2019 has been a big year of learning and the source of much of what I have learned has come from starting my business, Pure Love Sustainability Inc. Running a business has been way harder than I imagined – way harder. I moved to Boise, ID from NYC, I had no connections where I lived, I needed to develop a service that my customers wanted, I needed to become proficient at social media marketing, I had to test to see what people would pay for my service and had to figure out how to be a salesperson, implementer, designer, planner, marketer, networker, accountant and more in order to be successful.
While many of these things are challenging in their own rights (implementing and designing solutions come naturally to me, the rest do not), the biggest things that I had to learn was to believe in myself, to trust myself and to be ok with failure. These are the real challenges to me in starting a business. I am nowhere near perfect at any of these things and here is what I have seen in my business.
I know that not everyone may experience these challenges and I know that some people have success off of the bat in their business, and for those of us who are struggling with these things, I offer a message of hope as I have struggled tremendously with the business and I am just now starting to see my efforts pay off 10 months into the business. I still have more work to do and am still working my butt off to make it happen and the following things have moved the needle for me as I was about to quit after 9 months because I was so frustrated, disappointed, beaten down, and defeated after working so hard and producing very few tangible results in that time.
I am starting to see that it all comes down to your mindset and with that said, here is what I have learned over the last month in my business that has helped me start to succeed:
I have wanted to start my sustainability consulting business, Pure Love Sustainability Inc. since 2015 and I was too afraid to do so. Over the last 4 years, I paid two business coaches almost $10,000 in total with the hope that they could help me to work through my fears of starting the business and get into action and I finally started Pure Love Sustainability Inc. in October 2018.
I started the business because I got laid off from my job and the coach that I was working with said something to the effect of, “Being an employee is not the right move for you and you will continue to produce the same results. It’s time to control your fate and start Pure Love Sustainability Inc.” I listened to him and we went to work on starting the business. After taking close to two months to work through some of the fears that I had about starting the business I got into action and starting having consultations with clients. A few clients hired me to work for them and I made some money. But, I barely made any money and was so afraid of messing up that I often messed up. After 8 months of doing things the way that I was doing them, I realized that I had only made a few thousand dollars and couldn’t continue doing things the way that I was doing them. Thankfully, I realized that my fear was causing me to not be successful and realized that what was behind my fear was a conversation that I cannot do it (be successful in my own business) and I kept on trying to prove to myself that I could not do it. I saw that trying to prove to myself that I cannot do it led me to convince myself that I cannot do it.
I worked through this fear and realized that I can do it and once I started believe that I could do this, the results that I wanted started happening in unexpected ways from unexpected sources.
2. Leave the panic at home
I don’t know about you and I am someone who panics when they feel like they don’t know what to do. I would call people in panic, send panicked emails and cause myself to get so panicked that I paralyzed myself. I am also someone who is used to winging it and winging it does not work when you own your own business. I realized that winging it was causing me to make mistakes and appear unprofessional to my clients and I started to make sure that I planned my work in advance. This helped alleviate some of the panic that I was facing and not all of it. What I am realizing that I need to do is not communicate with my clients or a prospective client until the panic has settled as when I panic, it leaves other people feeling panicked.
3. Stop doing it on your own
Ah the American ideal of doing it on your own and being self-made. I can’t speak for everyone and in my experience, the worst idea ever for a business owner is to do it on your own. From the age of 22 on, I have had powerful and extremely successful people tell me that I have to stop doing it on my own. It would have been wise to listen to them and I took that piece of advice as a challenge because when people told me to stop doing it on my own, I interpreted that to mean that the person who was telling me that was weak and incapable and I made it a personal mission to prove to all of the successful people that told me this that I am stronger than you, tougher than you and more capable to you and I will do it all on my own.
I’m a stubborn a-hole and my stubbornness hurt me so much in this business. For the first 8 months I did everything on my own and wasn’t willing to have anyone help me. I had to prove to others that I could make it on my own and man did I fail. I failed hard, I failed strong, I failed so much. It took a lot and I finally started to let people help me and I also quickly saw how foolish I was to try to do it on my own. I have three awesome people on my team whom I am looking to launch a residential recycling campaign with, have partnered with a school and am about to partner with another school to kickstart the work that I tried so hard to do, but couldn’t do on my own.
4. Stop downplaying your accomplishments
I hate to say it, but I used to be someone who thought that anyone could accomplish the things that I have accomplished. I thought that what I did was nothing special and that I had no real abilities or skills. You could call this humility and I have been praised many times for my humility and this was not humility, this was actually lack of confidence, lack of belief in myself, and an inability to see how great I am. It’s weird for me to say it and I also call this the curse of being gifted. I am really smart, my IQ is 130, I started reading when I was 4, I was so far ahead of my class in elementary school that my teachers wouldn’t call on me (which frustrated the hell out of me), I never studied for a test until 7th grade, figured out a proven trick to squaring numbers on my own, and I remember seeing the world differently since I was six years old and taking a test for a gifted program at my Schoo. Actually the teacher of the gifted program was amazed at how differently I saw the same images that the other students that were taking the test for the gifted program saw. Which made a lot of things easy for me and extremely high expectations came with my intelligence. After not living up to them a number of times, I started to feel like a failure and starting to think that I had nothing of value to offer to the world. Yes, I still succeeded in life and I would always downplay my accomplishments because I felt like I did nothing special and that anyone could do what I did.
I also saw how this really hurt me as a business owner as I would be so humble that people would think I had nothing special to offer them and I lost a lot of business because I did not properly present my value to my clients. I had to do a lot of work on this and I now see that I have done amazing things in the world and I communicate them to my clients and my clients are responding to me in a very different way.
5. Just because you failed does not mean that you are a failure
I’m hard on myself. Actually I’m really hard on myself. I hate letting people down and am someone who quickly gets down on myself when I fail and I have failed a lot in the past 10 months. When I fail a lot, I start to take my failures as evidence that I am not good enough. Well I tricked myself into believing that I was not good enough and almost quit my business for good in July. I am so glad that I have been able to separate a failing at something from convincing myself that I am a failure and am now in a place where I am creating opportunities from situations that I perceived to be failures.
While this article may make it sound like I have it all figured out now and that I am crushing it, honestly I am not and I am starting to produce some of the results that I want for the first-time since starting this business. I am still struggle with my doubts and fears and probably will for quite some time and working through these five things has opened up the space for me to attain greater success. We all have our own individual challenges that we need to overcome to succeed in our business. The last thing that I will leave you with is that working through your fears, doubts and worries is difficult, scary and confronting and it is worth it.