Breaking the 9 to 5 and running your own business does not mean you work less. Far from it, you tend to work a hell of a lot more. But, hopefully, you enjoy what you do and realise that what you’re building is for your direct benefit and gives you a level of satisfaction you previously haven’t had. The not-so-sexy part of running your own business, however, is you have to do everything initially by yourself, and you have to a lot of the same things over and over again.
When I first started my business in telecoms, I was creating an Excel spreadsheet every month with an invoice for each customer. I had to type up exactly what services they had consumed that month, create a PDF and email it out to them from a generic email address.
The output looked very professional, but by God did I hate the day that I spent every month, creating over two hundred unique invoices. The point is, I had to do it. And then I had the even more unenviable job of chasing these two hundred clients for payment each and every month.
Luckily, the service I was offering was often critical to their businesses – the Internet would always be the last thing they turned off – and if they didn’t pay I could always say we would stop providing service!
Ultimately though, the real Groundhog Day process is the selling and repeated selling of the same product over and over again. Car manufacturers invest billions into designing a new model of car, but once it has been out for a few months and the initial excitement has worn off, it’s back to the drawing board, designing a new model, to keep pace with changing demands. On and on the process goes, in order to make a profit.
That is exactly how you should think about your business: just repeat and repeat. It isn’t fun and it can be demotivating to do the same thing over and over again, but it’s absolutely central to establish your offering, increase your customer base and drive profit into your fledgling business.
It is why so many businesses take years to establish. They usually start with one customer, then two, and so forth. It’s called organic growth, and whilst time consuming and slow, you can create great long-term customer relationships, which you can grow and develop. You are not just making sales but adding value to your business by building a loyal client base which is highly valuable.
It is really important to keep motivated during this time. Obviously there are small changes you can make to improve the product or service and increase your efficiency, but the discipline is not to be distracted by lots of other things when all your previous steps (outlined in this podcast series) have led you to this offering. The key is to immerse yourself into the marketing, public relations and other activities that promotes your brand and products, to enable you to continue to repeat your offering.
I find this stage of a new business hugely fulfilling. If you are able to keep repeating the same service or product over and over then you have a real business. If it isn’t making a profit yet, then as long as you keep disciplined and don’t get distracted then you can keep making small changes to improve your profitability. As I said in the previous episode, it might just need for you to amend your pricing model slightly to improve margins. Remember: innovation and research and development activity can come later.