Time to accept your limitations as a small business owner

When I first set up my business I had big ideas and lots of them. I also had little money and no knowledge of how to go about creating a successful business. I searched for articles on the internet and implemented business plans, marketing plans, planning plans. All the plans in fact. I thought I would set up my own website and do my own taxes to save on costs. Which I did.

At a business mastermind I attended, I listened as another business owner, just starting out listed all the things above that she was doing. Now I am further along in my journey I have realised (despite my best efforts) that I have limitations. Shock horror! It took me a long while to accept this fact. I listened to more experienced business owners who said:

  • “Focus on your niche’
  • ‘Less is more’
  • ‘Outsource/delegate what you can’
  • ‘Invest in a good coach/accountant/network/[x]’

I listened and I thought I knew better. I thought to myself ‘it’s all right for them, they have money coming in’ or ‘they don’t have the breadth of my knowledge, I can’t niche, I have too much to give’. Ahhh, the audacity.

Well, readers, I got burnt out trying to do it all. I spent hours trying to do a website I didn’t really understand. Don’t even get me started on tax returns! I had to accept the facts – I couldn’t do it all. Here are four limitations I have had to accept as I run my business (though you won’t be ready to accept them yourself until you’re ready!) :

Paying an expert is worth more than money

If I think of the hours I lost trying to figure something out it makes me feel a little bit silly. Yes, I got there in the end but when I finally sought help, I was still able to learn the lessons I needed but in a fraction of the time. There are some things I pay for and forget about – like my tax return. I enlisted the services of Emma, a fellow mum and local business owner who is an excellent accountant. We file my return in April and then forget about it and it wasn’t as expensive as I thought (less than ¬£200) – bonus.

With the website I didn’t want a redesign or to spend huge amounts of money on it – I wanted to be able to use it myself, but without wasting time. I got in touch with Chris who sat with me for 2 hours and we worked on the important stuff and I paid him for that one off session. I learnt loads and he¬†showed me some neat tricks to save time.

Big ideas are great but you need to take action

I still have big ideas, for helping *all* the people but I am now able to see that having ideas and plans don’t help anyone. You need to actually do stuff. Relevant stuff. If it’s going to be relevant then you need to know who you’re aiming it at and for me, that’s women, more specifically, women like me. The reason I went into coaching was to help other mums whose world had been shifted when they became a mum and so it makes sense that they are my key audience. That doesn’t mean I won’t, or don’t help men too, I do, but they are not my ideal client. Knowing who yours is is your first action point.

In terms of taking action, I have a 12-week plan which I focus on one big business idea at a time. The one I am currently in focuses on getting ready for maternity leave but I have also had raising my visibility, finishing my qualifications, being more consistent with my offerings. 12 weeks fly by and then when you’re done, you get a whole new thing to focus on. Within the big idea I break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks, working out what needs to be done in each week. I aim to be realistic about how long it’s going to take and if I need help, I ask for it.

You cannot do it all

This ties in with the point above and is probably my one take-home piece of advice. So many of us start our businesses to be more family flexible. I aim for 2.5 days a week working plus a few hours snatched if possible to write articles like this one during nap time. I am stricter now with my boundaries and I don’t even attempt to tidy up on a workday or cook from scratch. Those things happen on a non-working day. In addition, I pay a cleaner to come in once a fortnight so I can remove ‘cleaning the shower’ from my mental list. I also get the shopping delivered because a) I am likely to spend less as I am not tempted and b) I have kids, whose hands are like octopuses and who, as soon as we enter a shop start asking for stuff and/or crying – all of which takes longer.

Luckily, this was the first lesson I accepted and got most of it in place rather quickly. Not that it didn’t come with a huge side of guilty feelings and questions around whether I was wasting money, being lazy etc. Thankfully I decided I wasn’t to either of those questions.

As with paying someone else to do the things that I can’t or don’t want to do, my boundaries are set around how much time it takes vs how much I enjoy it vs how much it costs. Spending time with my kids is priceless and so they come first but being a coach is also really important to me and so I try and spend as much time coaching others as I can because I love it!

We are all in the same boat

One of the great things about attending business masterminds, networking groups (online and offline) and speaking to other people is that we all have the same fears (Will anyone pay for what I am offering? How will I find people to pay?) and we all start off knowing nothing, even if we think we do. What helps is listening to others’ stories and learning from them. Even if they are in a totally different field to you, there will still be things you can learn. From time-saving tech recommendations to how to define your USP (unique selling point) it’s all there, if you’re willing to listen (and accept your limitations).

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