Business Lessons by Julie Furlong
I felt it was timely to write about business life learnings, in particular my own. I’m a huge dreamer, I dream about many different things every day, I think it’s healthy to dream and good for your mental health (read: Follow your dreams). But it’s also as important to be a doer. I have been in the business of running my own company for 18 years. My company actually turns 18 this month (October), believe it or not! (happy birthday to D+M). I often ask myself, where did all those years go? Besides feeling quietly chuffed about this, I do have something important to share with you about how I’ve got to where I am today. I have been so immersed in growing the business for such a long time, even to the point that I have taken it for granted at times. I have learnt from my mistakes and I have learnt a lot from my successes as well, and yes, I do make a fool of myself from time to time, sometimes without even knowing it. It’s probably my naivety that got me through.
My story started a long time ago. When I was as young as 14, I sold flowers from my mum’s market garden, making a stand at the top of our street every Mother’s Day. I also designed and created earrings so I could sell them at the local craft market, and I sold hot dogs at the hot dog stand every Sunday… the list is endless in terms of what I got up to. Without me even knowing, it paved the way to who I am and what I represent today. I have always been ambitious, even though I did not really know what I was doing. I was willing to work hard, be brave and courageous, to fulfil whatever potential I had. Along with a solid work ethic, I continued to improve and succeed in ways I never imagined. But the path to success is paved with failure and doubt. Being mindful of this will set you free from the pressure of being successful first time around – you will try so many things and fail at many of them. You need to remind yourself though, that you will also be successful as well. Don’t be afraid to fail, the biggest failure is not trying to achieve something that has been on your mind to achieve. All you need is a great product or service and a belief in it, and that is a business!
So here are some tips I have learnt from my 18 years;
Be willing to be uncomfortable and fail often.
Don’t complicate things, bring as much simplicity into your business as you can. Observe and take a good hard look at the processes you’re creating, along with the client / customer experience you offer – is it over-complicated?
Put yourself in the shoes of your client / customer – empathise. Is the journey you offer each client consistent and are your customers getting the same service each time they return?
Stay curious – don’t think you know everything, keep asking questions.
Set goals with milestones along the way, each one working towards your greater goal. Crossing frequent small milestones helps to motivate you and push you forward.
Be brave, stay curious and obsessed with learning and how to improve and do things differently.
Love to work, work hard, bum up and don’t be afraid of it.
Changing your mind or giving up is very expensive, so pay attention to how often you change your mind. Otherwise it will end up costing you a fortune.
Take 100% responsibility for your decisions. This answers what you need to do and things become clearer.
Do your research and understand your client, measure your results, you can’t improve if you don’t measure.
Plan up front, clarify what you are doing, re-evaluate.
CHASE the vision – not the money.
Finally, and most importantly, people will be harsh, they will let you down, maybe they won’t take you seriously, maybe they will ignore you, even de-friend you on Facebook etc, etc. It will hurt (at first), but ultimately you have the power to choose how to handle the situation and remember those who love you the most are always happy and there for you. (read: What matters most).
The key is always to trust yourself and follow your own intuition and what you think is right. I have always been a firm but fair boss. I do have very high expectations of my staff and I do ask them to learn constantly and always deliver on time and on budget. But all that does is make each person aim higher, develop skills, get better and work towards fulfilling their own dreams, and isn’t that a good thing? You still need to be a nice boss, you still need to care for your staff, do the right thing by them, nurture them and check in to make sure they are okay. Balance, as always, is vital.
So, go live your dream, earn it, put the work in and think about your story. What do you want – what do you want to create? Take these lessons and think about how you can apply them to your life. I think one of the biggest myths is that people feel they should be happy if they are successful, but we should all know, even from just from reading the newspapers, that success does not change your level of happiness. Some successful people ask themselves: I should be happy. But success and happiness are two different things. You don’t strive for success to be happy, success is what inspires growth and keeps life interesting and challenging. (read: Motivate me).
I have worked so hard to get where I am. I have learnt a lot from running a business. Yep, it’s been hard, but that’s no problem, I can handle hard and so can you, if you really want something. What’s the point if it’s not hard?