At first glance, deciding to start a business from a simple conversation poolside may sound free-spirited and exciting. In real life, as any business owner will say, starting a business is overwhelming, all consuming, but also, incredibly rewarding.
No one hands you a rule-book when the concept starts to take flight—no road map detailing what to avoid or a pre-made list of people to contact when you’re in a pinch.
So Katie and I decided to make our own.
The two of us never imagined the rewards we’d find in starting our own business. Expressions of gratitude and looks of sheer relief on our clients’ faces never get old. Finding joy in working closely with clients in helping to make their lives simpler has far surpassed any challenge that may have felt insurmountable at one time.
Today we share more about what we wish we had known before beginning Blue Pencil Home. Perhaps this is a rough sketch of that road map we mentioned earlier. We never had a how-to guide, of course, but this may help others.
The people who have assisted us thus far are amazing. Their willingness to share their knowledge has taken away the pressure in our trying to know everything all the time.
Perhaps our notes will help someone who has a simple idea and a wild dream. You never know what may happen when you try.
Our Five Main Takeaways in Starting A Business
In college, Katie didn’t need to take any business classes for her major; and on the other hand, I took all business classes, but none of them had anything to do with starting a business. We had no knowledge about the necessary step-by-step processes in starting and operating a business.
We did have one thing in common, however, in that our husbands are part of family businesses. They are our key advisors in our making broad strokes and sound decisions.
For business tips in general, we’ve discovered five key takeaways:
Humility is powerful—you must ask for help all along the way.
You can only truly learn by doing. It’s one thing to read about something, it can be something entirely different to actually do it.
Be as flexible as possible. Everything for us was 100% trial and error. We needed to experience issues in order to determine our best path. Nothing will work perfectly right away—learning to change and adjust along the way is everything.
You will work harder than you every imagined.
No longer can you fall asleep without ruminating over all things work.
There are necessary steps in building a business from scratch. This foundation signals whether your idea remains just that; if your concept will be shaky and fall apart months or years down the road; or, if you have the necessary framework for a solid business.
A legitimate business with appropriate licensing and bonding, insurance policies, and legal policies is very different than a spur-of-the-moment pop-up shop business. It’s not as shiny to take the former road, because it’s longer and more arduous, but in the long run, the business can survive struggles that arise.
Shortcuts never work.
And both Katie and I knew from the beginning that we wouldn’t take shortcuts—we wanted to do it right from the start.
We did much research in the beginning stages with regard to organizational companies, Other groups advised us on methods used for pricing and billing, scheduling, and hiring.
The Secrets to a Successful Partnership & in Making the Right Hires
The keys to a successful business relationship are very similar to that of a marriage. Certainly, there are happy times and moments when things are difficult. But working together with excellent communication and an eye toward compromise makes problems much easier to navigate.
Katie and I see each other every day and know that we couldn’t and wouldn’t want to run this business without the other.
When it comes to hiring and working with other people, we’ve gleaned important tips. Sticking to these concepts throughout the hiring process and employee trial period have worked well:
Find other people who have a similar work ethic as yours and work well with a set of goals.
Working with people who aren’t just about the money is incredibly important; those who enjoy the work are keepers. We’ve been so fortunate to find a team of women who are generous enough to spend their free time doing work they enjoy.
A willingness to work hard cannot be taught. It is everything.
Being able to readily laugh and not take oneself too seriously equals a great community.
Find team members who have new gifts, separate from your own, that will complement your skill set.
Here’s Why the Client Relationship is So Important
First and foremost, keeping gratitude at the center of our client work is monumental. This allows the main focus of our work―making our clients’ lives better through usable, efficient solutions—shine.
Learning to deal with a wide variety of personality types and practicing various approaches to client behaviors are key. We adjust, accommodate, and take turns working with different types of people.
Problem solving and flexibility are vital for client relations. We’ve met all kinds of people, obviously, but understanding why people buy and keep what they do and live how they do allows us to accommodate our clients’ needs better. This does take time.
On the other hand, we’ve made some incredible friends along the way. We never imagined new friendships would be an amazing byproduct of starting Blue Pencil Home.
How Building Your Community of Support Makes All the Difference
Asking for help is a definitive strength. To potentially help others, we are sharing our new-business tasks and the people who assisted us with each of these.
We knew nothing about how to set up a website or effectively manage social media. Micki Martin taught us about both of these things. She was a huge help in connecting networking dots and introducing us to others who were experts in areas in which we needed assistance.
Choosing the right logo and staying patient in the design process took us some time. Sarah Palazola was amazing and continues to help us troubleshoot issues.
Potential legal questions often arise—new contracts, potential projects, and so forth—with details about which are all completely foreign territories to us. Our lawyer, John Bobango of Farris Bobango is incredibly supportive of our work and he’s constantly encouraging us to prepare for the future. He has a soft spot for helping startup businesses and we would be lost without him.
We knew nothing about creating a business plan or the value in doing so. We had no idea where to begin. Chad Spencer of The Dufresne Spencer Group assisted us when we started and the difference in our business framework before and after his work was black and white. He has been so encouraging of our work and ideas.
Our accountant Gordon Ault of Ault Accounting and Tax keeps us on track weekly. Similar to John, Gordon is thinking and planning ahead for us in ways we never considered. As I mentioned earlier, there’s tremendous value working with people with different skill sets than your own.
We are so thankful for the assistance of Collier Insurance. There are many details and steps to the process of working with clients and their goods and we need to be constantly prepared.
And last, but not least, our friends and husbands are ever-present encouraging. They’ve let us practice our techniques on them and have been sounding boards for our many questions and thoughts. It really does take a village.
Hopefully, these specifics highlight the true journey of starting a business from a simple idea. What we wish we would have known to what we now know, coupled with the people who’ve walked alongside us, has taught us that any dream is possible. It’s just a matter of patience, trust, and grit that determines the end result.
Next month we will conclude our behind-the-scenes business series as we share more about Blue Pencil Home’s successes, along with what struggles we have overcome along the way.
Until next week!