Four years ago, I put down my first business plan to go into business as a mumpreneur. Tired of earning below what I believed was my value in my job at the time, I was convinced that business was the only way out.
So I started saving enough to get the business starting. Four years later, I must say that it was DEFINITELY not what I imagined, but a worthwhile experience. So I thought I would share the lessons learnt for anyone who is considering going into business, or is in business and wondering if what they are going through is normal.
Lesson #1: There are 3 things you can’t do without, to thrive as a business:
It takes money to make money. Initially, you might not make money for months, even years. Think of some of your favourite brands, e.g. Uber is yet to break-even and it is probably the most revolutionary thing that has happened in the transport industry.
Your capital is what will keep your business afloat during those times, as you need to keep going even when there is no customer in sight. Also this does not mean that your business strategy is not working, but it does mean that you need to be more intentional about your marketing strategy.
I can’t stress the importance of having a mentor. Without someone to guide you, motivate you through the rough times, and be a sounding board, it is so easy to give up. I started on my own, but with support from my family, and even though I did not have a formal business mentor, their support kept me going through the rough times.
3.EXPERIENCE WITHIN YOUR TEAM
You will never know everything no matter how much research you do, or experience you have. So when you don’t know something, your team might have the answer.
I have learnt that listening to my employees is vital and sometimes necessary to move my business forward.
Lesson #2: You will sometimes have to sacrifice some of the important things in your life to make time for your business
If you are looking for a “get rich, quick” solution, then you should definitely not go onto the entrepreneurship route. Doing business as a mumpreneur has meant sacrificing time away from my family and kids, sometimes having to miss events or friends’ lunches and even having to put in late nights to see some things through.
Somehow, I have tried my best to integrate my business and my family whenever I can, e.g. working from home or delegating as much as possible to my assistant. Being in control of how I manage my time has been the key to balancing between family and business and career.
There have been months when I am totally consumed in the business and have to work overtime, so that I have some quality time with my family. The key takeaway here is to be aware of how your business is impacting your family and to intentionally make time for the other priorities in your life. Business is time-consuming especially if you are running it alone!
Lesson #3: Don’t expect your employees to thrive if you do not have systems and processes in place
Your employees are not the ones who will bring order and organization into your business, YOU WILL! I learnt that creating systems before hiring people, is much more efficient than hiring them and figuring it out later.
Be it accounting, email, customer service, operations systems, you will need to get these in place from Day 1. This will make it so much easier for employees to understand your business and do what needs to be done, in the most time and cost efficient way.
Also, technology is your best friend! Here is an example:
For my customer service, I used an automated mailing system to welcome each customer who made a purchase and follow up on their shopping experience. This would not be scalable if I tried to do this manually…
At some point (When things got a bit hectic, and my business had started picking up momentum in sales and returning customers), I documented all my operational processes and took every employee through them. I also got good suggestions from my employees on ways to make our operations more efficient, based on their previous work place experience (my competitors :-)) – so it was a win-win situation for everyone!
Lesson #4: Get your finances in order from Day 1
I have stopped counting the number of times that I buy from a small business, and when I asked for the payment method, the business owner gives me his/her personal account or mobile phone number.
This is NOT how a business is run if you want to scale it up. You need to have
- business bank accounts
- financial accounts – prepared as often as possible
- company registration and tax documents,
Especially if you are planning on seeking for investors in the future, no one will take you seriously if you do not have your finances in order, or worse if you do not know the financial performance of your business off your fingertips.
Things like how much in sales you made in the last month or year, how profitable you are, what is the size of your balance sheet: these are vital figures that will help you assess how well your business is doing at any point in time.
And if you are not a numbers person, don’t worry! Invest some financial resources in a bookkeeper/ accountant who can keep your financials up to date. Also, there are a lot of free resources online like this one, on youtube to help you understand the basic fundamentals of business finance. If you want to excel in business as a mumpreneur, you definitely need to upskill yourself in this area.
Lesson #5: You should be the first salesperson in your business
And this doesn’t mean forcing all your friends and family to buy your products or services! But, take your business card with you wherever you go, talk about your business and what you do, share your website or social media name.
I got so many follow-on customers from just sharing a business card with people I used to meet; sometimes it took months before people would come back to buy, sometimes it was almost immediate, so be patient.
And whenever you have the chance to promote your business, be the cheerleader. Don’t leave it all to your employees, let them learn from how you talk about your product and treat your customers!
Lesson #6: Your business will go as far as you believe in it
Your customers, employees, shareholders, etc will know if you don’t believe in your business’s ability to scale up and grow. So you need to back yourself up, believe in it even if the numbers are looking grim!
Keep grinding, keep pushing, keep going, and believe in yourself and your business’s vision! And remember, the hard and consistent work you put in, might take some years to pay off, but it will pay off in the end if you consistently work on it!
What lessons have you learnt in business as an entrepreneur?