I remember thinking, just last week, I wish someone had a small business handbook that gave you step by step instructions on running your company.

When I started 834 back in 2006 or 2007, it was on the premise that there was a better way to run an agency and serve clients. When you are in the throes of innovating, you don’t think about the actual running of the business.

Anyone that tells you that running a business is easy, is a liar. You should probably stop hanging out with them.  Admitting you don’t know what the hell you are doing is incredibly powerful and freeing. I dream about 834, stress about it and wake up every day thinking…how the hell did I get here? That is my normal and I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not alone.

Here are the 5 things I do to retain my sanity (sort of) while running a small business.

  1. Wine (this list is not in any particular order…maybe it is). I am not just talking about the consuming part but also the social aspect. Once or twice a month, I get together with a group of professionals that are willing to give advice, feedback and will weigh in on any current issue or situation I may be struggling with. These folks are brutally honest and will tell me to pull my head out of you know where if needed. Bluntness is a small business owner’s best friend.
  2. Mentor. The best decision I ever made was to talk with another small business owner.  Sue Tellier of JetCo Solutions is not only a friend, but one hell of a business owner. She gave advice and guidance on financial planning, strategy, growth and more. Don’t be afraid to approach someone, it is okay to admit you don’t know where to start.
  3. Outsource. This isn’t always an option when you are first starting out, but it is definitely worth the investment. Spending time on tasks that you are not qualified for and frankly don’t understand is a horrible use of your time. It was a hard decision to hire professionals when I could be putting that money in the bank. Running payroll, sending out 1099s and managing employee benefits takes you away from growing the business. You are the face of the company, at least starting out, and you need to be out in the community focused on growing your business not screaming at Quickbooks.
  4. Give back. Being a part of the community is what gave you the ability to start your business. It is your civic responsibility to support other local businesses, causes and young professionals. Make this part of your overall strategy, a certain percentage of what you make each year needs to be reinvested into the city in which you work and live.
  5. Have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you can’t laugh about it and learn from it then you are going to burn out and rage out. Take time to write, teach and learn. There are a lot of great business books out there, such asPurple Cow by Seth Godin or Work Simply by Carson Tate. I learn something new every day from the people that work for me, the clients I work for and the professionals that I interact with.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Small businesses our huge drivers of our economy and there are a lot them out there. Reach out to one today and ask them how they have achieved their success or how they started out. I guarantee their stories will start out very similar and they will all admit they are still learning as they go.

Embrace the crazy, you are a small business owner and you should be damn proud of that.

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