In business, secrecy is very common. I’ve already spoken about Financial Honesty when The Art House had a rough patch this summer, now I want to talk about the first year in business and what it’s really like! I’ve also worked with people starting a business and talked to dozens of small business owners, and discovered that quite a lot of what we went through is pretty common.
Some of the most surprising facts for me were these, and I thought it was good to share in case you are in the early stages and think you’re all alone!
1) You aren’t ready to start a business
Although I had very much planned to run an arts venue, I wasn’t at all ready to start when the opportunity arose. I think it’s far to say my three fellow directors Nina, Ziggy and Bik weren’t ready, either!
Life had to change very quickly, and very unexpectedly! All the planning in the world will never make you ready, so it’s best just to dive in.
2) You won’t know what you are doing.
Well, no, not really! You do learn most of what you need as you go along, rather than starting with everything you need. The advantage of starting small is that you can learn as you go and mistakes are quite small.
3) You won’t have enough money to live on, but somehow that’s OK
The figures, to be honest, STILL don’t stack up for us in terms of salary. When you are working long hours, your living costs do drop massively in unexpected ways and you get very used to living on a shoestring. Money and help also come from unexpected sources and you find that, when you are pursuing your dream, you are more open to other ways of making ends meet, like accepting help from friends, giving up costly habits and so on.
I thought it was going to be hard, but actually this was the easiest part of all. Your priorities do shift hugely when you are living on purpose.
4) You will find out who your friends are
Friends will have to deal with you being less available. To start, they may get involved or drop
round to your business a lot, but in the longer term they won’t be the regular customers. As time passes, this becomes a good thing as you need 100% personal relationships as well as business ones.
Other friends will just drift, or even resent what you are doing. I had some really, really odd reactions from friends as The Art House took off. For the most part, this settled down once people got used to what I was doing.
5) Family will probably not get it
For most of us, our families are not running their own show and so don’t expect them to understand what you are going through! My lovely sister, after being puzzled at my lack of availability, called me when she started her own business about two years after I did, and just said ‘I get it now’.
Be understanding and kind to your family, as you will need them (see the end of point 4).
6) You’ll get good at disasters
Expect at least a few disasters in the first year. Big ones, small ones, they are part of the territory as you learn and grow your business. You will get very, very good at dealing with these and moving on.
7) It’s all about you
Conventional business wisdom looks outside – systems, money, plans – for the success of a business. With a small, creative, heartfelt business it is all about the people – you, your staff, your suppliers and your customers. Try as you might to be ‘businesslike’ and separate people and ‘people stuff’ from ‘business stuff’, running a small business is very much about the personal stuff. No getting away from it!
If you are starting your own creative biz, please do take a look at my other blog posts on this subject.
My eCourse ‘Follow the Butterflies‘ shares a lot of the personal and creative development tools I’ve used to set up a successful arts venue and my own online business.
If you are freaked out by the financial stuff, take a look at my ‘Creative Money eKit‘ which will soon be upgraded to an eCourse (if you buy the kit now, you will get the course upgrade FREE when it’s ready – a big saving!).