10 Business Lessons I’ve Learned

Small Business

Whether you’re a new business owner or have been a business owner for decades there are lessons to be learned at each of the 5 stages of business. The key word being learned. While most owners look for ways to be more profitable, profitability is only one part of achieving a healthy business. A healthy business is one that is profitable, sustainable and enjoyable. When focusing only on profits it’s easy to work at a level that is not sustainable or enjoyable. Those closest to you usually try make you aware of it, but letting you know you’re working all of the time. It’s difficult to build a team with a model that is not sustainable or enjoyable even if it is profitable at first.

I’ve learned many lessons over the years that have helped me build a healthy business, by doing the work. The difference between a successful business and an unsuccessful one starts with the owner’s mindset.  

Lessons Learned by Doing

  • BE OPTIMISTIC – Is the glass hapf empty or half full. Having reasonable optimism helps you realize opportunities and attract positive people. This is about how you show up each day. Starting the day with gratitude helps.
  • MAKE DECISIONS​ – Don’t just talk about the problems. Identify them but focus on the solutions and implementing. Take chances by believing in yourself and the people you surround yourself with. Know that everything can be figured out. 
  • YOUR TEAM IS YOUR BIGGEST ASSET – You’re are only as good as the team around you. Hire smart people and allow them to do their job and own their role. If you find yourself telling them what to do, or doing it yourself, you’re not leading. Take care of them.
  • RESPECT EVERY JOB– Look for the dignity and excellence in every role and part of your business. Every person you connect with is important to your business success. Be an example of professionalism each day.
  • ENCOURAGE DISCUSSIONS – Be open to different ideas. Be approachable. Your way is not the only way. People will be open when they feel valued and heard. Appreciate others.
  • WORK ON YOUR BUSINESS MORE THAN IN YOUR BUSINESS – Understand that in the beginning you are doing it all. Don’t use that as an excuse to not look at the big picture. Busy doesn’t mean productive. A business will grow as the owner grows. Develop yourself both personally and professionally.
  • HAVE A VISION AND A MODEL TO MAKE IT HAPPEN​ – What does the end look like? (Vision is the future) Define your success.) How will we get there? (Model is the framework you use daily) Take time to plan your future. Don’t allow it to just happen.
  • ADMIT AND LEARN FROM MISTAKES – Admit mistakes then learn from them so you don’t keep making them. Know someone that hasn’t learned their lesson yet.  Don’t allow yourself to be the bottleneck in your business.
  • ASK FOR HELP – Develop this skill because it’s a strength. If you surround yourself with good people you will be inspired to be your best. Asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness. You’re not supposed to know it all.
  • MAKE TIME FOR BREAKS – Daily moments to clear your head and longer breaks to get away from the day-to-day. Your ideas and creativity will flow. We all have different versions of ourselves. (Parent, Spouse or Partner) Allow yourself time to use your creative imagination.

As a business owner and leadership coach/speaker, I learn something every day from my team, customers/clients, peers and suppliers/vendors. These insights help me to better serve my team, customers/clients and community. (Subscribe to receive my weekly behind the scenes insight emails.) The relationships I build, fuel me and my continued passion to serve trade business owners, the trade industries and the good people in it. You can do the same for your business.

It’s Not Your Fault Until it is.

I had some recent conversations with small business owners. All looking for ways to improve an area of their business. The conversations had to do with Sales, Profits, Processes, Customers or Teams. I thought it was interesting, how the conversations and questions came back to teams.

The fact is you can’t grow your business alone without sacrificing another part of your life.  I’ve seen many make sacrifices in their personal life at the expense of their family to turn their business dream into a reality. 

At some point you realize you need a team. Even if it’s adding one person. The biggest mistake owners make is not focusing on their culture. You start with an ad and then work on getting the systems and processes out of your head and documented. These are important steps by not without defining your business culture. Culture is like a magnet. It will attract the right people and repel the rest. Mastery of your business culture will give your business a competitive advantage by making it healthy. (Profitable, Sustainable and Enjoyable)

I find that most owners look outward to make changes when it comes to their team. They usually mention at least one of these areas they would like to improve.

  • Communication
  • Accountability
  • Motivation

 I challenge you to look at this differently. Start your culture journey by looking within. Small business owners have lots of areas they are responsible for. How you show up every day is your choice.

As Owner and Leader

  1. How is your communication? Not only at work but in life. What do the closest people to you say about your communication style? To have a higher level of communication your team needs to be able to discuss things with you. Talking at people or telling them what to do is not communication. Communication involves listening.
  2. How accountable are you? It’s easy to set goals but having a process to achieve them is very different. It’s easy to create habits when your starting out that end up not serving you, your team or your business.
  3. What motivates you each day? You already know what drives you. Motivation is internal. Don’t focus on motivating others. It’s short sighted and you will be continually looking for the next thing.  Your mission and vision will inspire the right people for your team.

Start with Your Core Values

Write them down and live them each day. At the end of the day look for instances where your core values showed up. How would you rate yourself? How do they show up when you’re under pressure?

Assign Outcomes

Most new leaders or business owners will assign tasks instead of outcomes. By assigning a task, people will naturally come back for the next task. When you assign an outcome, people take on the responsibility to get the job done.

Your business will grow as you, the owner grows.  Whether through podcasts, books, blogs, trainings, articles, accountability partners, mentoring, consulting, training or coaching you will discover the “you don’t know what you don’t know” areas in your business.

You will always be learning and building skills so it’s not your fault, until it is your fault because:

  • You’ve identified the challenge
  • You know how to solve it
  • You don’t act on it

Fear will hold many owners back from implementing and achieving.  Have you ever created a story around your fear, justifying it, while another business owner did what you were afraid to do? We’ve all been there personally and professionally. Don’t allow the thing that is holding your business back, be you.

Hero or Guide

Is Your Business A Resource Or A Hero?

I had a conversation with a client recently and they realized that they had positioned their company has a hero. They are simple the best at everything including team, warranty, quality, the list went on and on about themselves.

How does a shop appear to a customer when you position your business at a hero? When you are speaking about yourself or your company and all the equipment, training, and certifications you have, the customer gets lost. Nothing in that messaging is about them. When your goal is to be a hero, anything that goes wrong can quickly result in being a zero to a customer. When your goal is to be a resource, your position your business as a guide for your customers. Help, support, advice and guide them.

Here’s what works.

Making the customer the star. Whether you are networking at a local event, sharing a great customer review, latest project or working on your website copy, you’re the resource and your customer is the star. Cheer them on.

When you get a complement.  Say thank you and credit your team. Credit the customer with bringing their vehicle in right away saving themselves time and money. Complement their friend who referred you. They’re a long-time customer.

When posting a review. Thank you for choosing __________. We value your trust! Or You’ve been a star customer regularly maintaining your vehicle adding years to it life.

GOOD, BAD and UGLY approach

The good is about the customer/client: 1) The customer addressed their concern early? 2)The Customer chose a reputable shop offering a great warranty.  3) By getting the vehicle here early, the work can be taken care of today. 4) They chose a shop that offers financing, loaner vehicles, shuttles rides. (whatever their need is.)  5) They made a great choice. This work is your specialty.

The bad is the concern or problem? Simply state the facts. The situation as it is. No drama. They have a concern. You address it, test and analyze it to come to a diagnosis. Present it in a matter-of-fact way.  Do not use ‘I’ve got bad news’ or negative statements.

They ugly is what happens if they don’t address the problem. Be honest. How will it affect their life? 1) Larger costs by holding off on repair 2) Driving and unsafe vehicle 3) Driving an unreliable vehicle. 4) Cost of a new vehicle and the associated costs. 5) Customer has not budgeted for auto repair. 6) Vehicles tend to break down at the worst times.

All of this brings us back full circle to the good and all the ways you can guide them to get the most value out of their vehicle, allowing them to make the best auto decision and go on with their lives and their responsibilities, making them the hero. They have others depending on them.

Over the years, I’ve found that no matter what services I’ve purchased the follow is true.

“I’ve learned that people won’t remember what you said
And people won’t remember what you did
People will only remember how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou

If a company can solve my problem, can clearly explain the price, time frame of the work and treats me with respect, they will earn my trust. If they treat me like a person and not a transaction, they earn my loyalty.