Do either of these scenarios sound familiar?
You have a great idea, and you want to start your own business. You determine a business name, work on your business plan, talk to your family and friends, build a website, order business cards and read everything you can about starting a business. Except, it’s now been six months, and you still haven’t started!
Or, you have been in business for a while, but technology keeps changing. First, you learned how to manage email campaigns and your website, but now you have to learn Twitter, Instagram, blogging, SEO and more. In addition, the skills of your profession continue changing. If you can relate to these stories, you aren’t alone.
Whether you are just getting started, or you have been in business for years, it is easy to feel like you falling behind. As the founder of APPO (the Association of Personal Photo Organizers), I see this all the time. Many of our members are just starting their businesses and get caught up in the “It has to be perfect syndrome'. Meanwhile, experienced members can feel frustrated trying to keep up with rapidly changing technology. I interviewed two members of APPO on how they successfully navigated these issues.
Here are their stories, and you can apply their learning principals to your business.
Kim and Tamara met while volunteering and organizing several large fundraisers in their community. They soon discovered a mutual love of many things: art, shoes, knitting and biking to name a few. They started Pixelwinx, a photo organizing and design business, as the next step in their creative partnership.
What problems did you face as new entrepreneurs?
In the beginning, we wanted to have everything planned and figured out. We spent a lot of time working on our website, creating packages and pricing. I would have planned forever; Kim pushed me to take the leap of faith and launch. It does not have to be perfect. Just do it and spend your time getting experience and education by working with clients.
What tools/resources do you use to help solve your problems?
When in doubt, Google it! If you have a question, someone else has probably already had it. We are both visual learners and want to see solutions, so we like YouTube. Don’t reinvent the wheel. When we find an answer online — via websites, forums, YouTube, etc.— we sign up for the newsletter and follow the site on social media. There is always something to learn!
Share a specific example of a time you solved a business problem.
We were working on a slide show with a client, and she had at least 20 old cell phones with photos she wanted to access. The devices included iPhones, iPods, flip phones, and Blackberries. We had never done anything like this before, and it was a significant learning curve. We had to track down old passwords, research connecting discontinued phones, find memory card readers and old cell phone charging cords. Bottom line, initially we didn’t know how to do the job, but by searching the internet, talking to cell phone providers, visiting the Apple store and our local camera store, we were able to put together the pieces.
What advice would give to someone who is feeling stuck or intimidated by a lack of knowledge?
Don’t be afraid; you can’t know everything. Use resources such as friends, teenagers, websites, YouTube, forums and social media. Commit to learning something new once a month. It takes time to feel comfortable in a new venture.
Barb Wees has been an entrepreneur in two family businesses for more than 20 years with a focus on the financial aspect of the business, keeping everything organized and flowing smoothly. She recently decided to add photo organizing to her business.
Share a specific example of a time you learned something new.
One year ago I took an entire course in QuickBooks to update my accounting and bookkeeping knowledge. I also wanted to get a complete understanding of the “behind the scenes” of money matters for business. I feel that it is important to have detailed grasp of accounting, even if you decide to have a bookkeeper maintain this aspect of the business.
What tools and resources do you use to help solve business problems?
It is important to be organized and systematic, yet allow yourself to be creative. Most importantly, realize you do not have to invent the wheel or do everything yourself. Don't hesitate to ask other business owners for their opinions and advice.
What advice would you give to someone who is feeling stuck or intimidated by a lack of knowledge?
In general, being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. You have to decide: Is this a hobby, or is it a business? There are countless ways to reach out and get help. I suggest meet-up groups, networking groups, business coaches, books, blogs, magazines, online or college courses, conferences, SBA (Small Business Association) and SCORE (business experts who volunteer their time to help people with business), library programs, and community education classes.
I think the most important issue for a solo entrepreneur is to stay current with new trends. You must be ready to wear the “many hats” needed in business and to change each hat when required. Laziness is not part of the formula to succeed. Being a small business owner requires dedication, determination, guts and a lot of hard work.
The common theme between both of these interviews is a willingness to seek information and training from other sources. Today there is a multitude of ways to add to your knowledge base. The only thing you need to do is be willing to explore the resources readily available and take action.