If there's one thing I know to be true in business (and in life), it's that nothing is ever constant. By their very nature, businesses are dynamic, and we all need to be mindful of that if we want them to thrive. We, as business owners, have to be willing to face the reality of what we've built, something that's often easier said than done.
For one thing, we need to be willing to look at our business with our eyes wide open. Like ostriches, it's very easy to bury our head in the sand when things get overwhelming. Maybe your business isn't actually turning a profit. Maybe you're falling behind the current trends and your revenue is suffering as a result. Maybe you're allowing important opportunities to pass you by. Whatever the cause, if you're embracing the ignorance of just not knowing what's happening with your business, and if you're making the choice to just coast, you're also making the choice to ultimately fail.
Know that I'm pointing this out with no judgment attached; I too have been guilty of turning my back on some harsh truths about my business ventures, simply because it felt like too much to handle. Having worked through it myself, I can say from experience that really digging into your sales numbers, your marketing strategies, and your operational processes is an absolute must so you can make informed decision about what to do next.
Another truth in business ownership is that we need to be open to changing course as needed. Most of us started our business full of passion and intention - there was something we knew we wanted to do better than other businesses, and a specific way we wanted to do it. That kind of passion is great when you're starting up, but over time it can devolve into stubbornness, which can cause you to cling to old habits and outdated practices that actually are detrimental to your success.
I know in my own primary business, my former partner and I had some very black-and-white ideas about our company's policies, the services we would and wouldn't offer, and our overall business strategy. Those worked great for a while, but fast forward 12 or 13 years and I realized I was holding onto those same ideas simply out of principle. I wanted to feel like I've been right all along about how business should be done, and therefore I'd ignored some signs that the company needed to evolve.
Consider this: holding onto methods and models that are no longer serving you, you're only holding yourself back. And what's the point in that?
Of course, in order to embrace the flexibility to change, we also need to set our ego aside. And that can be tough. Business owners, for the most part, are a proud bunch. And we deserve to feel that pride - after all, we work pretty damn tirelessly, serving people who aren't always the easiest to deal with, and often for compensation that's way less than what we'd dreamed of as budding entrepreneurs.
As normal and healthy as it is to feel proud of our accomplishments, it's important that we don't allow that feeling to prevent us from being realistic about our business. In an online workshop I led recently, I reminded participants of this possibly-harsh fact:
YOU ARE NOT THE BEST.
I said that not to put them down, but to suggest that it's actually helpful to let go of the pressure to be better than everyone else, and to point out that, in every market, there will always be someone out there with more talent, more resources, better marketing, better connections, and a more dazzling reputation. Trying to win the rat race of being "the best," and running yourself into the ground doing it, is not only pointless but harmful.
Besides that, how many of our clients actually expect "the best?" How often do we ourselves expect "the best" when we're hiring for a service? Generally speaking, we look for a company/provider who can do a competent job, whom we like and trust, and whose business seems like one we want to support. Money is exchanged, services or goods are provided, it's all good.
Weddings are, of course, more important than the average transaction - but are they really that different? My point is that it's okay to get comfortable with the fact that we provide a valuable service and make our clients happy, and we don't have to beat everyone else out. That's not our burden to carry, unless we choose to make it so.
On that note, I want to emphasize how important it is that we extend ourselves some kindness. So, so, SO often we are more compassionate toward other people than we could ever be to our own selves. Never would we judge others with the same vitriol that we direct inward. And we do it without a second thought.
At least, I know I do. I had kind of a cathartic moment a couple of weeks ago (which I also touched on in that online workshop) in which I realized how incredibly hard on myself I've been, and I don't even know why. When did I decide that it was my responsibility to be the very best business owner, speaker, writer and educator? Why did I feel personally obligated to outperform literally everyone? (And, of course, because doing so literally wasn't possible, I felt shitty about myself way too much of the time, and for what?)
As I thought about all the amazing people in this industry and other creative industries, people whom I admire and whose success I'd love to emulate, I realized that everyone's story is different. Their backgrounds, education levels, financial resources, support systems, everything - are unique. And I realized that, while everyone struggles with something, I couldn't think of a single businessperson I admire whose story mirrors my own. I don't happen to know anyone else who's spent the past four years untangling a very contentious (and devastatingly expensive) divorce and unforeseen custody battle, who solo-parents two autistic children, who hustles to run three separate business ventures and various other side hustles to make ends meet, and who's never actually provided firsthand the service their primary business sells, as is the case with me.
Hopefully our readers know I'm not saying all of that to imply that I'm the only one with a lot on my plate, because that couldn't be further than the truth. I'm saying it because it was such an incredible realization that I didn't HAVE to bear the cross of being better than everyone - or anyone, really - and it was okay to just set it down. I didn't have to beat myself up any more. It wasn't worth the effort, and it wasn't doing a damn thing to make my life, or my children's lives, or my businesses, any better.
Which brings me to my final truth that we all need to face as part of business ownership: we need to acknowledge when it's time to start over. Sometimes, our businesses get to a point where we just need to get back to basics. We need to question everything. And occasionally, we need to make a major pivot, professionally and/or personally. I know that's the point where I'm at these days, and by being completely honest with myself about it, I'm finding myself less overwhelmed and more excited than ever.
If you're in the "what's next?" phase of your business, there are lots of resources out there to help you figure it out. My own e-book, Be the Boss of Your Wedding Business Brand, is a great starting point, but there are some freebies that are well worth exploring, too. For example, I'm a major fan of Sage Wedding Pros' no-cost SWOT Analysis tool, and have used it often in my own businesses.
I know that, no matter what twists and turns my own career takes, I'll never regret owning my own businesses - it's been more challenging, exciting and rewarding than I could have ever imagined, and I hope that you feel the same way. I promise that, by giving yourself permission to be imperfect, to consider all your options and to start anew when it's time, you'll continue to feel positively about being an entrepreneur, and you'll be more effective than you've ever been.