I've been thinking a lot lately about all the twists and turns an entrepreneur's journey can take. After 18 years in the wedding industry, and 13 as a business owner, I've certainly experienced a lot of hurdles of my own, and my coaching clients are dealing with plenty of obstacles, too.
Something that sticks out to me is how pride can affect us in such negative ways. I've written quite a bit recently about the fallacy of "inspiration," and how this image of the perfect business is damaging to entrepreneurs. On Instagram and in various business-related Facebook groups and elsewhere, I've definitely noticed a culture of empowerment which, for the most part, is a great thing. Still, I wonder if everyone's eager embrace of the "hustle" mentality has made us too proud to admit our struggles, and caused us to feel shame when our businesses aren't running as smoothly as others'.
Allow me to point out what should be obvious (though, sometimes, it helps to hear it from someone else):
Your missteps don't define you.
In spite of what social media might have you believe, in spite of what professional speakers may tell you (and I can say this, because I am one myself), running a business isn't easy. If your business even lasts beyond the first year or two - and statistics say as many as 80% will fail within the first 18 months - then you're going to deal with a lot of challenges.
And that's totally okay, because I promise you - practically everyone else is dealing with them, too. Sure, some people have a meteoric rise to the top, without any of the financial woes, branding hiccups, or operations nightmares the rest of us face. But are those people really worth your worry?
Consider instead the fact that almost every business owner out there has felt insecure about their image, stressed about their money, and paranoid about their ability to deliver on their promises. Many of us have, at some point, had giant messes to clean up, whether behind-the-scenes or directly involving clients or colleagues. And at the time, they probably seemed insurmountable.
Still, life goes on, as does our entrepreneurial journey. I'm willing to bet that, if you've been in this industry any length of time, you can think of a competitor or colleague who has done something really appalling in his/her business. I can think of a number of people who've treated other vendors incredibly poorly, who've walked away from clients to whom they owed products or services, who've committed astounding breaches of ethics. And yet, in almost every one of these cases, their company continues to function. Clients continue to sign on the dotted line. And the industry at large tends to forget over time.
If those people can be "forgiven" for their choices, you can certainly move past your mistakes.
So with that in mind, remember that whatever challenges you may be facing right now, they don't define you.
- Your business is struggling and you need to start picking up some contract work or <gasp> go back to a 9-to-5 job for a while? Okay, that kind of sucks. Plenty of us have done it, myself included. Take a deep breath, reorganize your business responsibilities so you can fit them into your evenings and weekends, and acknowledge yourself for doing what you need to do to support yourself. That's a good thing.
- You've screwed up big time with a client and feel like your business reputation is about to start circling the drain? Okay, knowing you've made a mistake is a big step in the right direction. Check out this post on taking responsibility for a client mistake, and try to find the opportunity to learn from this situation so you can avoid it in the future. That's called wisdom.
- Regretting the brand you started with, because it doesn't feel like you? Hey, it happens. Companies rebrand. ALL. THE. TIME. I've done it with WeddingIQ, I've done it with my DJ company, I've done it with my personal site (rebrand #3 is actually in progress now). If you're no longer feeling the brand you started with - or your second or third version of it - then by all means, consider engaging a branding strategist and/or designer, and create something you want to embrace.
- Want out altogether? Sick of the wedding industry entirely? I know - and respect - a number of wedding business owners who've consciously decided to check out, and they've done so with dignity and intention. I think that's a great thing. If you're burnt out to the point of no return, think about whether it might be time to form an exit strategy and focus on your next chapter. No shame in that whatsoever.
Regardless of what you're struggling with, it's not the struggle that's a reflection of your character; it's how you choose to handle it and how much you care. Don't think for a minute that we don't all go through it. Some people are just too proud to admit it - but that doesn't mean you're alone.