My Business Diary: 9 Challenges You Need To Overcome In 2017

Today marks the fifth anniversary of my business, Ledaza, a company that helps small and family-owned businesses succeed in marketing and sales. I noticed lately that so many entrepreneurial stories begin with, "I left a very successful career…" Therefore, I decided to take a different approach: an open letter addressed to the clients I have served and to those who either said "no" or just stopped responding.

Dear Small Business Owner

I always wanted to be like you; to share years of hard work and experience and help you grow your business; I wanted the freedom to set my schedule, take off when I wanted, enjoy my tax deductions and most of all control my destiny. I couldn't imagine that you wouldn't hire me - who doesn't want to make more money?

But then it happened- you said no and more than once. In fact, you said no more often than you said yes. There were times I wished you just said no, but instead you came up with excuses - from, "I can't afford it" to "how do I know it'll work?" to "I'm busy let's talk next month." Then next month came around, and you ignored me.

They told me I should network more often, so I did. I met more people like me, struggling and desperate to hear "yes." I was told we had "synergy," "we can do a lot together;" they weren't ready to buy, they were selling.

And then I said "yes" to a few who told me they couldn't afford my services- I figured working for a small fee was better than thinking about going back to being employed. It was also the only way for me to kick-start my dream and it worked. One client turned to two, and the two turned to five. I was scared shitless the day I raised my monthly fee and petrified when I raised it again, but you said "yes."

I found out that I had so much more to learn, even for a businessman with decades of experiences; every day, each meeting or phone call showed me how much I didn’t know. It's tempting to think you've conquered what it takes to succeed, or that some self-made guru's formula for success is worth a penny, it isn't. In moments of desperation and depression, I too was chasing those quick-fix magic recipes for success; I read the same mile-long emails that showed up in my inbox every day, listened to free webinars, downloaded the free eBooks and even bought a thing or two. None worked, except for those six-figures-a-month experts.

It took over eighteen months for my business to take off; it was brutal, I kid you not. But here I am five years later, still standing and working harder than ever. Not much has changed; you still say "no" more often than you say "yes," and say you can't afford anything stepping into a brand-new SUV, but that's ok. I get it now, growing a business is about not letting the "no" get you down; it's about finding the right client; one that has the humility to admit she doesn't know it all and the courage to do something about improving and growing her business.

What I learned About Me and You After Five Years

  1. Stop chasing certainty. You know what they say about “death and taxes,” it’s true. You must try, risk, and experiment to find what is working and what is not.
  2. “There is no free lunch” is truer today than it has ever been. Free doesn’t work! Posting on social media or sending emails rarely yield results; “likes” don’t pay the bills. To compete, you must spend. Commit to a budget and use it until you get results. Then spend some more; that’s what your competitors are doing – “can’t afford it” means “I quit.”
  3. Referrals are great, but they can never replace smart marketing. None of your customers ever gets up in the morning saying, “I must find a new client for…” Your existing customer base is a goldmine, but there are other nuggets all around you, get them before your competitor does.
  4. Take nothing for granted. Being a business owner, especially a 2nd or 3rd generation family-owned business, does not mean, or comes close, to mastering entrepreneurship. Humble yourself and recognize that the business world is bigger, tougher, and more complicated than it has ever been – your customers have choices, many choices, and they don’t have to work hard to find your competitors.
  5. The Japanese auto industry invented Kaizen – the art of ‘continuous improvements.' It is a system, and culture, that minimizes failures and allows you to be better and different. Adopt it, and you’ll be amazed how far you can take your business.
  6. Share the wealth. You can’t do this on your own. Your employees hold the key to success; we’re in the H2H economy – Human to Human, not B2B or B2C. Each contact your customer service rep makes with an existing or potential client is crucial to staying in business. Develop a culture that allows employees to care about the business as much as you do and then reward them for caring.
  7. Question everything and stay on your toes, especially when everything is going great. It won’t last; it can’t – competitors are everywhere, and each one fights like hell for a slice. Analyze and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions like, “what have we done to ensure sales will continue to go up next month?”
  8. Humans are not wired to be objective – the Lizard Brain is alive and well. Get help, have an experienced and trusted advisor by your side; it’s that coach or consultant that holds a flashlight that shines a path you can both see. You can’t afford not to have one.
  9. When it’s all said, and done, I have found that nothing replaces integrity and hard work. It may take a while for clients to notice but when they do, they will pick a business and an owner that personifies both.

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