If you're reading this, let me start by saying congrats for thinking about starting your own business. We need more people creating great things, changing the world and helping the economy.
I wish I had read an article like this before I'd started. The more prepared you are for the bumps in the road, the more you can take them in stride. Go get 'em.
1. You're going to be scared.
Rarely does starting a business go the way of the Cinderella stories that receive coverage in the media. There are times you will doubt yourself, times when you'll charge things to your business account and then think you're crazy, but you'll push on anyway.
I've been scared from time to time over the last 18 months. I don't talk about it much, but it happens. I get scared that I've messed up my career, that I'll fail, that others will think I don't have what it takes or I'm a fool for thinking I could do this.
These moments show us what we're made of, and they teach us how to get scrappy and fight for what we truly want. Tapping into that can get you through the scary days and weeks that will inevitably come.
The best part is that these moments are short-lived in the grand scheme of things. We have one shot at this life, and while we must remain responsible, we must also give our dreams and visions a chance.
2. You won't want others to know how nervous you are.
When the going gets tough, we entrepreneurs put on a happy face and keep pushing ahead. There will be times when you do not want other people to know that you're worried about paying the bills, or that you just lost your biggest client.
While I don't pretend to be the end-all, be-all in business, I've found that in moments like this, the best thing to do "send out more ships." This idea has been floating (no pun intended) around the spiritual business movement lately, and I'm telling you, it works.
The concept comes from the old time trade of sending out ships to sell goods, in the hopes that they come back with a payload. If you've only sent out one ship and it comes back empty or doesn't come back at all, you've lost everything.
However, if you send out several ships, losing one isn't devastating. It's a setback, sure. But it won't bring you to your knees. (Thank you, Angela Jia Kim and Savor the Success for that lesson!)
In the moments when I'm nervous, I write a new article, I have lunch with an old co-worker or I pull out the designs for my new notebook of affirmations for women. I get to work and send out as many ships as I can.
This helps when people call and say, "How's it going?" I don't feel fake when I talk about all of my projects. If I feel like sharing that I'm nervous, I do. But for the most part, getting into action truly puts the nerves to rest.
3. You'll be surprised by your own successes.
When I look back on what's happened in the last 18 months, I am flabbergasted. I'm now a contributor to The Huffington Post, I've been interviewed, taught classes, been booked for speaking engagements and taken on consulting clients. The biggest surprise to me so far has been the major success of Better Way to Italy. It's truly been a dream come true.
The key, I believe, to surprise successes is constantly showing up and consistently taking action. Life doesn't "just happen," though at times it can feel that way. We've got to go and get it. I know some people may shrug and say, "Well yeah, of course," but then they'll skip the next networking meeting, blow off a phone call or never send that email asking for an introduction.
The successes I've seen recently have "magically" appeared because I have signed up for events, met new people and made sure to tell anyone who will listen what I'm up to, while making sure to listen to them in return.
If we choose not to keep our promises and not to show up when we say we will, we will miss 90% of the "magic" that's possible through our connections with others.
4. You will have a new relationship with humility.
While you can visualize until the cows come home, things will rarely work out exactly as you think they will. You will get discouraged and be sure that you're on the wrong track.
Now, hang on to your hats and glasses because I'm about to get "woo-woo" again, but this is when the magic happens. As I was recently reminded, one of Oprah's more famous quotes is, "Luck is preparation meeting opportunity."
We all get "guided" through our business decisions. Resources will dry up, competition will surprise us or bad news will suddenly rear its head. This is when it's time to get scrappy. This is when we pivot, explore and grow. These moments are an opportunity to get humble and start creating.
They're also when magic can happen.
The email we sent out three weeks ago lands on the perfect decision-maker's desk, or that article you wrote is seen by your business idol. You don't always know what's happening to help your business move forward. But if you've sent out your ships, you can have faith that they'll come back to you.
In the meantime, be humble. Keep working. Pivot when necessary, and don't be proud about letting some ideas go. Smart business people can turn on a dime and meet a surprise opportunity with their preparation. You may not know the best way to get to your desired destination, but if you've put in the work and you've sent out the ships, the path will find you.
5. People really do want to help you succeed.
When someone asks you about your business, tell the truth. You don't need to whip out the Kleenex and list out every details about what's not working, but you can say something like, "I'm in love with my work, and I'm really focusing on growing our sales," or "My employees are great, and I'm really growing as I learn how to inspire them."
You know why that's important? Because people want to help. And you never know who that person might know, or a book they might suggest that could make all the difference. And the other reason? It makes you more real and accessible.
That's huge for your business. People want to buy and support small businesses that are doing good things. Tell the truth and trust that people will help. We're human and our businesses aren't infallible.
Now pull up those bootstraps and get to work. This is your life, your dream, your business. Ride those bumps and keep going.