In 2022, Debbie celebrated 6 years in business as a Passionate PA. She decided to celebrate the milestone by sharing some of the lessons learned over her business journey as a franchisee with The Passionate PA. Debbie shared these lessons with the intention that they may prove useful to anyone embarking on their own journey as a business owner.
Lesson 1: Be yourself…
I was new to The Passionate PA, I was new to the Dorset network and business scene. I was scared of being myself in case no one liked me. So I was, I guess, holding back. Holding back from letting the full me be on show. Was Dorset ready for me?!
Well, yes, it seems it was. It took time and a pair of big girl pants, but gradually, being me seemed to be ok. There were lots of other people like me out there, as in, there were lots of other people in the same new to business boat, some of them with less confidence and experience, so hell yes, I could put myself out there if they could!
What it took was time. Time to understand, to listen, to appreciate, to experience, to learn.
One of the biggest things I learned is that people inherently don’t want you to fail. People are generally bigging you up, wanting you to succeed, cheering you on.
Once you realise this, the world is a far less scary place. Embrace it. Throw yourself in wholeheartedly and enjoy!
Lesson 2: Think like a business owner
Prior to being a business owner, I was a senior manager for years with significant responsibility for people, profits, quality, service and standards.
Though I was a senior manager, I still had a boss, and I was still an employee. We were given a high level of autonomy and held responsible for it, this encouraged a sense of ownership for my work which remains deep-rooted in me. Ultimately though, there was always someone else above me who had more accountability than I did and a greater degree of responsibility.
When you’re running your own business, I have learned that the buck stops with you and no one else. I may work within a franchise, but it’s up to me how I implement that successfully within my business. The franchise provides a framework, within which I must operate. That framework is created from valuable experience and is tried and tested for success.
With my business owner mindset, I must make that framework work for me, drive my business forwards, seek out opportunities, learn and develop – to innovate and create new value.
A business owner mindset is a fundamental tool I use to improve, grow and strengthen my business. It’s so much more than achieving the daily to-do list.
This mindset must not get complacent though, it must be kept sharp to keep up with the demands of an ever-changing marketplace.
Lesson 3: Be consistent
Life is a rollercoaster; you’ve just got to ride it! Sang good old Ronan Keating back in the day. He wasn’t wrong, was he!
But, notwithstanding the ups and downs of life, the sharp turns and sometimes total upheaval faced (and my goodness the last 2 years has thrown a goodly amount of that our way) being consistent is key:
- Being consistent is habit-forming. Habits that almost become second nature. And when that happens, you don’t feel like you’re even trying, you’re just doing what you do. Showing up consistently.
- Consistency will help you to create your own accountability. You can adjust your actions and behaviours and progress towards what you want to achieve.
- Consistency doesn’t take masses of effort. Small things done consistently can add up to big things over time. They will also differentiate you from others who are not being consistent.
My experience is that being consistent builds trust and momentum which in turn helps me feel positive about what I’m working towards.
Lesson 4: Act decisively
This means that decisions can be made, and action taken quickly for maximum impact. I’ve got a great support network to help if I want to bounce an idea around, or check that I’m not completely off track – I use that network frequently to do just that:
- Decisions as a sole trader will often revolve around finances, health, and family
- Work out what’s important to YOU and act promptly
- Indecisiveness consumes energy
That saying ‘be the change you want to see’ is bang on point!
The decisions I have taken over the last 6 years have all contributed towards making me happier and more fulfilled in work and in life. Ultimately that’s my goal.
Lesson 5: It’s not all about the money
Recently I was asked to reflect on my previous year of business and talk about 3 achievements that I was particularly proud of.
One of those highlights was achieving a record turnover in one month; the highest turnover in a single month in my six years as a Passionate PA.
I keep a close eye on my finances, so it was no surprise to me what would be achieved by the end of the month, I had plenty of work to do, in actual fact, it was almost too much. The lure of £££ was attractive and spurred me on, but the cost to my sanity was also high.
This experience taught me a valuable lesson and as a result, I reorganised my client mix and workload into a position that was far more manageable for me, my business, my family and my health.
So, whether you’re a plate spinner, a serial list-maker or a fly by the seat of your pants kinda gal/guy, my advice to you is to find a balance that works FOR YOU, not for anyone else.
Lesson 6: Build a network
Being a sole trader can be a lonely existence. Actually, being a business owner can be a lonely existence full stop. When leading a team or working on your own, it can be a similar feeling.
People often ask me ‘what do I get out of networking?’ they mean what clients have I won through networking, or how much business revenue can I attribute to the time I spend networking. I surprise them by saying this ‘I don’t network to win business; I network to grow my meaningful connections’. Those new to networking are often taken aback, those that are more experienced get it.
Of course, it’s great when someone in your network becomes a client, this gives you a financial reward for your networking endeavours. But personally, I’m looking for something more. I’m looking for, and have found, an absolutely brilliant bunch of people from all walks of life, doing all sorts of things, located all over the UK and overseas.
Ask me do I know someone who can…. and I probably do. These people have opened my eyes and my mind to all sorts of different perspectives, they inspire and motivate me every day. If I need a little pick me up, a swift scroll through my LinkedIn feed will generally throw something up that helps. If I’m feeling lonely working on my own, book onto an online networking session (or even one in person!) and those couple of hours will give me an emotional and mental boost that delivers real impact.
I’ve been able to refer countless people to each other, someone said to me recently – you’re a connector Debbie, a connector of people. Yes I most certainly am. I love putting people together and seeing it work!
Give it a go yourself, stick at it (see a previous lesson about consistency) and enjoy!
So, that’s a wrap, my 6 lessons learned over my 6 years as a business owner shared with you. I hope at least one person found at least one post useful, and it made a difference to their day. That’s enough for me.
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