As some of you may know, I have owned my own stationery design business, Allison Barnhill Designs, for over 15 years. Over the years, I've learned a lot about owning a business. If I tried to share it all, you might be reading for a week, so I've narrowed it down to the top 5 things I've learned.
1. You will make mistakes. — You will hear me say this many times…I learn something new everyday. Now, I don’t make mistakes every day, but I will learn from every mistake. Honestly, I have made mistakes and mistakes that compound on mistakes, but it is how you handle those mistakes that makes the difference. #1 Take responsibility, #2 Be sincere with your apology, and #3 Make a swift and confident correction and response. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up. Fix and move on and take the experience as a learning experience. We are not perfect!
2. Enjoy your life. — As a small business owner, it is very easy to make your small business your whole life. If your name is on the door, there is a compulsion to work and work and work. Believe me, I did that! When you don’t take time away from the business to actually live your life and enjoy the people who are around you (significant others, children, family, friends), you are not making your business better, you are sacrificing yourself for the business. That is not a success. So, find that balance and stick to your guns! If a client truly wants to work with you, they will wait. You are worth it!
3. Educate your clients. — You will have a happier client and a better overall engagement, if you educate your clients. Explain how your process works and why you do it that way. Your experience is a benefit to your clients and you should share that information with them. Be confident. You are the expert!
4. Network your own way. — I confess…I’m not a big networker. I’m a mom and my weeknight evenings are filled with making dinner, shuttling kids to practices and helping with homework. So, a Tuesday evening at a bar is not going to happen. I do try to make one or two, but I’ve found my own way to network too. I make a point of having coffee (during the day, while the kids are in school) with a few fellow vendors throughout the year. I try to attend local styled shoots that are using my paper, so I can see vendors in person. And, a few special folks will get some surprises in the mail too. All of these things are networking and will lead to fostering great relationships and allowing avenues for new ones too!
5. Have a business accountant that understands your business. — Now, I’m blessed and biased, because I have a husband that is an accountant that specializes in working with creatives. He knows I hate Quickbooks, but has taught me enough to run the day to day operations. He has the gift of taking the month to month financials and putting them into terms I understand. I have a clear financial vision of how many orders I need to complete each month to make the amount of money I want to make. I know what I can spend on advertising. I know how much cash will be available to buy supplies in a month. Basically, it’s information that is invaluable to running a successful business.
Written by Allison Barnhill, co-owner of Business by Barnhill