Eight years ago, I was working in corporate banking, reporting to the “big man” and wondering what next rung of the corporate ladder I should reach for next. I never would’ve dreamed that years later, I’d be running several successful businesses.
From a small daydream in a cubicle, to what I can proudly call a successful business, it’s hard to believe how far this passion has come and how much I’ve learnt in the process.
For those entrepreneurs who are still finding their way to success, here are the four biggest lessons I’ve learnt in my years of business:
1. Let it go
If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are you’re also a control freak. It’s hard not to be, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Most likely, you have bled, sweated and cried your way through the past few years to build your business; it’s only natural you want to make sure everything gets done right.
But if you want your business to grow beyond your own bubble of micro management, you need to learn to let go. You are just one person, which may have been enough during the startup stage. But as your business starts to grow under your leadership, there are more tasks to do, more projects to manage, more decisions to make, and one day your business will outgrow you (or so you should hope). Unless you are happy with your business stagnating and never reaching its full potential, you need to learn to delegate to other staff members.
And if the idea of handing over responsibilities to someone else gives you night terrors, try starting small. Delegate the smaller tasks that you either hate doing or takes up a lot of your time. You will soon come to realise that your business isn’t going to collapse if someone else answers your emails or manages your filing, and you can start delegating big projects and spend your valuable time on more important tasks!
2. Not all clients are equal
During the early stages of business, entrepreneurs tend to say yes to everything. They will take on every job with any client, just to fill up their books. But sooner or later, you will come to realise that not everyone is worthy of your/your business’ time.
We have had our fair share of unreasonable clients over the years, and funnily enough, about 95% of the time, these were clients we were uneasy taking on in the first place. Whether it’s something they say during a meeting, the way they react to certain situations, or the demeanour in which they talk to you and your staff; usually you can spot a bad client from a mile away.
For those familiar with Pareto’s Principle (a.k.a. The 80/20 Rule) these are the clients who will take up (at least) 80% of your time, whilst generating only 20% of your income. They are the ones who will refuse to pay their bills, harass your staff, cause you stress and create more work for you than the average client. So, who needs them?
As hard as it may be, it’s perfectly fine to respectfully decline their offer of work. Your (and your staff’s) time and mental well-being is far more valuable than one troublesome client who may not even pay you for your efforts.
3. Be ‘always on’
Starting any business can daunting and time-consuming, however, as an entrepreneur, you often find yourself working late (and sometimes, very early) to get your business off the ground.
From responding immediately to customer enquiries to building relationships with key stakeholders; taking an ‘always on’ approach is key to managing your business efficiently. Having the right tools and a reliable network connection will help you stay ahead, allowing you to stay connected and manage your time more effectively.
This is where services like Optus’ 24/7 Live Chat are so valuable. There have been many times where I have found myself stuck with an IT question late at night and have relied on the 24/7 service to get me through. The great thing is that the service allows small business customers to get help anytime of the day and ask questions about products and services which help SMB owners – like myself – to save time and grow.
4. Be proactive, not reactive
How often have you planned and prioritised your to-do list, scheduled a full day of productivity, only to have unexpected tasks pop up that throw you off track? Before you know it, the day is over and you “didn’t get anything done”?
It happens to the best of us. This is called being “reactive” – we act based on what occurs in our surroundings. You sit down to write a proposal, but you get a text so you respond. You get a phone call so you pick up. An email notification comes up and you’re compelled to check and respond immediately. A staff member can’t find replacement toner for the photocopier so you help her look.
All of these “reactions” not break your mental focus on the one initial task you wanted to do (your proposal) but they are usually not as important as what you were trying to do in the first place. Being reactive only stagnates your productivity, and cause frustration from having to “do too many things at once”.
Instead, be proactive and dictate how you want to spend your time. Don’t allow room for distractions. Turn off your phone/facebook/messenger, tell your staff you’ll be out of reach for a few hours unless it’s an emergency, and just get it done. Allowing room for distractions only delays your path to business success.
Stella Hui is the founder and director of Azure Entertainment; a multi-faceted entertainment provider and production group which presides over industry-leading companies such as The WA Performance School and Lady Velvet Cabaret. Combining her background in corporate finance, her love and appreciation for the arts and an instilled work-ethic, Stella has continued to grow her businesses year on year, produce award-winning live shows, and was recently awarded the Optus My Business Awards, Business Woman of the Year for 2016.