By Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk
It’s hard to believe that a year ago I was getting everything together to launch my new company. I had no idea where this adventure would take me, but had a plan in hand and that red-headed, strong-willed determination to make it work.
And now, a year later, I’m still standing. BBR Marketing is gaining awareness and growing at a nice pace, and I’m happy to say that I’m one of the minority of businesses that survived its first year, and in a down economy. Go BBR!
I could not have done this without the amazing kindness, support and encouragement of too many people to name. When I had doubts, someone was always there to help me pick my chin up and carry on. To those of you who provided that support, I’m eternally grateful.
I’ve learned a lot in my first year in business, and decided to take this opportunity to share some of the more salient points I picked up – or had reinforced – in the last year.
Fear is a four-letter word. Fear will keep us from doing things more than any other single factor. For years, I wanted to start my own business, but fear of failure, fear of poverty and fear of isolation kept me from it. And while it still creeps in from time to time, I’m learning to recognize and banish it. I’m convinced that if we can learn to eliminate fear from our decision process, we’ll do things we have only dreamed of doing. Give it a shot.
Pay it forward. Whether you call it Karma, the golden rule or paying it forward, it all means the same thing. If you can help someone by introducing him or her to someone else in your network, just do it. Neither of those people may ever do business with you, but I promise you that the simple act of helping others will come back to you in spades. I’ve been the recipient of that more than I can say, and it has allowed me to meet some amazing people that I would never have met otherwise.
Set goals and keep them. When I started my company, I made a goal of having a minimum of three networking meetings a week, and I kept it. Some were coffee meetings, some were lunches, some were networking groups, but not a single week passed without three meetings. And it has paid off. I’ve met some fascinating people this year, and have learned so much from each one. Some are now clients, some will be one day, and still others may never work with me, but I’m richer for having met each of them.
Get involved. When I first started, I spent a lot of time attending networking events to determine which would be the best fit for me. Some were great, while others were truly dreadful. But it was worth the effort to narrow the pool of hundreds into a chosen few groups where I felt I could offer the most and get the most in return. And now I’m active in those groups. I may have bitten off a bit more than I can
chew sometimes, but I’m on three boards where I am meeting people, helping the organizations grow and learning a lot in the process. It’s worth the time to do it, and you’ll feel good about giving back where you can.
Stick to your niche. The temptation to take any business that came my way was pretty strong. But I stuck to my guns, and it has paid off. I focused my company on marketing services for professional service providers (CPAs, attorneys, engineers, consultants, etc.). I did step outside of that realm a couple of times, but in those cases, I hired outside help to do most of the work. By doing it that way, I was able to truly focus on my niche and create a reputation and brand within that smaller audience.
Don’t believe everything you hear. While most people I know are incredibly giving and kind, I’ve had a few make promises of assistance that never panned out. Whether they were just saying what I wanted to hear or honestly forgot to make good on their word really doesn’t matter. I’ve learned that there are those that may sound sincere but aren’t, and once you figure that out, move on. A leopard can’t change his spots.
It’s hard work. I’ve always been a pretty dedicated employee, but I’ve never worked this hard in my life. There are a lot of moving parts to running a business, even one as small as mine, and I have dedicated some crazy long hours to it. I juggle more things at once that I ever thought possible, and keep lists like a mad woman. But it is so absolutely worth it. This is the hardest thing I’ve had to do professionally, but the payoff is phenomenal.
So, before I get all weepy and head out to hug each of your necks, allow me to say thank you. Thanks for your support, your honesty, your kindness and your faith. What a long strange trip it’s been, but I’d do it again any day.