I’m the first to admit that I make mistakes. When you’re learning as you go to be a business owner, making mistakes is part of the journey. I’m also a firm believer that we never stop learning, and one of the best ways to learn is by evaluating what isn’t working for you.
In the past 10 years of owning a business, I’ve learned a lot from things that haven’t worked. The mistakes that I’ve made and the things that have failed have ultimately made me a better business owner because of it. Here are 5 things I’ve done in my business that failed and how I learned from them.
1. Too many things, not enough focus
I started like most creatives do, trying to do all the things for all the people. Because of our creative nature, we are usually passionate about a lot of different things, and want to do them all. We are overflowing with ideas and love the sound of each of them, so we have trouble picking just one or two to follow.
This was me. When I started my business, I thought I could do it all (and by myself), but I soon found out I was going down the wrong path. By not having a clear focus for my products and services, it was overwhelming and confusing for me and my ideal client. It was hard to keep up with and very hard to market. Instead of trying to reach one person and solve their problem, I was trying to reach them all. It’s just not possible.
Scaling down and finding my niche was one of the best things I’ve done for my business. It allowed me to become and expert in my specific area and offer a higher quality, tailored experience for my clients and community because I’m putting all my focus on one area instead of spreading myself too thin. It makes sense doesn’t it?
Learning from this mistake has taught me so much and helped me stay on the right path as I move forward in my business. It gives me the clarity and intention I need to know which steps to take next and where to keep my focus.
2. Overbooking myself
On the surface, it sounds good to get more business than you can handle. I’m incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to work with so many amazing women to build their businesses. But ultimately, I can’t work with everyone. And learning to say no to clients was one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned.
When I started taking more one on one client work, I said yes to everyone. Which quickly led me to an overbooked schedule and lots of late nights to catch up. Obviously no one wants to turn away business. But we have to realize that we can only do so much with our time.
Overbooking was not only bad for me, but bad for my clients too. Instead of being able to devote my attention to one or two clients, I was juggling 5-10 at a time and spreading myself too thin. Since then, I’ve adopted the philosophy that less is more. I focus on quality over quantity. And I remind myself often that not everyone will be a good fit for me and my business, and I will not be a good fit for everyone either.
3. Physical products in the shop
I used to sell a lot of physical products. And while I love designing products and all that comes with it, it didn’t work. Having a shop full of physical products definitely works for some businesses, but it just didn’t work for mine. No matter how much I planned and marketed and researched, it never really went anywhere.
The lesson here is that just because it works for others, doesn’t mean it will work for you. And that’s ok. We are each unique in our businesses and we have to follow our own path. Even though I loved physical products, it wasn’t the right place for my business.
I’ve learned that I am much better suited helping others develop intentional lives and businesses through design, education, and encouragement. And now that I look back on it, it all makes more sense where I am today anyway. It was hard to say goodbye to that era of my business, but in the end it was something that I learned a lot from and helped get me to where I am today.
4. Doing it all by myself
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in entrepreneurship was trying to do it all by myself. I am pretty good at teaching myself how to do things, so I always felt like I should do the things that I could figure out how to do. Why would I spend money hiring someone else to do something I could do? Big mistake.
I’ve learned over the years that hiring others to do the work that you don’t specialize in is so much better than spending hours trying to figure out how to do it, and then only doing a mediocre job at it. If it’s something that you don’t love doing or just aren’t as good at doing, outsource it as soon as you can.
It has taken me years to commit to this and I wish I had done it sooner. I realize that you also have to be able to make these investments and not everyone can do that in the beginning, me included. But being able to hire others to help me with some of the key parts of my business has given me more time to do the work that I do best and helped me grow my business in the end. There comes a point in your business when you just have to take that leap of faith and start investing in yourself in order to move forward and grow your business. When I learned to outsource things, it made a huge difference in my business.
5. Lack of clarity from the beginning
When I started my business I had a different name and a different mission. About 2 years into the business I could tell that it just wasn’t going where I wanted it to go and I needed a change. I re-branded and established a stronger mission, one that was much more aligned with my heart, passion, and skills, and it drastically changed my business.
In a way I feel like I started over but in the best way possible. By taking a step back and gaining clarity for my business and brand, I was able to move forward with intention and purpose rather than spinning my wheels doing things I thought I “should” be doing. Creating an intentional brand and building purpose into my business shifted things big time, and not having this clarity in the beginning led me down the wrong path several times.
We all make mistakes. We all have failures. The key is that those failures don’t define you. They don’t outweigh your successes. They are there to show you what you should be doing and to teach you so that you can keep going with new knowledge of the situation.
There are a lot of things that didn’t work in my business over the last few years, but so many things that did. I could choose to focus on the things that went wrong, but instead I choose to focus on the things that went right. If you’re facing a failure in business now, have in the past, or run into one in the future – learn from it and use it to better yourself and your business.
The next time you are faced with failure in your business, remember that you’re not alone. It’s part of the process. The best way to handle it is to learn from it and apply what you learn to make your business better moving forward.
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