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What You Wish You Knew BEFORE Starting a Business

I don’t regret starting my business Powerhouse Planning at all, but Lord knows I wish I’d had an article like this two years ago helping me make wise decisions.

That said…I’m sucking up my pride and sharing my hardships in order that others might dodge the madness – or at least learn from my craziness.

X-Country championships hosted in Mission Bay Park

Invest in your marketing early

It’s really quite ridiculous that a huge chunk of what my company does is marketing, but when it came to my own business,  I failed to invest.

I am only realizing now that spending $10K in the beginning to have a top-notch website, collateral, etc. is totally worth it.

I waited 12 months and when I finally dry-heaved and invested I started to do the monthly celebratory dance as we won more and more contracts. People want to work with companies that look reputable…and are reputable. Invest early on…it’s worth it!

Kiss vacations goodbye

I’m not trying to be a downer; more of a realist. If you are the primary owner of the business and you handle client relations, billing, growing personnel, etc., you will be the ringleader that people expect to hear from.

As my company has grown I’ve started to pull people in to assist so I do have more freedom, but in general the “out of office” memo you can post when you’re in corporate America doesn’t necessarily fly when you’re growing your own company.

Embrace your flexibility

At first I felt guilty working crazy hours and taking on a ton outside of my business-owner role, but this was one area I quickly learned to embrace.

Currently I work early in the morning, three hours in the afternoon, and late at night. I never (ever) work an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. day…and I’m OK with that. I ensure all my clients know how the company culture rolls and I cherish the flexibility owning my company allows.

QuickBooks is my best friend

There is no controlling when business growth will occur, or when contracts will hit. I was blessed to close eight contracts in a six-week period last year and I remember sitting there looking like one of those wide-eyed trolls. How the heck could I manage my team, cash flow, taxes, etc.?

I once again sucked it up and said hello to QuickBooks…which I wish I had been introduced to many months earlier.

Hire the right people and fire the wrong fits

I know I’m sounding harsh here, but I’m trying to save you the headaches I’ve experienced…so you’re welcome for the honesty.

I’m fortunate to work in a freelance/1099 world so all team members are project-based. If team members don’t make the cut during their project work I ensure they aren’t brought back on in the future.

I’ve also learned that paying people a little more if they are skilled is totally worth it. When you’re a small growing company, the identity of the company still falls largely on you, so make sure your team reflects the mission and vision you wish clients to know and love.

Never stop networking.

When you’re at the grocery store, network. When you’re at the church picnic, network (after you say grace, of course). When you’re in the bathroom…well…don’t yell over the stall, but the sink is a completely acceptable place to network.

In a lot of ways you should be eating, sleeping, breathing your business and networking at every opportunity. Many people/companies have needs…and they’re always looking for solutions even if they aren’t vocalizing it. You should always have your three-minute elevator pitch ready and business cards on hand.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Here’s the honest truth: when you sell yourself cheaply you’ll tend to get treated like you’re cheap.

Whether you sell products or services, make sure you are being competitive, but not selling yourself short.

My philosophy is to remain competitive, but still a little under where my competitors fall. I also provide other selling points like flexible payment plans, great package deals, etc. Be competitive and have a few things that make you different.

Prepare to deal with difficult people.

Clients can be difficult.  Prepare to deal with difficult people. We are human. Companies make mistakes. Clients get frustrated. At times you will have to right wrongs.

It is a really hard pill to swallow, especially when finances are involved and you have to absorb an error, but I assure you, the more you make things right the more raving clients you will have (even through the speed bumps).

Starting Powerhouse was a great decision for me and my family. It has been hard, painful, and exhausting at times--I have gray hairs to prove it.

On the flip side, I’ve been able to be present in my son’s life daily, work projects I really want to work, and provide career opportunities for military spouses and veterans (what Powerhouse does). I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat, but I’d do some online searching for articles like this one to better prepare me as I launched my business.

So, go for it! I’ve survived and I enjoy 98% of owning my company (the other 2% is madness I don’t think can ever be avoided). Good luck!

Jessica Bertsch is a proud Coastie wife and mom of a 3 year old. In her “spare” time she runs Powerhouse Planning, LLC www.powerhouseplanning.com. She can be reached at jbertsch@powerhouseplanning.com.

Photo courtesy US Marine Corps.

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