Dear Small Business Owner,
Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” The fate of our ability to manage both lifestyle and business follow a similar philosophy. For many of us, the journey of life and business is often accidental; non-intentional; the after-thought that consumes every waking hour of our day. For many of you, trying to make payroll, grow the business and simply take a day off is the on-going challenge that governs your path.
You did not go into business to be controlled by the business. Most of you dream of obtaining some control over your own life and destiny. The real journey is the pursuit of a work-lifestyle that will provide you with moderate financial freedoms and the lifestyle you crave.
Work and lifestyle balance is the result of purposeful, mindful choices that often involve the adoption of a lot of other individual’s hard-learned lessons combined with a few choice nuggets of wisdom that could alter the course of your journey.
After 14 years of running my own business and helping other business owners be profitable, I thought I would share with you 18 truths that have impacted and guided my own life. These are the beliefs I hold dear and the truths I know.
Enjoy the read,
These 18 Truths I Know
1. Appreciate your mentors and those who have taught you something.
There have been a few key mentors who have impacted my life. Most of the time they did not even realize how much they had helped me. We will always need mentors to guide us as we go through a learning curve. Take the time to let those who have shaped your path know how much they mean to you. You are likely a mentor to someone and may not even realize it. Their acknowledgment to you would feel great, pass that along and thank someone who shared their wisdom with you.
2. Never measure up to average.
Many business owners run their business according to the average. They set pricing according to what everyone else is pricing. They measure profits by what others are receiving. Who cares what others are doing? It’s likely that the others are not doing it well. Figure out your costs; what kind of margin you want; sanity check and go sell and deliver it. Who cares what the average is? Can you charge the appropriate amount? Then do it.
3. Value experiences.
When I look back and take stock of the things that have made and make me happiest, I don’t think about the material objects I’ve procured. I don’t think about the money I’ve made or the cars I’ve owned or the things that I thought I had to have. I think about the experiences. Value them and never limit yourself to the number of experiences you can have. When I’m in the nursing home staring at the walls, I want to be able to play the movie of my life. I plan on making it a great one.
4. Slow down and breath.
It’s so easy to get caught up in delivering our services and the promises we are making around us. Ask yourself this: is what I am doing – right now – what I want to be doing with my business or my life? Slow down to a point where you can work on what matters. Processes get more complicated as you go, and time moves quickly. Join a peer team and gather the insights of others. The extra time you take now will pay dividends down the road.
5. Build your cash reserves slowly and appreciate that they are there for emergencies.
There will be times of feast and famine. There will be times when you struggle to make payroll. Become a saver now. Spend less when you are making more. Spend even less when you are making less and build a cash reserve that will allow you to sleep better at night. Money is freedom. When you’re not struggling, you’re free to do what you please and work with those who appreciate you.
6. Your opinions are valuable only to those who ask.
Limit unsolicited advice giving to as few people as possible. The risk of giving it without being asked is twofold: those who don’t agree with your point might paint an inaccurate picture of who you are, and those who don’t agree with your advice may have never wanted to hear it in the first place. Save good advice for those who value your wisdom.
7. Learn how to sell.
You can be afraid of it. You can dread it, but knowing how to sell will one day save your business. Try this: reverse the script in your head. Tell yourself, “I’m valuable and I am not going to be afraid to ask people to pay me for my advice.” If you can’t ask for it, you will always be at someone’s mercy to give it to you. Don’t let the stereotype of the pushy salesperson prevent you from being proud of your sales ability. Let your personality drive your sales technique.
8. You can fake it while you make it, but while you fake it, master each step along the way.
You can be a jack of all trades and a master of none. Standing out requires mastery of something. Mastery takes desire, drive, and lots and lots of doing. While you build your business and work toward lifestyle, be intentional about what you master. There is something in this world that you are a master of, own it, monetize it and enjoy it.
9. Master time management.
Don’t be a victim of your own disorganization. Know how you want to spend your day. Be purposeful with your time. Guard it fiercely. Know that where you spend your time may be one of the most important choices you make all day.
10. Schedule yourself first.
Pay yourself first in terms of time. I block out days/times in advance for myself. I use automation to allow us to choose the time I have allotted for work, appointments, meetings, etc. I proactively reserve my time first so that when others want to use my time reserves, I am not forced to concede.
11. Be clear and unashamed about the lifestyle’s you desire for you and your family.
We meet a lot of small business owners who settle or accept a modest lifestyle because they are afraid to do what it takes to get to where they want to be. There are a lot of hardworking, struggling $400k MSPs. Be clear about what you want your lifestyle to be and vocalize those goals. Let the others around you know what matters most to you and then go get them.
12. There are no emergencies.
Those who demand your time are telling you they want your attention. They want it so they will wait for when you can truly give it to them. Don’t allow your business to be a giant pinball getting bounced around all day. Have intention, have a plan on how to serve, and keep your word that you’ll get to everyone and emergencies will vanish.
13. Be curious about those around you and let it show.
Get to know the people around you well. Show genuine deep interest in the people in which you engage. By investing in others, great relationships happen. Show that curiosity by shutting up. Ask questions, listen, and ask some more. The quality of your questions and your interest in others will give them all the information they need to know about you!
14. Be nice.
We are busy. We wear many hats in business and sometimes we lose our ability to be nice. We don’t give the time, energy or enthusiasm our people deserved to be inspired to fulfill our vision; to sell; to go the extra mile with our customers. It’s not your duty to be nice, but it will go a long way in helping you achieve the lifestyle/business you desire.
15. We are all different.
In my youth, I delivered cars for a car rental agency. I had the privilege of delivering a car to a great heart surgeon at his home one rainy evening. I was wet and dirty and frankly embarrassed to be in his gorgeous house. He was beyond appreciative. We talked for a moment or two. He said to me, “the world needs all types of people doing all types of jobs.” He went on to explain all the various jobs required to perform heart surgery. The people working for you, can’t do your job. What organically and intrinsically motivates your team is different than what motivates you. As a result, you must adjust your expectations and embrace that it will take many different types of people to help you grow and achieve your lifestyle/business goals.
16. Be situationally aware.
What are your strengths and where are your blind spots? Be aware enough to know that someone in the industry is probably doing better than you and you should be aware enough to challenge yourself to do better. Don’t get trapped into thinking you have an excuse to not do better (just because someone else is doing worse.)
17. Your ability to grow will hinge on your ability to hire and manage good sales talent.
Anyone with a personality and a little motivation can grow their business to a million in revenue. You will get to the first $1mil mark because someone introduced you to someone who introduced you to someone else. Getting to a million is the value of your network; it’s a reflection of your social circle. To get to the $2Mil mark you will have to develop yourself as a salesperson and purposefully learn how to manage and direct good sales talent.
18. Stop defining who you are, you’re likely wrong.
I graduated second in my class from high school. Unfortunately, it was 2nd from the bottom. I had a 1.7-grade point average. I spent 6 years after high school working at over 20 different jobs, moved 15 times and hung out with some very unsavory characters. I was dumb. I wasn’t a good student, therefore I must not have much to offer anyone. I leaned into it.
At last, I fell into a group of friends who were all a couple years older than me who were all wildly successful in their healthcare professions. I quickly realized they were no different than me. I started at the community college at age 24. I LOVED it, but I had a running dialogue in my head. “I suck at math”, “I’m not good at biology”, “Chemistry is not for me.” I had a phenomenal instructor, Dr. Andres. I did great in his course. We met often, and I would tell him my thoughts on my ability to learn. His words were exactly this, “You don’t know what you’re talking about; you didn’t try in high school; you have no idea what your capacity to learn any of these subjects are. The more you tell yourself this lie, the more you’ll limit yourself.” He likely did not intend for these words to be inspiring, motivating, or frankly even kind. He was just exhausted listening to me. Today I have undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry and an MBA from an excellent school in New York. Stop telling yourself what you’re bad at, and get to it, it’s likely the area of your life or business that could use the most help.
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About Josh Peterson: Josh Peterson is the founder and CEO of Bering McKinley. He lives in Chicago, IL with his wife and two kids. With over 15 years of management consulting experience in the industry and has worked with 1000’s of IT owners and sales teams, Josh has found his niche in helping IT owners discover smarter and more efficient ways to move the needle through direct one on one consulting, workshops and Peer Teams. Josh is an advocate of work-life balance that can only be achieved through purposeful choices. To keep his life in balance, he recently completed his first NYC Marathon and received his private pilot’s license. Engage with Josh direct on LinkedIn.