In January, Katie and I wrote down our goals for 2019. Then we set the list aside and promptly forgot about it.
Before we knew it, the months zoomed away, our lists of projects, proposals, and clients stacked up and summer was rounding the corner.
Katie and I decided to celebrate the end of a busy late spring week with a glass of wine and I just happened to pull out that list of goals we made in January. We were shocked when we realized we had already reached eight of the ten markers we had set for ourselves just six months before.
How had that happened so quickly? We had all but forgotten about the list.
I share our story because we are learning and changing along the way. As you may know, neither of us had ever started a business. All of this is new to us. And we’ve learned more than we ever imagined possible. It’s important to document each of these steps.
And of that same vein, this is the final installment in our (starting a) business series where we’ve share all about turning a passion into a career. To conclude the series, we are sharing about Blue Pencil Home’s successes and obstacles; in addition, I’ve included some bonus lessons that have arisen lately in recent conversations with other small business owners. See the series’ first part here and the second part here.
Even though Blue Pencil Home isn’t that old, it has been a great ride so far. We are thrilled to be able to share our story with you.
The Three Business Lessons You Can Put Into Practice Today
Katie and I are lucky in that we’ve learned three incredible business lessons which we’ve discovered through practical trial and error. These are concepts we’ve discovered and shared with other small business owners who have experienced similar business scenarios to us.
You cannot compare yourself to others.
This is an incredibly difficult lesson in our age of social media and constant button refreshing. Remember: What you see online is only what that person or business wants you to see and what they have curated very specifically for you to see. They’ve carefully crafted a message. To the viewer, this perfect package can oftentimes feel overwhelming to those just starting out. We are all at various stages of our journeys. Be realistic with expectations.
Try not to move too quickly through the stages of your business. Make sure your ducks are in a row before you move onto the next stage. While things may seem easy, or flashy or fun to move quickly and take shortcuts, resist that urge. For example, find a good accountant. Spend time researching and building a quality website. Pay attention to licensing and bonding. Build a strong relationship with your insurance broker. While these things may seem tedious, they are smart and will pay off in the long run.
If you rush through the stages, you’ll regret it down the road and it may be too late to do it the right way.
Your social media footprint is changeable.
You can change your social media direction at any time. Color scheme, mood, personal v. business, etc.—no matter which direction you’ve been going, you can always change. Nothing is set in stone. You are in control of what you put out into the social media realm and it can be adjusted when you wish.
Why Communication Really Does Come First
Communication in a partnership is everything. Those in a marriage (with its ups and downs) know this well. For Katie and I, we need to be on the same page for every decision we make. That isn’t to say we will agree on everything, of course; but when we talk through our goals, this allows us to stay focused on our central values.
When issues arise in our business, Katie and I know that we need to talk them through or else they compound over time. A little problem can turn into a big issue in no time and without knowing it, what started small, can be suddenly blown out of proportion.
Both Katie and I are incredibly invested in Blue Pencil Home. It’s obviously something very personal to us and if we aren’t having disagreements about something we care deeply about, then we wouldn’t be honest. When you believe in something deeply, you need a strong set of communication skills and an open mind to work through the issues that will surely arise.
As Katie and I both have husbands, children, busy schedules and different communication styles, we’ve prioritized sitting down once a week to go through our business affairs and schedules to work through anything connected to Blue Pencil Home—schedules, employee details, projects and timelines, and other details. These things are important to Blue Pencil Home and we make them a priority.
How the Response to a Mistake Speaks Volumes
No one wants to mess up. But we know mistakes are inevitable for business owners and the only option is to experience them, learn, adapt, and move on.
Katie and I have made a conscious effort to name and own our mistakes and identify how we will avoid making similar mistakes in the future.
We are two incredibly driven women who want to continually reflect on our successes and mistakes—but moreover, we want to do things better next time. That list from January I mentioned earlier? Not only did it show us how much Blue Pencil Home accomplished in those six short months, but it showed us how much we’ve changed and grown from mistakes and how efficient we’ve become. And that was only in the last six months!
We can take ownership of our mistakes. We used to sell ourselves short in our services. We’ve learned our to value ourselves and that we can provide so much more that we originally set out to when we started. We also say yes to so much more than we would have before. Learning from our mistakes and recognizing how much we can legitimately do has also taught us a great deal.
Learning, changing, and adjusting from our mistakes instead of letting ourselves go south following them is vital to our business.
When Fun is Integral to Success
Our final key to success: Have fun!
If we aren’t having fun doing something we genuinely enjoy doing, what are we doing?
Both Katie and I, not to mention all of the women who work with us, are taking time away from families to do work for Blue Pencil Home. It’s imperative that we continue to enjoy this work and have fun if we are going to keep going.
If we are in a hot attic, covered in filth, or a dusty garage with a heavy backpack blower strapped on, we better be having fun. We have learned to make the best of it, laugh and have fun. Pranks also help to keep things lively!
Everything’s Not Perfect And That’s Okay
Hands down, the main struggle for both Katie and me is finding the right balance between work and family. There’s another struggle in our feeling like we are attempting to run our Blue Pencil Home business as well as we want to, in addition to be our best selves at home—as mothers, wives, daughters, caretakers and so forth.
It’s incredibly difficult and frustrating at times to try and find the right balance. Both Katie and I know it will take us time to find out what works best for the two of us and our families.
We continue to work in finding the right systems and people to make Blue Pencil Home the best it can be. We’ve worked hard to find the most efficient and effective systems (i.e. project management, finance and billing) and employees and this takes time and effort. As business owners, it’s important to hire people in areas that may be areas of weakness for you—finding people of strength provide longevity for your company’s vision.
Katie and I continue to remind ourselves that we can’t be doing all the things all the time, as hard as we may try. We both like control and know that we can’t be in control of all facets all the time. We’ve learned a great deal about delegation, roles, and knowing which tasks suit us best. It’s easy to lose sight of how far we’ve come when we get so busy and so consumed by just how much possibility there is ahead for Blue Pencil Home. Tempering our control impulses has allowed us to settle a bit and step back and enjoy the ride more.
More than anything we are thankful to be surrounded by a great team and supportive families who are with us for this journey—not to mention each other. Blue Pencil Home would never be the partnership and team it has become today without that crazy idea a few years ago. And neither Katie nor I can wait to see what awaits us!
Until next time...