I am a recovering introvert and reluctant solopreneur. I started my business in 2015 because the path I was on dead ended, and I had to figure out a new road.
Along the way, I have made plenty of mistakes in my business. Among them:
tried to be everything for everyone
become caught up in what my competitors were doing
wore the title "introvert" to avoid networking
waited too long to invest in people and tools to help me grow
held back ideas for fear of alienating someone
Many of my early mistakes were technical and came from being new in business. However, most of these were based in fear. Fear of spending money, taking risks, or doing something that looked radically different. Fear that there wasn't enough opportunity.
So how can you avoid these common mistakes?
First, let's begin with the easiest one: processes or systems for your business. Start with the areas of your business that feel messy. Are there places you are duplicating efforts? Does onboarding an employee or client feel stressful? Are you constantly shuffling deadlines or appointments?
When things feel messy in your business, there is a lack of clarity. Your goal is to identify whether it is the people, processes, or products contributing to the problem and put tools in place to support them.
I recently talked with a bakery owner who was having trouble retaining employees. When I dug a little deeper, I found that he didn't have his recipes or opening and closing procedures written down, nor did employees know how to sell the catering or event center. That meant he was on the hook for getting everything done. He felt frustrated, and the employees felt micromanaged. But guess who suffers the most? Customers.
Getting systems and processes in place is transformational, whether you sell soufflés or SaaS. Documenting your process provides clarity on both sides. Most importantly, you learn new things about your products and the customer experience when you teach someone. And two, when processes are documented, you empower others, spot areas for automation, and reduce mental clutter. This helps you clear space to focus on high-level items.
Does everyone on your team have the same vision for your company? Here is a simple exercise: ask everyone on the team to summarize what you do in one sentence. If you are a one-person business, ask five people in your network to summarize what they think you do. If the answers vary wildly, it is time to revisit your core messaging.
Examine your mission, vision, values, and your value proposition. Help your team define the critical business issue your audience is experiencing. If you don't know, ask them! Customer interviews are absolute gold. This is how you create reference stories and value propositions that distill difficult-to-explain services or impacts into powerful stories.
Great ideas are born out of what is missing in the market. And so, I know it is tempting to watch every press release, award announcement (most of these are bought btw), and news story that your competitor is churning out. But all that will do is push you closer to a me-too brand.
It takes guts to stand out from the pack. Make it painfully obvious why you are different. When you do that, you can create a vision for a prospective customer that aligns with your service.
Everything about why your company exists, the problem you solve, the experience you create, and how you communicate should be shared with everyone on your team, from the C-suite to support personnel to freelancers. Your people may be bought into your company, but it's not their company. They will never be able to see your vision as you can, and you must teach it to them.
Number three is the biggest one. Listen to how you talk to yourself. Before you dismiss me as woo-woo, I invite you to consider the following questions:
How do you talk to yourself in quiet moments of defeat?
What do you say to yourself before you pick up the phone to call a prospect, invite them to view your website, or attend your workshop?
Do you hesitate?
Do you feel insecure or unsure of what you offer?
I believe there is something deeper than imposter syndrome that hits us when we are feeling insecure. I think it's the quiet stories we tell ourselves about what we think we deserve in life. Or the stories we wear because of some painful event.
That is all stuff that will hold us back from achieving massive success, even if we get all the other mechanics right. Your mindset can be your biggest ally or your worst enemy. The choice is literally yours to make.
When you hear yourself saying negative things, take a moment to pause and ask why. Sometimes the words we say are limiting beliefs. We must change our words to fit what we want to achieve.
For instance, I used to tell everyone I was an introvert. On many levels, that is true. I like my books and quiet time. But when my business started to take off, I noticed there were still places I was stuck. So, I hired a business coach to help me see my blind spots. One of which was my poor networking skills. She didn't just say get out there and network. She gave me specific goals and activities to be more successful at doing the work.
What I found wasn't that I am an introvert at all! It was more about being unsure about how to put myself out there. We often paint ourselves into a corner and get stuck there. It helps to bring in an expert or trusted mentor to show you the way out.
What I hope you take away is that everybody has hidden obstacles. Most of the time, we can't see them because we are too close to the mirror. Creating processes, clarifying what you sell, and changing the stories you tell yourself are a few ways to overcome common obstacles. Starting here will be transformational for your business and your life.
Maybe you've thought, "what does this girl do?"
Remember all those things I just talked about? Creating clarity in process and messaging, and defeating mindset obstacles—that’s how I help you achieve all the things that everybody says you can't.