Posted on July 18, 2017
9 years – 9 lessons
Starting a business or being an entrepreneur is NOT the simple life. When I started Beyond Measure 9 years ago I went into this adventure as a person who was incredibly skilled at the job of being an Architectural Technologist, not someone who thought she’d be in business for herself necessarily. That being said, a few weeks into it I knew that this was the life for me. It was scary & exciting at the exact same moment. Eventually I understood that I could design my life around what I desired most but here’s the caveat… I wasn’t ready for just how much of a this business would be so deeply engrained in my life. At times it is a total emotional roller coaster that can (and will) effect me mentally, physically and emotionally. I have had my share of goes on this ride…ups and downs, stress and elation. Looking back, I have learnt some incredible lessons which I’d like to share with you(and these are in no particular order).
This should go without saying but honesty is always the best policy. Honesty about who you are, about what you stand for and how you can help others with your services. The construction industry on a whole deals with one of the most significant investments people make in their entire lives…their homes. It is fraught with cases of deceit, under the table deals and fraud. It’s a scary place for a lot of people.
Honesty builds trust.
My greatest advice, admit when you are wrong…we are all human, mistakes happen. If you try to hide or pass the blame to some other party it will eat away at any of the trust you may have had the opportunity to build. Always be honest.
I have always found that this was one of the least taught aspects of entrepreneurship. For me, it is about setting clear objectives and having a defined process that lead people through the design of their home. For me, it’s the little things …setting specific hours in each week for meetings, giving clients reasonable timelines and then working to deliver projects on or before that. I make promises very carefully & thoughtfully and make sure I am able to delivered upon them fully.
Listen more than Talk
Have you heard the quote “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason…twice the listening, half the talking”? I’d have to say that this has become a standard practice in my business. When starting a new project it is my job to listen intently, ask questions when needed but to truly get a full idea of the kind of home you are looking for I need to listen. A lot of the time, it brings out items that maybe you weren’t aware of, I can see a common theme or pull information that tells me what you are really wanting vs what you are saying you want.
Let clients go
There is an old adage…20% of your clients give you 80% of your problems. When I first heard this I thought, “Nah that can’t be true” but now I’d say it’s pretty accurate. At a few points in the past 9 years I have had to make the tough decision, and trust me it’s no east task, to part ways with companies I had worked with for long periods of time. Sometimes personalities don’t mesh and you are creating more stress in each others lives than needs to be.
I can tell you one thing though…every time I have taken this step I have had walked through incredible moments of intense fear. What is no other work comes? What if my reputation is tarnished? The answer has shown itself almost immediately with opportunities I would have never imagined. If you believe in manifestation, this would be the universe telling you there is more out there.
I go through intense periods of learning…new software, new building techniques, new code compliance. And that’s just the items pertaining to the drawings going out the door. Being an entrepreneur you also have all the other hats to wear…marketing, promotions, finance, accounting, website, blog…and the list goes on and on. The to do list can become an overwhelming addition to already full brain.
Here’s what I’ve learnt though…focus on one item before heading off to do the next. And always look for the opportunity to learn from others around you.
Repeat after me…NO. Yes, you can say no when it doesn’t work for you. As a baby business I said yes to every project, every single thing that came across my desk. Guess what? Wasn’t the best idea. I took on projects where my gut instinct would say “Uhmm what are you doing, it’s gonna go bad” and in some cases it did. I did that a few times and each time I told myself I wasn’t going into that trap again. It’s hard though. You feel guilty for turning work away, back to the fear I previously mentioned, but in the end you know it doesn’t align with your talents or your skills so just don’t do it.
Focus on your own Business
In a competitive market(which I would say Saskatoon is now entering as far as design) it is really easy to find yourself comparing your business model to others. It’s a measure that clients use to judge your services so it is imperative that you see yourself apart. My business isn’t the same as others out there so why the hell am I comparing myself to you? It’s human nature. You need to focus on your own unique abilities and promote the hell right out of them.
Face problems head on
As a new Tech to the industry, and a female at that, I did everything I could to make sure I had a way out of every situation. I would document every conversation, every instruction to the point that I actually started to trust my notes more than I did my abilities and understanding. When a problem arose I would be meek, mostly because I thought that was the easiest way out, and I would take whatever criticism was thrown my way whether I deserved it or not. Owning this business has taught me that I have to face up to problems when they surface and there is a graceful and elegant way to do that. You take the blame and emotion out, you address the problem, you work to find a solution and then you determine if your process needs to change in order for this to not happen again. It seems simple but trust me, it is a learned skill.
This is still is one of the challenging parts of my business. I believe it comes down to the imposter syndrome that I think everyone has suffered from in points in their lives.
Who are you to brag? That’s so self absorbed! You know this conversation.
My plan of attack here is simple, I recognize that voice. Call that voice out actually and I ask myself one question. Is what I’m saying, writing or promoting of service to others? If the answer is yes, out it goes. Post. If the answer is no, then it’s back to determining what could change to make this a benefit to others.
Where will the next few years take me? For now I don’t have a clear idea yet but inspiration hits you when you least expect it. Yeah to that!