Forty per cent of small business owners in Australia are women. They run over 300,000 businesses and one third of them employ staff. And really, those statistics should surprise no one, given the cost of living and childcare expenses!
Unfortunately for many women starting and running a business is a period of trial and error. So here are five really valuable lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
1. Learn to be comfortable with wearing lots of different hats. Your business may be photography; however you’ll really only spend a small percentage of your time actually taking photos. You’ll also need to be the marketing manager, the bookkeeper, the sales person, the distributor, and the office dogsbody!
Because expertly running your business is what will guarantee success, not the actual product or service you offer. Many people are brilliant at what they do, but horrible at running a business. It comes as a shock to them that even though they love the idea of having a business, they don’t want anything to do with the actual running of a business.
2. It’s okay to say ‘no’. When you’re in business, your inbox is inundated with various requests: clients asking for unrealistic deadlines; friends asking for favours; and family wanting to visit on the day you’ve allocated to the big project you’re working on. While it’s nice to keep everyone happy, it’s not conducive to building and running a business.
In my book, I talk about writing a business mission statement as well as a mum mission statement. So when people are pushing for something that isn’t complimentary to what you’re trying to achieve, reread your statements to see if the request fits. As a business-minded individual you need to be able to say ‘no’ in order to propel your business forward.
3. Do not send out emails after hours. This is a simple yet powerful rule. Thanks to today’s technology, we all check our emails around the clock. And whilst you may well be working late into the night, do not hit send when you’re done, whether that be 7pm, 10pm or 2am. Because all you’re doing is teaching your clients that you are available 24/7 and they will come to expect a prompt response regardless of the time of day. This is about educating clients and controlling your work flow, rather than them dictating your day.
4. Life/work balance is over-rated. Stay with me on this. I read an interesting blog post by Joy McCarthy. She said, ‘You know, there’s this thing called life, you’re in it. Busyness, stress, to-do lists, unreasonable people — all this is life.’ This may sound harsh, but it’s true, and the sooner you stop stressing about being stressed, the sooner you’ll feel less stressed! So yes, it’s crazy and busy, but try and enjoy the ride.
Accept that it’s no longer a nine-to-five job … some days you’ll hardly come up for air and other days you’ll head out for a coffee with a friend. Life and work, and work and life intertwine, and you should enjoy the flexibility this provides.
5. Unashamedly borrow the famous Nike tagline: Just do it. Whatever it is … start it. Grow it. Write it. Draw it. Order it. Finish it! Parenthood does come in handy here. Your time is so limited that procrastination goes out the window and ‘you just do it’ with superhuman speed.
One of the most common reactions I’ve received when people find out I have recently released a book, on top of working full time and having a new baby in the house is, ‘How on earth did you find the time to do that?’
Getting stuff done is as simple as making it happen. No excuses, no questioning your ability, no justifications as to why you can’t instead of why you can. Create regular, achievable goals that give you a sense of inspired accomplishment.
Often the hardest part is starting, but the more you ‘just do it’, the more progress you make. Before you know it, you’ll have done more than you ever could have dreamed of. I know I have.
Sarah is a mother of three, art director of Lasso Creative and the author of Business & Baby at Home: A set-up and survival guide for mums.
Connect with Sarah here.