• Gina G. Scala

Lessons from My First Year as a Small Business Owner

It’s never work when you love what you do; must be why I didn’t realize until today that it’s the official end of my first year as a small business owner. Where did all that time go? I know a lot of it went to learning something new each day.

The learning was as much about myself as it was general business and what it really means to be a small business owner – something I was sure I knew since my dad owned his own business until he retired last year. Turns out, I didn’t know as much as I thought. Although it wasn’t always glamorous, it’s been educational and rewarding. Here’s my top lessons from my first year in business for myself.

  1. The buck stops with you: Monday morning quarterbacking can come back to haunt you when you’re the boss. All those times you thought you had the answers…what you didn’t have was all the information to understand why certain decisions HAD TO BE made. Lesson: It’s all about what’s best for the business but if an opportunity presents itself explain why a decision was necessary. Keep personnel decisions to yourself. No one wants to work for a boss that badmouths their peer.

  2. Keep the focus on your brand: It’s easy to be distracted by your competition or potential clients. Caving to what you think people want your business to be isn’t the answer. Toe the line and do what you do. Not every lost prospect is a loss. Lesson: Know what you bring to the table and be true to it but don’t be so wrapped up that you fail to learn new things.

  3. Social media a full-time job: In the nuclear industry, you always have two jobs: your daily job and your emergency response position. It’s the same when you’re a small business owner who has a hand in building a social media presence. It’s not always about Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram but the professional networking sites. Lesson: Regularly set aside time to share your expertise on a professional networking site (industry-specific or LinkedIn). It’s not a waste of time but an investment in yourself and your business.

  4. When you’re sick you’re sick: I never planned to be sick but there I was last spring with a five-day hospital stay. Recovery can be your friend or your enemy. The choice is up to you. Managing emails might be all you can do in a day. That’s more than enough. Be honest with your clients. They’ll appreciate the need for extended deadlines more than you turning over work that’s less than your best. Lesson: Fighting illness just prolongs your recovery time and increases your chances of a relapse.

  5. This too shall pass: Mistakes are going to be made. Don’t dwell on them for so long you miss other opportunities. The mistakes I thought I’d never forget don’t loom so large today. In fact, some I don’t even remember. Lesson: Own your mistakes and learn from them. If you fight them you risk repeating them until you finally accept the lesson. I’ve had a few of them, too.

Final Thought

In a digital world where instant gratification comes from a click or tap and delivers food, coffee, and an assortment of other goodies in a matter of moments learning patience in business is perhaps the hardest lesson I learned this last year. My greatest lesson: dreams do come true if you’re willing to work to make them happen. Don't just talk about doing something; go out and do it!