The bottom line- being a CEO/ Owner/ Founder, etc. is hard. I feel there aren’t even a lot of stories telling the “real” behind the scenes items that go into telling the true story. Late nights, emails, few vacations, fewer hours sleeping and more.

However, after reading how it ‘should be’ as a business owner and feeling guilty if I do decide to take a day or two off, I’ve come to determine that it’s really not that big of a deal.

I’m reading a new book from someone I think is just great. His name is Rand Fishkin and he’s the former CEO of Moz. He recently stepped down and had a new book come out called Lost and Founder. It’s the real breakdown of how he built his business, how he lost lots of money, went into debt and how you (the reader) can avoid his pitfalls by being transparent through his journey.

My story doesn’t sound like this and I’m not at a $45 million dollar company (yet!) but I felt it was an inspiration to this blog. I’ve learned a lot when it comes to business. Some of these tips are self-explanatory but others, not so much. Okay, let’s dive in- stories and all!

Tip 1: Pay Attention To Your Reviews

This might seem like it would be something that everyone knows, but as I’ve learned, not everyone knows. There are a couple places you should focus on reviews.

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Yelp

In that order too. People always ask me, “Where should I get reviews?” The answer is 100% Google to start with. Everyone Googles people’s businesses and you want to be found more prominently in search results. Reviews help. But don’t stop with just putting them on your Google page. Put those babies everywhere! Add them on your website, put them in your business, add them to the bottom of your email signature and even dedicate a page on your website for them too.

7 Things I've Learned After 3 Years As A Business Owner

You’re probably wondering how to get reviews. I’ve got you covered. Here’s a sample email I send to clients we’ve worked with:

Subject: Rave Review

Hi [Name],

I’d love it if you could leave us a rave review sharing your experience thus far. Reviews help other amazing clients like you find us on Google. Here’s the link:

Thanks in advance,

Kaitlyn

Notice I what I put in the subject line? I don’t blatantly ask for a 5-star review but I do ask for a rave review. Also, I don’t send reviews out to everyone. We send review emails to the clients who we know will leave us a great one and who speak very highly of us. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t go there and do it themselves, it just means we’re asking them to do it, which makes it more likely they’ll do it.

Tip 2: Be Nice To Everyone

This is a lesson straight from my grandma. She and my grandpa started a business where I’m from back in the 70s and are still running it today. She told me to always be nice to everyone, no matter what. Now, this doesn’t mean let people walk all over you but it does mean always be polite.

7 Things I've Learned After 3 Years As A Business Owner

If I’m being honest, sometimes this is hard. Especially when you’ve done everything in your power and the client still isn’t happy about an issue. Usually, I’ve found that it’s because the client doesn’t know what goes into a project or item or expectations were different from the start. Luckily, this hasn’t happened all too often but it has happened. When it does happen, I get that “pit in my stomach” feeling and have to deal with the situation. That brings me to my next point- eat the frog!

Tip 3: Eat The Frog

When I first rented my office space 3 years ago, the person I was renting from mentioned they needed to do something they weren’t looking forward to. He went on to say, “Yep, I’ve learned the first thing in the morning, to eat the frog.” I had never heard this before and looked at him and said, “Sorry, what?”

He looked at me and smiled and said, “You’ve never heard that before!?” I said, “Nope.” He went on to explain that to ‘eat the frog’ was to get the thing out of the way that you didn’t want to do first. I was used to doing it last thing (truth: sometimes I still do). He said that when you get the thing you don’t want to do out of the way, you can relieve the stress and concentrate on the rest of the day.

I’ve tried to actively implement this on a weekly and daily basis. Sometimes it means talking to the team about a client leaving, other times it’s working out billing information (that’s my least fave part of the job!). Whatever it is, I try to write it down (so I don’t forget it) and get it over with.

Tip 4: Go With Your Gut

Some people call it the ‘tingle’ some people just call it the ‘gut feeling.’ I call it the feeling 100% of the time I should have gone with. If you ask me to explain it, I can’t. It’s simply a feeling and a ‘knowing’ of sorts. I’ll elaborate.

In the very beginning of my business, I joined a networking group. The group was great and I was getting leads in. That group actually helped me leave my full-time job. I got this client and from the beginning, we didn’t mesh. I don’t know why, but I was bound and determined to show them I could make a difference in their business. Month after month I worked with them but all I got back was mean comments, bad feedback, and doubt. One day I had a call with someone who was helping me on one aspect of their project. When we got off the phone he called me back and said, “Wow, I can’t believe you work with clients like that. They treated us horribly!”

7 Things I've Learned After 3 Years As A Business Owner

I sat back, tried to defend myself but I knew. I was already planning to let them go after this project was complete but they ended up leaving before we finished saying that they were disappointed in the outcome, etc. My gut told me a couple things: 1. Leave them (it was hard though when you’re starting, money is a huge driver and that was part of why I wanted to stick with them) 2. Leave the person I was having me help with the project.

Lesson- go with your gut no matter what. Reality- I’m still working on this. Sometimes it takes me a little time to think about things, other times I get things over with right away.

Tip 5: Answer The Phone

Okay- this is silly, right? Wrong. People have called us and told us that the reason they went with us was because we answered the phone or emailed them back.

I was talking to someone and he said, “You know the reason I’m going to go with you?” I shook my head through the phone and said, “No, but please tell me.” He said, “Because you answered the phone and called me back.”

I was shocked. I looked at the phone and then put it back to my ear and said, “Really?!” He said, “Yep. I’ve called so many of you guys and you are the only one who has gotten back with me.”

7 Things I've Learned After 3 Years As A Business Owner

Wow. Talk about a lesson learned. Even now, with a new phone system (PS: When I got the new phone system, I felt like we’d ‘made it’ and were ‘moving up in the world.’ It’s funny how little things can make you feel like that) we still don’t have an auto directory set up. We answer the phone on the second ring (goals) and we talk to whoever is on the other end. We’re humans, they’re humans. It works well for us and the clients love it.

Tip 6: There’s A Program For That

Time. Time is something we don’t have a lot of and we can never get it back. This was one thing I struggled with the most in the beginning. How was I supposed to be marketing ourselves, marketing our clients, working on our PR, helping our company grow, answer the phone, reply to all emails, and more! Ugh.

Yep, a lot of people have heard it and it takes a ton of TIME (which we don’t have) to research how to implement someone or programs to help. Luckily, I did the latter. I found a program called Zapier. If you haven’t heard of it, click that link now! Zapier is the connective tissue to all of the programs that you use.

Here’s how we use it- when we get a new client it performs the following functions:

  1. Adds them to Asana
  2. Adds them to Toggl (time tracking software)
  3. Creates a folder in our Drive
  4. Adds 2 tasks for us to send a welcome kit and to schedule a kickoff call/ meeting

Hello. This would take at least 30 minutes PLUS remembering to do it all. With this handy-dandy program, I’ve just eliminated time and enabled it to be automatically set up. The best part… it doesn’t take a lot to set it up AND you can try it for free.

Tip 7: Surround Yourself With Good People

This doesn’t just mean your family or friends. This means your employees, mentors, colleagues and anyone else you can think of. When I first started (I still don’t know how I knew to do this) I recruited the help of mentors and coaches. The coaches were more recent but the mentors were from the beginning.

It might have been because I talked to anyone and everyone who would set time aside in their day. You want to meet 30-minutes away? Sure. You want to meet at 8:00 in the morning when I don’t start working until 9:00? Done. I also talked (and still do) to anyone I can. In the grocery line, in the bathroom (just kidding- that’s weird), but seriously I try to talk to as many people as possible because I figure I’ll learn something (anything) that they know and maybe it will help me in the future.

7 Things I've Learned After 3 Years As A Business Owner

Some people I have now that I’d recommend to you are:

  • Get coaches. The book You Are A Badass is the book that made me realize this. The author, Jen essentially said, “Why are you trying to do business on your own? Runners, sprinters, and athletes all have coaches- multiple coaches- and you think you can business alone. No. It’s time to get a coach.” I’m paraphrasing this a lot, but the message is the same. I smacked my forehead with my hand and said, “OMG, what the heck was I thinking!?” That day (or a day near that one) I wrote down what I was looking for in a coach and believe it or not, I found one that checked all the boxes!
  • Get mentors within your industry. I have a handful of mentors who are in the marketing industry. They’re other owners and VPs. We’re not direct competitors and we throw ideas off of each other. Sometimes it’s more one-sided towards me when they answer questions I have and when they help me overcome obstacles. This is so ESSENTIAL because they help me with items that I’m going through because they’ve probably already been through them.
  • Get colleagues who believe in you. Funny story. One of my friends now was someone I didn’t know a year ago. She walked into a local networking event and looked like I did the first time. Confused and like she knew no one. I saw her and introduced myself. Now, she’s a member of the networking group and she even came to my wedding!
  • Get good employees. There’s a cliche out there, “Hire slow and fire fast.” This has been hard for me because being an agency of 6 we all get to know one another. It’s not easy to let people go and I don’t know if it ever will be. It does, however, get easier to confront people and to deal with employee/ HR issues. A trick I do is at the end of the job description I put a question for them. If they don’t answer it that means they haven’t read through the whole thing and they might not be a good fit. So they’re off the list immediately. It takes time to go through people and for interns, what I’ve also had my employees interview people first or before I hire them to make sure they’ll vibe with the rest of us. Get creative with the hiring process, it doesn’t have to be so “1960s.”

All in all, these are the lessons I’ve learned… I’ve actually learned a lot more but this is a pretty good start. If you’re thinking of starting a business, DO IT. The reward is amazing and always make sure you make calculated risks. I always think about things internally before making ‘the leap.’ People don’t have to understand your decision but they should support you.

I hope this blog post helps you with items on your to-do list and I hope it’s been a ray of inspiration and clarity. As always, I love hearing from you, so shoot us a DM on IG or email us below!

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