Looking back at the year can be an extremely valuable exercise for many of us, but it’s especially useful for new small business owners. Celebrating your wins can help you recognize the great business choices you made, and acknowledging your losses can help you avoid making the same mistakes twice. We spoke to eight entrepreneurs about the lessons they learned in 2018 that they’ll be bringing into the new year. Here’s what they said.
Be one of a kind
“What I’ve learned this year is the importance of brand identity. It’s essential to find something that will set you apart from your competitors and to highlight it in your communications or marketing materials. For example, as a content creator and editor, I’ve developed a reputation for my quick turnaround. The flexibility I offer clients has been one of the biggest reasons my clients often refer me to their colleagues. Every business will have a variety of identifying features, but you’ve got to find the one that really is unique to your business and spotlight it as often as possible.”
Owner, Content and Commas
Keep it moving
“No matter how much you’ve evolved and grown, there will always be people who expect—or worse, demand—the old version of you. You’ve really got to stand up for your growth, even at the risk of losing people, otherwise you’ll end up going backwards. Just like a computer company, you’ve got to force people to upgrade by making the old version unavailable.”
Executive Producer, Shortlist Artists
Business is its own language
“The fundamentals of doing business are the same worldwide. Culture and traditions alter it ever so slightly, but I firmly believe if you’re a solid business person, it will translate globally.”
Co-Founder, Splash Effect
Don’t take it personal
“What I’ve learned this year from running a small business is that it’s always business, never personal. Whether it be amongst your partners, employees, suppliers or customers, always remember to keep your emotions in check no matter how passionate you might feel about a situation. Save the passion for the product you’re creating. Sometimes you need to take small losses in order to keep moving forward. So, grit your teeth and bear it because it will get better.”
Chef/Owner, The Dirty Bird Chicken + Waffles
An experience to remember
“It’s difficult to pin down one thing that I’ve learned as a business owner in 2018 because everything is still new to me. But for the sake of brevity, I’ll only mention two things. The first thing is to build your team. You’re going to have a lot of individuals that you’re working with, and if you don’t turn them into a cohesive team, I don’t care how talented they are, you’re not going to make it. Play to your strengths, recognize your weaknesses, and maximize your effort.
The second thing is to never underestimate the importance of a quality customer experience. I have a great product, but I don’t have a unique product. There are plenty of similar businesses in the area that can provide a product whose quality is equal to or greater than mine. What I can provide is a unique experience. How my customers feel when they leave is what gets them to keep coming back. You’ve got to understand that even if you’re the only business of your type in the area, you’re still just an option. You’ve got to create an experience that allows you to become the choice.
Fred Lozano Jr.
Co-Owner, Bascule Brewery & Public House
An ounce of prevention
“I’ve learned this year that being organized prevents headaches. Making the effort to regularly track my income, expenses and personal bill deadlines (and not during tax season) prevents all kinds of penalty fees. It also helps me feel like I’m more in control of my business and my goals. I’m definitely excited to see what opportunities come with this new discipline and practice!”
CEO, socially LiT
Less is more
“I’ve learned that hours of focused productivity are just as fruitful as hours of restful time away from work. When I first started my business, I believed that the more hours of blood, sweat, tears and hustle that I put in would result in more exposure, success and money. I don’t really think that’s true anymore. More hours working doesn’t always mean I’m producing more quality work, and I want to know that all my clients are receiving the highest caliber of service, which means I need breaks. It means that I need to take time away to recharge and spend as much time building myself up as I do my business because without me at my best, the business won’t be successful anyway.
I learned this lesson from my clients—new moms who are also very passionate about their life’s work. They found themselves juggling the baby in one hand and their phone in the other, drafting proposals between feeds and naps, trying to figure out how to bring baby with them to that important meeting they just couldn’t miss. Eventually these clients realized that splitting minutes between baby and work meant that neither was getting their best, so they looked for a solution which often meant that Tuesday mornings are for baby and Tuesday afternoons are for coffee shop brainstorms. 2019 is all about turning it off to be able to really turn it on.”
Never don’t learn
“This year taught me that when you work for yourself, you should never stop learning. You don’t have the luxury of complacency. You should always be expanding your knowledge, honing your craft, buying books, reading articles, listening to podcasts—whatever it takes to stay ahead of your competition. It doesn’t matter how much you think you know, there’s always something new to learn.”
Jamil De Freitas
Designer, Heady Design Studios
Now it’s your turn to put these lessons to use, so you can focus on making different mistakes (which you can put aside until next year’s list is ready).
The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.