Episode 19: What Nobody Tells You When You Start a Business

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about what nobody tells you when you decide to start a business. I will share with you some advice I wish I could share with my young 21 year old self to really understand what things are important to define when you set up your business. We will talk about the foundations of your business and the fundamentals you need in place to be successful.

Here are the highlights from this episode:

{1:15} The importance of non-stop learning 

{2:35} Limit your time 

{5:51} How important your support system is

{7:55} Tailoring your business model to you

{10:55} How to find a good employee

{17:23} The critical success factor

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Web: www.dawnmcgruer.com

Welcome to Episode 19 of Dawn of a New Era, the Chronicles of a Serial Entrepreneur, a podcast with a difference with myself, Dawn McGruer, because this podcast is sharing the true life experiences, the real world drama that actually goes on day-to-day in business, and it’s not all sweet smelling roses. There are some difficulties along the way. And in today’s episode, we’re going to talk about what nobody tells you when you set up or decide to start a business.

Now, when I decided in my wisdom at the grand old age of 21 to go out and set up a business, I thought, “Great! I’m an expert in my own field.” Or so I thought. Marketing is my forte and I am going to go forward and deliver my vast knowledge and expertise. Now it didn’t quite go like that. So take a step back. Where did it all go wrong and where did it all go right?

Now, it sits somewhere in the middle because if I look back and I could, honestly, if I could share some advice to my 21 year old self at the grand old age now at 41, that 20 years is just been non-stop learning, ever evolving learning, and I don’t think it will ever stop even till the point that I reach retirement if I ever do retire from being an entrepreneur, because for me, business is a passion. And it’s weird because it’s so easy when you set up your business to lose yourself. You’re fully committed. You’re fully immersed. And soon you start to kind of become the identity of the business. And I’m not talking about branding. It’s the living, breathing, walking, eating, sleeping. There is no point that your brain stops thinking about that business. It can’t happen. It becomes your world and it becomes all encompassing.

And the thing I would try and sort of urge you to do that whatever stage you are in your business, whether it’s brand new, whether you’re 10 years down the line, you have to limit your time in the business. Because if you have this endless amount of time and again, with working from home, working from virtual, always having a phone or a device it’s so easy just to be 24/7 in the business, working on things, coming up with ideas. Everybody needs a separation. And actually you might think you’ve just got so much to do.

One of the things I do is I limit my time. I never work in the evenings ever, and there might be some sort of drama or something that maybe I have to dip in and just going to sort out but very rarely now. I try and finish dead on five o’clock. And you might be thinking, “Well, lots to do. We need to be getting up at five in the morning and work the way through.” Do you know what? You decide when your day starts. There’s no award or badge of honor for killing yourself running your business. And to be honest with you, it’s the opposite. You should be rewarding yourself for being able to step out, limiting time, taking valuable head space that you need to be able to be creative and effective.

So actually what you’ll probably find is if you have a cutoff time, that is a good thing. You often find that some entrepreneurs who have commitments of picking kids up and things like that, that put such a focus of time onto them, that they plan their days. They think, “Well, I’ve got to do this.” And in fact, you become more productive. So instead of kind of giving yourself, “Well, I’ve got today to do it,” try and think about, “Well, I’ve got today till five to do it.”

And the same comes from starting work in the morning. I meet some entrepreneurs and I was probably guilty of this myself to think, well, as soon as I get up, going to be in the business, working on it five, six, seven o’clock in the morning. If you start work at 10 and that’s when you want to start, give yourself a big pat on the back and congratulate yourself because you know what? There is no working day. You are the entrepreneur. Do not be ruled by your business. You are the one making this business how you want it to be. So no one’s forcing you to get up at five o’clock in the morning. Might think I’ve got so much to do. You can take a step back. And actually the more you push sometimes, the worse it gets.

And this is honestly advice coming from someone who is a complete control freak who absolutely when I started my business, I was living and breathing it just nonstop. I was making myself ill, and I often still find myself kind of getting drawn back in, and I have to consciously take that step back. So we’ve all been there.

Now, something I would say that I have developed and probably really not consciously, but absolute resilience. I mean, I think back and some of my years I’d like to relive. Some of them I would never want to see again. And this is true in so many businesses because I think about the amount of money I’ve invested in things, the amount of things that have gone wrong, the amount of things that haven’t panned out as I want, but these are not bad things. These are things that have just taught me so much. I mean, I have tried things in terms of different teams, different employees, different roles, invested in different ideas. But don’t ever think that these are bad investments. This is the university of running a business. And you have to think that every investment is not going to turn into this golden egg at the end of it. It doesn’t work that way. This is you investing your time in learning.

Now, again, nobody tells you that being a business owner is going to be easy. But I think one of the things that no one kind of tells you is how important your support system is going to be because you will go through being a nice person and you’ll also go through being a not nice person. And this is something that stress does. No business is easy. There’s always an element of stress and you can never ever form as your best version of you. And it’s honest. Let’s face it. You’ve all probably taken it out on partners, even in a new role or something like that. We take it out unfortunately on the people we love. And this is something that you have to think about. Your support system will be your step-out.

And also it would mean that you’re not just a business bore harping on about business. I very rarely talk about what I do in my personal life. I’m sure many people are probably not even that sure. They probably see that I have books, podcasts, courses, things like that. They probably have no idea what my working day is like, nor do I have any idea of theirs. So sometimes there’s a nice line to be drawn between business and personal. And I’ve honestly never employed anybody that I know in recent years because it’s difficult. It can’t all end in sweetness and light. And I think if you have that detachment and you have friends, family that side and you have everything else the other, it just keeps that kind of clarity. And it means that there’s no messy lines, and everyone kind of knows where they stand. But also when somebody is not in it and working in your business, the advice they can give objectively is often very, very strong.

Now, one thing that I guess I see a lot is that you get a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs start doing loads and loads of courses. And they think that there’s this magic blueprint that I’m going to set my business up. And then there’s a structure that you got to follow. Every business model is different. My business model is not the same as anybody else’s. My business model is not set in stone. My business model evolves as my consumers evolve, as the environment evolves, and as I evolve. So there’s no magic answer. And I’d honestly say that learning is so powerful.

When people come in my courses, it’s great if they want to come in a course, but they have to implement it because being an expert with all the knowledge in your head is great. But if you’re not actually achieving the goal that you set out, the learning objective, then that learning has failed. So signing up to zillions of courses, doing all these online things that I see people signing up for all the time. If you’re not someone who knows that they are disciplined enough to do it, don’t do it. Do something live. Think about what you love, what you’re good at. We all have flaws. I am not a person who wants to spend hours looking at the detail of accounts, all that stuff. Numbers, however, are definitely my bag. And I can tell you exactly how many leads, what the conversion is, what profit we make, how much we need to make every day. And I can look at quickly whether we’re achieving it, but I don’t want to be involved in that day to day.

So think about what your business model is and what you want it to be, and think about driving your business forward in the manner that you want it to be and do it early. Don’t fall into bad habits because I did. And I had to try and work all of that and get myself back into normality.

One thing that will be very important is leveraging relationships. So powerful. And these can be some of the best alliances that you have when you set up a business because these people can be your introduction. They can be your sounding board. So having these separate relationships is definitely a positive in business.

But I guess if we get down to the nitty-gritty and we really honestly look at what is it that nobody tells you when you set up a business that we all wish that we could have, honestly, it’s the fundamentals. It’s the actual foundations, right? So there’s no blueprint, but there’s certain things every business needs like number one, they need leads. Number two, they need customers. Number three, ultimately they need profit. If your business isn’t generating profit, guess what? It isn’t a successful business. So getting through the day is one thing when you start the business and yes, it may take time to build that up, but you can’t go forever and not be profitable. And anybody who tells me, “I’m not in business to make money,” well unfortunately it is something that’s fairly important and you need to earn cash. So for me, I know exactly how much we need to earn each and every single day across each business to be profitable, to be able to have the business and the life and the freedom that I want.

Now, the fundamentals, what are the things I absolutely had no clue about? Well, employing people. Had no clue. How to look out for what is a good employee. Everything I was looking for in the beginning, I ended up with employees that were wrong. That stressed me out. And honestly, it was not their fault. It was my fault because I was looking for someone to come in and solve something in my business. I was thinking, “Well, I haven’t got time to do this. I’ll get someone to do that.” I was getting people in who knew nothing about my business and then getting frustrated because I had to train them up.

So what would be the better way? What would be the better solution? Well, if I went back then, I would be thinking about, I want to employ the expert. This is the person who is already absolutely smashing in that area. And then the upskilling will be less dramatic. So you’ve got to think if you’re employing an apprentice to do your social media and they have no commercial knowledge, they have no knowledge about your business, and they’ve been using social media personally, how on earth do you expect them to be able to take whole proposition, your whole messaging and your presence and make that work? It is impossible. The bridge is too big. And who would be the best person to go online to absolutely position themselves as the expert in the field? Well, the person running the business.

So be careful you don’t pass the wrong things out because there’s certain things that we all think as a business owner that we’re the best passings on and we’re the only people who can do it. It’s not true. There are things that people will absolutely do 10 times better than you. And even today, I’ve been in business 20 years and I will wholeheartedly put my hand out there and say, “Spreadsheets are not my thing,” right? I love them, but I don’t want to set them up, right? So my team, so people who are project managers who absolutely excel and are delighted to do those things run that side of the business. So I am a great critical thinker in terms of processes and things like that, but actually putting that into practice, not my forte.

So you’ve got to be honest with yourself. You might be amazing at what you do, but you might be absolutely shocking at some parts in your business. And you have to be big enough to admit that to yourself because we’re not perfect. We never will be. But getting things done and getting things done and out there is something I’m very passionate about. So for me, this is something that I would say I have always been very good at. Even in the beginning, I would have an idea and I would get it implemented and I wouldn’t procrastinate. I would just push, push, push, push something that I honestly think is a critical success factor in my business, in my life, right?

So pushing them along and getting things done, I would implement. I would always be customer-facing, customer first. What are they seeing? What can I do to generate money? And that, for me as a marketer is a great fundamental to have, but it’s very important too.

The bit though that, as I said, employing people, had no clue. Legal, Oh my goodness. I didn’t even have a clue, like what policies we had to have and things like that. Thankfully, I did go and seek help and I looked at protecting myself and the business and what would happen if I couldn’t work in the business. And I have insurance policy that literally if I got run over by a bus tomorrow would sort that out. If I even didn’t survive that, there is procedures in place. So it’s thinking about safeguarding yourself and protecting and actually just reaching out to somebody and saying, “Well, what do I think I need to have in place?”

And when people say, “I can’t take holidays. I can’t take more than a week or something. My business will fall apart,” that is something that really if you go right back to the beginning of business is something if you can try and change, because that’s not a good business. Your business needs to be able to sustain itself without you. You can’t be the business. I am a brand in my business and I’m a figurehead and people will see my face, but my business will run quite happily without me. And that’s not something that I’m sad about. I’m absolutely elated having passive income, recurring income. These are safeguards that are just so, so crucial.

When things happen like coronaviruses, what did I think? I actually was not that panicked on the commercial front. I was devastated what was happening in the world and I am a person of certainty. So I like to know what’s going forward. But in terms of if I never earned another penny during COVID, would it matter? Well, I already knew what my cashflow would be for the next 12 months because I have passive income. I have recurring income. And believe you me, starting each month and knowing that you’ve got a set amount of money that doesn’t just cover the bills, but it gives you profit is a very different stand. And that standing point is huge because you can step back, you can be confident. And then as soon as you remove panic and fear from your working day, you are far more creative and far more productive and you’ll perform better.

So if I could tell myself something and if I could go back, I would say, you know what? The biggest thing is get the foundations in place, the fundamentals of business, the legalities, the employment, all of these laws, policies, everything, make sure you’re covered. Then I would think about my support system. And I would think about the time in my business and try and step back. I would then think about, well, what is my business model? What do I want my day to be like? And I would try and design that out. I’d always try and think about not losing myself within the business and having my separate identity. So I’m not just Dawn, the entrepreneur. I’m Dawn who likes art. I’m Dawn who likes to drink wine. I’m Dawn who loves alpacas. There is another element to me and I don’t just want to stand for business because it doesn’t make you a rich person. And I don’t mean money. I mean, diverse. And the more facets you have in your life, the more interesting it is for you and everyone around you.

So the final thing, the final thought of this podcast is when you think about designing your digital business model, when you think about your business and taking time out, what is the number one thing, the critical success factor? Well, implementing for sure. But secondly, passive and recurring income. Think about how you could have money coming in without you being present, without you being the business. Think about how you could set up streams of revenue, multiple streams of revenue to safeguard yourself and protect, but also how you could have recurring revenue coming into the business, money coming in each and every day of the month. This could come through payment plans. It could be all sorts of different things, but it’s important to get the structures in place.

Now, if you’ve enjoyed this and you want to learn more and you really want to understand what it is to run a business and how to run that business, then come and find me on dawnmcgruer.com. Come and find out a little bit more about my journey and what I’ve done. Now, I share a lot of it in the book, Dynamic Digital Marketing. And I would love to hear your feedback because my journey that I cover in Dynamic Digital Marketing is about how I set my business up, the highs and the lows, a deeper dive into some of the topics I cover in the podcast.

And the thing that I think is probably if I could have had it back at 21, the most valuable asset in this book is the 90-day plan, 90 days, just making sure that you absolutely know exactly what to do for the first 90 days to get your business either growing, revolutionized, or if it’s a startup, how to even get yourself out there. And everything in this book ultimately is about maximizing everything that you do, every effort, and how to revolutionize your online presence and really master the world of online marketing and social media so that you can show up, make a difference, realize your dreams and make the changes you need to be that all-important successful business that you wanted to be in and start and grow.

Now, go and buy a copy. Let me know what you think. And the amazing thing at the moment is there is no post and packaging. So you can get the book. Go to dawnmcgruer.com or just type in Dynamic Digital Marketing, and it will come up number one in Google. So let me know what you think. And don’t forget, come and join me on next week’s podcast. Take care, everyone.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode and don’t forget I’m going to be with you each and every week. So download and listen on dawnmcgruer.com or on iTunes and come and join us in our Facebook community, too. All the details are on the website, and I’ll see you next week.


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Dawn McGruer's Marketing * Motivation * Mindset Group

Speaker. Author. Podcaster. Strategist.

Multi-award-winning speaker, strategist & best-selling author of Dynamic Digital Marketing - Helping to inspire entrepreneurs to rise to meet today’s challenges and be powerfully present to shine online.

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