I’m sure a lot of you are the same as me in that the way I run my business now looks completely different than when I first started. I’ve learned so much along this journey, but there are a few things that stand out to me that I truly wish I would have known at the beginning.
The three biggest ones are:
Track your time so you know where you’re spending that time
Find business pros who are on your team
Prioritize your physical and mental health
Track Your Time
As they say, time is our most valuable resource, so use it wisely with intention.
Looking back, I wish I would have kept track of my time early on in my career, especially in the first year or two of running my business. Back at the beginning, I had no idea how long things would take or how much time I was spending on specific tasks. I threw myself in head first on every project, into every client, worked incredibly long hours, and couldn’t tell you exactly how I was spending my days. I was caught up in doing the "busy work" saying yes to all the things with little direction. I was working like a dog and convinced that one day I would reach the bottom of my to-do list. The reality is, without a clear path and profound respect for time, most days will be spent running from one task to another dictated by the needs of others. When I finally woke up and realized how important it was to know where my time was going, I started keeping a time log to track my time. I wrote down everything I did and approximately how long I spent on each task.
Logging my time was super helpful for a couple of different reasons. After I talked to clients and then went back and try to figure out what to charge, I found that I would have billed things entirely differently if I had been tracking my time. Some tasks I thought were taking me an hour were, in fact, taking me several hours or more to complete.
Time flies, especially when we’re not paying attention, and we need to charge accordingly for our work.
I also wish I would have kept track of where I was spending the bulk of my time to make sure I wasn’t wasting time. I may have spent 3 hours checking and responding to email when I easily could have done it in one hour with some focus. Knowledge is power, so once you know how you spend your time, you can adjust your schedule to make sure you are making good use of your time.
The best part of this: you can start RIGHT NOW.
Taking the time to do this for a couple weeks can give you a whole new insight into how you’re spending each day. How much time are you spending on personal development today (aka reading this blog post)? I encourage you to write it down!
Find Business Pros Who are On Your Team
As creatives this is difficult; numbers can be scary. By and large, numbers and finances are what creatives hate the most. Most of us get into wedding planning or floral and event design because of the creative piece. We have a romantic idea surrounding this profession. The flowers and events are gorgeous, these beautiful milestones in our client’s lives are so emotional, and we love the beauty and emotion that goes into what we do.
But to run a sustainable business, you need a solid foundation, and that starts with a good, solid financial backbone.
Toward the beginning of my business journey, I made the mistake of hiring an accountant who worked for my husband’s company. The accountant did what I hired him to do - he set me up with QuickBooks, input all the numbers for the IRS and the state, but he just kind of threw it all together leaving me to figure out the rest. I realized from that experience that he wasn’t going to bat for ME. What I should have looked for instead was an accountant who would also double as a business advisor - someone who was looking at my finances and could help advise me through the financial components of Modern Day.
What I really needed was someone to look at the finances and tell me exactly where we were losing money and the places that we were very profitable to help me make better business decisions in the long run. Someone who was keeping track of every nickel being spent. Someone who would be willing to meet with me quarterly to talk about financial growth, business strategies, and personal goals to help get me there.
There ARE people out there who can do this for you, and I’d say that hiring a solid financial advisor is the most important member of your team and should be in place from the very beginning.
If you currently have some of these pros in your business now and you don’t feel like they are on board 100% doing everything they can to help see your vision to fruition, pushing for your growth and success, you need to find somebody else. Don’t be afraid to let someone go who is not the right fit for you. Trust your gut on this!
Even outside of the financial sphere, I want to encourage you to hire the professionals in your business that are looking out for you: your web designer, your wholesaler, your attorney, anyone you bring on into your business.
If you’ve got rock-solid business advisors that are total pros in those areas that you’re not proficient in, your road to success is going to happen much faster with much less heartache.
Prioritize Your Physical and Mental Health
Something I didn’t entirely realize from the beginning is that this job is incredibly physically demanding. I would never have thought in a million years that I would work as hard as I do. The mental and physical fortitude that you have to have to work in the event industry is unbelievable.
Taking good physical care of your body is imperative. Make sure you’re investing in great shoes, get enough sleep, learn how to take naps when you need them (always my favorite form of self-care), drink lots of water (still working on this one), and carve out time for a massage after long hard event wedding weeks.
The most crucial piece for me was to invest in my mental health by finding and regularly seeing a therapist. There’s a reason why working as a wedding planner is in the top 10 most stressful jobs on Forbes list. Your mental well being is so critically important.
As entrepreneurs, we all need a sounding board. It’s great also to find a mentor group of people that you can talk to on a professional level, but I’m also an advocate of seeing a therapist or counselor who can create a safe place for you. A place where you can talk through things that you don’t necessarily want to talk to anyone else about. There will be times that your spouse and family won't understand what you’re going through, and you need a place to explore some of this.
So much of what we do involves effective communication while managing expectations, and the more that you can get yourself centered and clear about where and who you are, the more effectively you can navigate through the journey of running a business and dealing with people. We work in the service industry helping create once-in-a-lifetime experiences for our clients. Planning, designing, and executing weddings is a huge responsibility, and I encourage you to find a good counselor you can find respite with even if only once a month. Trust me; it's money well spent!
Taking care of your mental well being and finding a good therapist will give you the ammunition you need so you can be healthy for your clients, staff, and those you love.
Time to get real with you for a moment. The truth is, there were so many times that I wanted to hang it up. When David’s (my husband's) business folded and crumbled during the real estate downturn in 2008, when he couldn’t get an interview for four years even while having 2 degrees, all while dealing with depression, it was scary. I felt like the entire world was on my shoulders.
I don’t know what I would have done without my mentors, my people, my peers who were supporting me through this, these strong women and men in my life that were good sounding boards for me.
But, it was my counselor who helped me the most through this time.
In running a business, there are going to be times when you will have to dig deep. The road to entrepreneurship is not easy, and the path to successful entrepreneurship is extremely difficult.
I look at mental health as your core, your spine, your backbone. Having your mental health in check will equip you to do anything. To go into battle, to show up for your clients and your team. To give you the skills to not just throw up your hands and give up when things get tough.
It allows you to make good decisions based both on a solid financial and emotional basis. To make decisions not from a place of insecurity and scarcity, but instead from a position of knowledge and power so that you can move forward in your success.
Well, there you have it! The lessons I wish I would have learned from the beginning.
Gaining clarity around these three things helped me so much to be able to run the business of my dreams.
Even though this blog is all about what I wish I would have known at the beginning, I have to say that I don't have many regrets. I hope what I learned from my experience helps me to reach people like you, and help you avoid making some of the same mistakes I did.