If you’ve spent time in the QuickBooks Community, you may know me as one of the proud leaders of this amazing gathering place for entrepreneurs. You may not know that a few years back, I was deep in the trenches of self-employment, just like you. In 2005, after hearing my pregnant friends complain about their impossible-to-swallow pre-natal vitamins, I co-founded NutraBella, Inc.. My business partner and I were determined to give women more palatable vitamin options, so we created the Bellybar.
I quickly realized that although I’d gone to business school and earned my MBA, I had a whole lot to learn about building, running and growing a business. My hard-earned degree had only partially prepared me for the complicated, non-stop, often overwhelming challenge of working for myself. Back then, I longed for an “instruction manual,” a curated list of things I needed to know right away to succeed as a small business owner.
Of course, there’s no single, right way to run a business, so no such manual exists. (If it did, everyone would be working for themselves!) However, I’ve come up with six key tips to help make your entrepreneurial journey smoother. I learned all these lessons over time, sometimes as a result of a decision I probably shouldn’t have made. But in the spirit of this generous, supportive QB Community, I’m excited to share what I’ve learned to help you, as you create the business of your dreams.
1. Follow your passion, no matter what. Like me, you probably decided to build your business around something you’re passionate about. Problem is, sustaining that passion for the long haul, especially in the face of ongoing challenges and obstacles, can be hard.
Fuel your commitment daily by reminding yourself why you started your business in the first place. Stay focused on your passion – often, it’s your burning desire to solve a problem or a need you’ve identified. If your first solution doesn’t work, don’t worry. Reconnect with your passion for solving the problem and keep searching for a better answer.
QB Community wisdom. Weigh in, and then see what other members think, about this statement: "Passion is prosperity. Work that passion so that you can become prosperous!"
2. Create a rock-solid business plan. Running a business is an art and a science. The art is your passion. The science is your business model. It may seem obvious, but you need to understand your business plan better than anyone else! No detail is too minor, especially when it comes to understanding the finances. Knowing your “money-in, money-out” situation is critical to business success. Bottom line: Understand how your business is doing at every moment, in real-time, so you can make smart, informed decisions.
QB Community wisdom. Get your strategic juices flowing with our 10-Minute Business Planner
3. Communicate with partners. A business partner who complements your expertise and skill-set can be like rocket-fuel to your business growth. If you decide to join forces with someone, be prepared to nurture the relationship like you would a marriage, with clear, open communication about values and expectations. Want to take things one step further? Get ahead of potential pitfalls or misunderstandings by saying “yup” to a business “pre-nup.”
QB Community wisdom. A member shares her secret to a successful business partnership with her sister: Cheri Drake Made a Drastic Career Change, Which Suits Her Just Fine
4. Hire smart. As a small business owner, you know you can do just about anything – but you can’t do everything! The sooner you recognize your areas of weakness (or, sometimes, your lack of interest), the faster you can find someone who truly loves doing your least favorite task (payroll, anyone?). But don’t rush to hire – you’ll be glad you took the time to find the right person for the job. Things aren’t working out? Fire quickly, and move on.
QB Community wisdom. Before you hire, read these valuable tips from folks who’ve already done it: Employees on Your Mind? Some Hints Before You Hire
5. Protect yourself from the unexpected. In small business, as in life, things happen that you just can’t control. If you can anticipate roadblocks, you’ll be better prepared to navigate around them. For example, set up systems and processes that allow you to step away from your business if you need to (think flu, jury duty or a much-needed vacation!) without everything falling apart. Remember, your business health is directly related to your own health, so take steps to ensure you can take care of yourself, too.
QB Community wisdom. Find out how a daily morning routine can help you feel prepared for what’s ahead: 5 Tips for Maximizing Your Morning Ritual
6. Work for yourself, not by yourself! As a small business owner, it can be lonely making all of the decisions. Everyone knows starting a business is challenging (and awesome!), and many people will be happy to support you any way they can. I hope you won’t ever hesitate to ask for help.
Throughout my business journey, my most valuable resources were other entrepreneurs. Find like-minded people (yes, there are plenty in this community!) who know what you’re going through. Maybe they’re a few years ahead of you. Maybe they’re just starting out. It doesn’t matter. Being part of a smart, supportive small-business network will help you when you need information, inspiration or just a word of encouragement.
Trust me. It really does make all the difference.
Want to learn more about Leslie's journey as an entrepreneur? She shares her story about the ups and downs of working with suppliers right here.
Before you go
QB Community members, what’s something you know now as a business owner you sure wish you’d known when you were starting out? Please share what you’ve learned in the comments below!
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The first business I had was a graphic and web design business. I loved loved loved just about every aspect of this. I loved the design work, I loved working with clients. But what I didn't love so much was the billing part. I could have made a lot more money if I had learned to not be afraid to bill people and to look at the whole billing aspect in a different manner.
I have found that working for myself doesn't mean that I have to work by myself. I was so eager to be this one man army while retaining profits so that I could save and expand. I quickly realized that I was becoming extremely overwhelmed. I had to ask for help. I had to ask for advice. I had to do what was right and necessary for my business. As a mother of two I try to look at challenges from my children perspective. If I want them to always ask for help. I, in turn, must do the same.
I removed the thought that asking for help meant that I was weak. Instead I replaced it with the thought of asking for help is not only brillant but it can really help you and your business! Now, I am at a point where I ask as many questions as I need to feel comfortable. I seek advice from established business owners. I also receive advice from family and friends.
Emily..our high school students are "young" and somewhat sheltered here in upstate NY.
For the most part they are "connected", yet understand the great potential in it's use to branch out. Some social conciousness, and oh they are "hungry" but have a ways to go as to truly understanding what it will take to sate those wants!
I never tire of reading this article @LeslieBarber!
Hey @Aero and @tamalita, did you know that we have a Momentum to $1 Million group here inside the QB community? Lots of great discussions happening, so you you should check it out! Just click here and then click JOIN. I'm the business coach and host for the group, so glad to support in any way! J.
Hey @state-express - glad you liked the article! Based on your profile page, it looks like you've got quite a travel operation there in India. Which of @LeslieBarber's six tips resonates most with your own business experience? Is there anything you would add to this list for others who may be just starting out?
This is great advice. and if I may add there's one I have learned that you must know your strength and weaknesses. Those areas you are not comfortable doing find someone to be your partner who is strong in that area. When I started I tend to do almost any services a CPA might be offering and I don't like doing taxes. I realize then that I am spending a lot of time on each client doing research etc. rather than just getting the tax done efficiently. If you are storing in Accounting and Financial reporting then focus on that service and get someone to the Taxes for your client. Specialize is what you must do to gain an edge.
@Anonymous absolutely! I love leaning into strengths and then finding others whose strengths are my weaknesses. There are so many people who LOVE to do what I hate to do. I outsource those things throughout my business and my life. You're right on!