there’s a much better chance you’ll hire someone who is a perfect fit.
4. It’s OK to say “no.”
Being a small business owner often leads to many opportunities to grow your company’s profile and improve your personal brand. However, not all of these opportunities are going to be a good fit. Only say “yes” to opportunities that you find value in and that make sense for your organization to be a part of. Saying “no” can be a challenge at times, but attempting to keep all the plates spinning when you’ve overcommitted is even more challenging.
5. Lead with your gut, but back it up with research and data.
As a small business owner, you are going to be faced with an incredible amount of decisions, and quite often you may find your “gut feeling” at odds with logic when deciding the best course of action. But did you know there is increasing evidence this “gut feeling” is physically involved with intuitive processes? As Inc. put it, “our intuition […] offers a wealth of information, even if we can’t remember where the information comes from.”
In other words: that “gut feeling” isn’t nonsense, and it’s important to listen to those instincts when building your small business. Use research and data to help you distinguish between intuition and fear; if something doesn’t “feel right,” there’s a good chance it’s not the right course of action.
6. Be a giver.
Especially once your small business has found some level of success, it’s vitally important that you do not rest on that success, but instead use it to give back to those who have invested in you. The best small business owners are those that give back: to their people, to their company, to their clients and customers, and to others starting out on the entrepreneurial journey. I’m a firm believer that karma is real, and there’s a good chance that everything you give as a small business owner will return to you in kind.
7. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know everything.
No matter what industry you’re in, it’s inevitable that your small business will face situations for which it’s impossible to prepare. Instead of trying to ‘fake it ’til you make it,” it’s much better to own the fact that you don’t have all the answers. Doing so will help you stay authentic to your employees and clients — and more often than not, open the door for someone to offer a solution.
8. It takes a village.
The term “small business” can sometimes conjure up images of a few employees working in a tiny room, but the reality is that even the smallest of businesses involve a greater amount of people than you can imagine. You’ll lean on your family, friends, fellow business owners and team members more than you could possibly anticipate. Find your tribe, fill it with people you trust, and don’t forget to say “thank you.”
9. Believe in yourself and your vision.
The foundation of a successful small business starts with you believing in yourself. Go into this venture knowing that there will be days filled with some of your highest highs, and others with your lowest lows. Don’t let doubt damper the passion and vision that made this adventure exciting in the first place.
10. Look to the future, but celebrate the present.
As a small business owner, you’ll often feel like a defensive driver who is always looking toward the road ahead, anticipating any obstacles and correcting your course as necessary. While that is the kind of leadership your team members will look toward you for, it’s also important to keep perspective and celebrate wins both big and small.
After all, It’s no secret that most small businesses fail within their first few years of operation. So whether your business is celebrating 1 year or 10, always take the time to recognize and appreciate the moment you’re in, and how far you’ve traveled to get there.
Want to know more about Shannan? Get to know her here! Also be sure to check out our blog posts commemorating Scooter Media’s 10th anniversary, including “10 Memories from 10 Years of Scooter Media” and “Top 10 Viral Moments That Defined a Decade.”