Well, not really. But it kinda feels like it as we celebrate our fourth business anniversary today – August 15, 2023. You spend 4 years in high school, 4 years in college. 4 years seems to be the amount of time it takes to establish foundational knowledge and feel confident about being fully sufficient.
But as we go into year 5, we’re now stepping into mastering business so that we can better serve our clients, offer more to entrepreneurs, and lead business owners to more success.
So here is our annual letter, giving you a deeper understanding of what the lessons we learned in our fourth year in business and what we’re doing differently going forward.
The Year 4 Mindset
Year 4 for me as a business owner has been one of deep reflection. What am I doing that is causing more stress and unrest? Where can I find more enjoyment and space? Who do I want to be as a wife, mom, and business owner?
So this year’s mindset has been one of cultivating a CEO, authority leader, and person that I can be proud of putting my name on.
7 Lessons We Learned In Our Fourth Year In Business
Ready to skip the learning curve and take your business (and life) to the next level? Read the 7 lessons we learned in our fourth year in business.
1. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Are you like me and overcomplicate everything?
I’m constantly thinking of the best way to accomplish a goal, even if it requires 245,420 steps. My genius solution suddenly becomes overwhelming – even plaguing. And nothing happens.
You get me? That’s why my word of the year is SIMPLIFY.
In every single thing I do, I aim to simplify. Simplify processes and to-dos at home, in my relationships, in my business, and in every other aspect of my life. What I’ve seen is…
- Better conversations
- Less stress
- Deeper relationships
- More progress
- Increased enjoyment
2. Optimism Is Not A Business Strategy
In addition to overcomplicating, I’m an eternal optimist. I tend to see the best in people (even if my gut tells me otherwise), set ambitious and often unrealistic goals, and lie to myself when things are going wrong by saying “it’ll be fine”. This year, I’ve learned that optimism is not a business strategy.
In fact, relying solely on optimism without having an actual strategy to back it up will put you in financial ruin, unmanageable stress, and an overall sticky situation. While being positive is generally a good thing, don’t be afraid to pull back the curtains and give your business a hard look.
3. Enforcing Contracts Is Key
My late mentor, Jim Wilkinson, would always say a contract is only good if you enforce it. The problem is that when you are a people pleaser and understand the struggles a business owner goes through, it can be difficult to impossible to enforce the terms you both have agreed to. For me, that was invoicing and collections. And we all know that cash is king in business.
To give me the confidence and wherewithal to enforce, we got new contracts drafted that made it easy for me to follow. And I had someone else other than me collect. This allowed me to keep the client relationships how I wanted without crippling my business.
4. Assign People To Call You Out
When making big changes in your behavior – such as simplifying or not being too optimistic in decision making – you need accountability. That’s why I’ve employed people in my life to call me out when I need it. That can be your bookkeeper, your spouse, or a mentor. Give them the authority to give you the real picture – no matter how harsh it may be. You won’t regret it, even if it stings in the moment. Your business will thank you!
5. Create Space In Your Schedule
The first 3 years in business, it was all hustle and grind. Back to back meetings. Tight, tight deadlines. Little to no flexibility in scheduling. And while I’m thankful I made those sacrifices to bring FocusCopy to where it is today, I didn’t start the business to become a slave to it.
And I don’t think you did either when you started your business.
So my goal was to create more space in my schedule. That included:
- Taking a weeklong vacation where my team handled everything without needing my help
- Doing more for me and my family in the middle of the week
- Adding more buffer time in between meetings to allow me to do the tasks I needed
- Blocking my daily schedule for tasks like marketing, emails, sales, etc.
- Reflecting on where I need to grow, what I wanted to do, and how to achieve my dreams
- Setting up my business so that I could take a maternity leave with my firstborn
Whatever this next year looks like for you, create a schedule that works for you – not what everyone else is seemingly doing.
6. You Can’t Operate A Business To Pay Everyone Else Besides You
Remember how I mentioned that you should employ people to speak into your life? This was one of the harshest lessons I personally learned this year: you can’t operate a business to pay everyone else besides yourself.
One of my friends and a fractional CFO frequently tells her audience – CEOs – it’s time to pay yourself. And there’s a reason for that! When you don’t pay yourself, you aren’t rewarding yourself for your hard work. You, instead, effectively become a slave to the business.
Even if you can’t pay yourself a market salary, pay yourself something – $100, $500, $1,000… Whatever it is, process that payment at least on a monthly basis. You’ll be in a much better position to lead your company.
7. Don’t Survive Off Of Performing
This last lesson is one that has really impacted my life in the past month or so. In July, I gave birth to my son totally unmedicated. This was something I got in my head a long time ago and with the support of my incredible husband, we were able to achieve our goal of a healthy delivery without the assistance of any medication. Call me crazy!
While in the hospital and when we came home, we received comments from our support team like:
“I’ve never seen an unmedicated labor.”
“Wow! You can actually walk. We don’t see many of those.”
“I’m so impressed with you.”
“I could never do what you did!”
And I got that in my head! So a couple of days later, I picked up a laundry basket full of clothes…And I injured myself. It didn’t matter that I had done something so difficult earlier that week. And I started getting down on myself because it didn’t matter how I performed. I couldn’t keep going at that level for a prolonged period of time. Nope, I had to rest and really rest. That meant relying on my husband, friends, and family to do tasks for me while my body slowly healed.
So if you’re like me and thrive on positive feedback, create a practice of pulling back and relying on others to help you. This will prevent the dreaded burnout that so many business owners face in their first couple of years in business.
Year 5, Here We Come!
Our very first client at FocusCopy was Go Savvy – a purpose-driven event planning and promotions company. Since then, its founder Savannah Becerril has become a friend and a strategic partner. I told her that once we hit our 5th anniversary, I want to host a party to celebrate that accomplishment. It’s a big deal to not only survive your first year of business, but to come through that first year during COVID and make it to year 5…We are celebrating that win!
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