(even, no, ESPECIALLY, when you have NO idea what you're doing).
"I'm always doing that, which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." -- Picasso
July is almost over, the end of the summer is in sight, which means that fall is, ugh, right around the corner. Fall, for both kids and adults, is that time of year when we're seemingly emotionally programmed to expect big developments in our personal and professional lives. The new school year starts up, and adults can find themselves thinking, " This is the year I'm going to get my sh*t together and go for it!"
If one of the things you're thinking about going for, is starting your own small business, if you've got a great idea, but you're worried that you don't know everything yet, that there's no way you could successfully own a small business...well, yes and no. No, you don't know everything...and who the hell does? How could you know everything? I started a business in 2008 knowing less than nothing, and I stuck with it, through tremendous depression, angst, epic failures and other fun times, and honestly, it was better for me than therapy. I made a comeback in my own life!
As a former history major, TV producer and playwright, as someone who started a coaching business more out of desperation than anything coherent, I'm always deeply amused when other people ask me for my advice. I'm amused when other people ask me to share my business plan, assuming that I had some brilliant, all-encompassing strategy for my success. Hmm, if by "plan," and "strategy," you mean, that for years, was I terrified, determined, frantic, working non-stop, crying myself to sleep, feeling nauseous in the mornings, yet determined, no desperate to stick with it and end my downward spiral and make something work...? Is that the well-reasoned, judicious business plan you mean?
Now, eight years in and the owner of a successful business, I meet so many other women who have great small business ideas...but zero confidence. They have all the tools they need to start an exciting small business, but they're so worried about following the rules and doing the right thing, about not offending people, or losing friends, or a million other irrelevant things, that they slowly but surely trample their exciting ideas into dust. Then, they wonder -- forlornly -- why nothing great happens to them.
Unfortunately, there is still (unrelenting) pressure on women to be sweet, pretty, to fit in: to be fun and feminine. Women are still made to feel bad for being business-oriented. Women are still made to feel that putting themselves and their dreams first makes them "selfish" or "unlovable." How many women, when they finally find something that makes them feel alive -- and it's not a baby, or a man -- are still warned, in 2014, to stop being "selfish?" But isn't starting a small business, and using your brain to create something that, ideally, will enrich other people's lives...isn't that kinda sorta the exact opposite of selfishness? Maybe that's the best reason to start a small business, since almost immediately, you realize what a waste of time and talent it is to try to live up to other people's (moronic) expectations. I flatter myself that I'm fairly feminine, but after years of slaving to get my coaching business off the ground, if I don't fit your expectations of womanhood, well that's a shame. A shame for you. Your approval is not necessary: I have my own.
If you have an idea for a business, before you get hung up on being perfectly situated, or reading every business book in the market, or getting certified as an entrepreneur (a hilarious contradiction-in-terms!)...just do it. Just start the damn business. You'll learn more, if you're honest with yourself, in the first year, than you would reading 1000 business books. Not to mention, while you're reading and brooding and doubting and making excuses, someone else is out there living. Feel like you're at the end of your rope? Perfect: you're free. You have nothing left to lose. To quote J.K. Rowling: "...rock-bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life." With that in mind, here's 5 true story tips to help you stop dreaming, and start doing:
1. Hate perfection, love your mistakes.
You can read every business book and attend all the webinars in the world...but you're still going to have to get started. You're going to have to act. You're going to have to make your peace with not knowing what it means to own a small business--not even knowing what you don't know--and making (ginormous) mistakes. You can either decide that mistakes prove you're a bad, stupid person...or you can understand that mistakes are part of life. Mistakes are how you learn. Mistakes are how you grow. I personally felt that mistakes were normal, and more interesting than sitting, smugly in my barren, (anti-)comfort zone, watching someone else be successful with the business ideas I had inside of me. For example, I used to meet clients in a co-working space in NYC. Wasn't fancy, but so what, it worked. Today, I have a suite on Park Ave. But I had to use that co-working space to create a clientele that could sustain my current movin'-on-up office. If I had said, "No, everything must be perfect; I won't start until I have a fancy office," I wouldn't be here. I'd be stuck working for someone else who wasn't afraid to meet clients in a Starbucks. You can either choose to achieve or choose to make excuses.
2. Commit to your business, not to your insecurities.
People start small businesses for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons are noble, some are fueled by impotent revenge fantasies. Be that as it may, no matter why you start your business, you must eventually commit to the actual business, not to your anger or jealousy. One path will, over time, lead you to success, empathy and a heightened form of self-awareness...the other, is a very expensive, self-indulgent form of unsuccessful therapy. You should be trying to run a business to fill a need, not to punish the world because in 4th grade you weren't invited to Missy Birnbaum's birthday party.
3. Know thyself.
The small business owners who tend to succeed are the ones who understand their emotional triggers, and create coping mechanisms. They're the ones who learn from their mistakes, instead of allowing those mistakes to trigger their feelings of self-hatred, feelings that will, eventually, capsize their dreams. No matter how solid an idea you have, starting a business is so grueling that you must give yourself a fighting chance to succeed by eliminating as many pressure points as possible. For example, if you're working from home and your partner is currently paying the bills, causing your guilt to skyrocket, which in turn causes you to focus less on the business, and more on being the perfect domestic goddess...nothing in this situation is going to further your business. (A lot of women have wasted a lot of time worrying about their weight, their messy kitchens, what the neighbors thought, etc....when they could have used that energy to change their lives aka the world.) You're going to end up with a sparkling bathroom and a boring job working for someone else. (Someone else with a filthy bathroom but a fascinating resume....) Meanwhile, years later, you'll find your (potentially great) business plan in the bottom of a desk drawer, and you may think, "...oh, another thing that didn't work out!" Or, maybe another thing that you didn't allow to work...? Be cognizant of your emotions, and how they impact your productivity, and then join a co-working collective, or use a friend's spare bedroom, or rent a conference room in your local library. That way, over time, you'll feel less guilty and more purposeful, causing you to build a thriving business. Then, with the fruits of your labor, you can hire someone else to scrub the damn grout. Even with the best of intentions, dreams are very hard to bring to life. Dreams are fragile. Identify your emotional triggers so you can avoid them, focusing your energy on the business, not your insecurities.
4. Creating a business is a (never-ending) series of small steps.
You can sit around, agonizing over everything, doing nothing, wondering if your business will flourish...or, you can commit to taking concrete, realistic steps every day to build your business. You're damn right, Sunshine: there's no guarantee either way. But if you don't commit, if you're not consistent, if instead of constructive action, you spend your days beating yourself up about all the things that could go wrong...I'm sorry, but how's that going to work? it will not. It cannot. You're going to have to take action every single day to make your business real. Listen I know how overwhelming it is to have an idea and look around your small apartment and genuinely wonder,"...how do I get there from here?" I spent years in that hell. You know how you get there from here? You get started. Start with what you have, build what you need. Step by step.
5. Be confident and trust yourself.
Business, and by extension, life is all about confidence. You can have an amazing idea, but if you don't believe in it, it'll never come true. Doesn't matter how many other people support your idea: You are the one who will do the hard work necessary to birth that idea. If you believe, you're golden, Ponyboy. If "all" you have is a dream you're passionate about, congratulations! You have everything you need to start a business that could change the world. (In fact, you have more than many people. Many people go out of their way to neuter their dreams.) Trust yourself. Allow yourself to present your ideas to the world in a confident manner that makes the world take positive notice. Confidence is especially important for all the women who, on the brink of world-altering ideas, hesitate and dismiss themselves, hoping that someone else will affirm them. If you wait for other people to hand you your affirmation, chances are you're going to waiting a looooong time. Why would you give away your power? Here's a better idea: give yourself that (orgasmic) affirmation by bringing to life all the lovely, messy, ideas in your brain. Believe in your better angels and get started...that's what everyone else does! #gettowork