I wanted to share some of the experiences I have had from running a business. As some of may know, I went on to start my business a while ago and I have been at it for at least 2 years. The first year involved setting it up before opening the doors. I will not go into the details of my business for obvious reasons but some readers who know me offline are fully aware of my venture.
Before I start outlining the lessons I have learnt, I will summarize everything into one word. Communication.
Running a business, especially if you are dealing in commerce means the exchange of good and/or service between individuals for monetary gain. That exchange is part of the communication. As much as having the right product or service is important, communication should be core to your business because you are dealing with other humans. And as you will see, communication will be central to the lessons I have learnt.
First off the bat is a no-brainer - Listen to your customers - or better said, put yourself in their shoes. Unless you have a compelling product or service that your customers can not do without, then you are better off paying attention to the feedback/suggestions/complaints/criticism from the people who pay you. And you don't have to wait for the customers to communicate to you, it could be as easy as listening in on their conversations with themselves or your competitors. Even if you listen to them, put yourself in their shoes. Walk their walk so that you can be in tune with their needs and get to experience your service/product. Call your own customer service/reception/help desk, buy your product or service - do everything that the do in the ways that they do it.
Beware of the experts - There are a lot of so-called experts (myself included - guilty) on the web . Unless they are your customers or have been in the same business before, be wary of their advice. Especially from those like to romanticize business - business is never easy. And should you need to consult, pick someone who does agree with you. After all, consulting is a 2-way street and I have gotten the best ideas /advice from a good debate rather than listening to the choir master. While you may need some encouragement in your endeavors, don't surround yourself with yes-men. You are better of with those who challenge you as they will give you the drive or push to prove yourself.
Be receptive to different perspectives and ideas - you may learn nothing new but it could result in a confirmation of a hunch. And to add on to this I would say, don't be afraid of discussing your business ideas with others. You don't have to reveal the nitty gritty but even dwelling on generalities will do. I will repeat this for the benefit of anyone who missed it), don't allow yourself the comfort of surrounding yourself with people who will nod at everything you do or say - That is how the US economy almost got into a depression. And when you find yourself drinking from the same Kool-aid receptor, know that you are doomed to fail too. Learn to listen, more so to those you disagree with.
Commit - if not to your yourself then to your customers. Running a business is more than an effort and in most cases a marathon that requires a lot of staying power. If you want to make a quick buck then I can tell you categorically that you are not cut for business. And while it is important to measure the success of the marathon in monetary terms, find other measures of success that will keep you going before you hit the mark in terms of profit. As part of the commitment don't start other ventures unless you can delegate and even then, you'd be over-stretching yourself thin. In other words, Focus, focus, focus - stay focused.
Deliver on your promises - in a timely fashion if you can. Even if it means losing money, a promise, especially to customers needs to be fulfilled. This I must add is one of the main reason businesses fail. Your word is important because as you will find out, business is all about trust. And the only way to build trust, and a business, is to do what you say you will do. In this day and age, you don't want to deal with disgruntled customers whose power can be amplified in social media with the help of Google search.
All said, I am enjoying my journey and it has been a very steep learning process. Being able to put all the theories and business ideas I have learnt into practice has been a very rich experience. If for some reason, you are reading this and you disagree with me, I would very much like to hear from you.