Year 1 is really an exploration. You may not realize it at the time, especially if your business is an extension of what you’re already doing as an employee. “It’s not actually different,” you tell yourself. “It’s the same thing but in a new format.” You spend much of year 1 determining if this is, in fact, a business. Every small win feels enormous. If you survive year 1, you walk into year 2 feeling somewhat confident.
We call Year 2 the terrible twos. You have some idea that running a business is unlike anything you’ve ever done, but now you also have expectations, and what felt like a win last year, when you expected nothing (and no one else expected anything from you), now feels like barely scraping by. Yes, it’s a business. But everything—everything—is hard.
Did you make it to year 3? You may not feel like you won, but you did. Your business is about to hit its stride, building on those foundations that could not be knocked down last year. You may have reduced your expectations, reduced your offering, and reduced your self-esteem. But you clarified what you’re really doing, you understand yourself and your business better, and you are now building the business you didn’t know you were building when you got started.
We recommend you have, at a minimum, the below in place as soon as possible in order to survive those inevitable, terrifying ups and downs:
Your Team: As the saying goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” You will need to rely on your partners, coaches, advisors, therapist, and staff members to keep you motivated—and vice versa. The initial excitement will wear off and you may be bored of the endeavour before you start making any real money, unless you have the right people in place. You will fall in and out of love with your business. Make sure there’s one person (or several people) by your side who can keep you going.
Constant Review: Entrepreneurs are famous for being forward thinking, but you need to pair that with a regular look in the rearview mirror. What worked? What didn’t? What will you do differently? There’s no point in going through the terrible twos if you don’t learn anything from them.
Process & Systems: Free up your brain time by mapping your processes, and updating them regularly as you, your business, and the world around you change. Having systems in place will give your customers the consistency they deeply desire from you, as this communicates your reliability. These processes and systems make it possible for you to delegate chunks of your work as your business grows. On top of that, the fewer decisions you have to make about what to do next, and when, will allow you greater freedom to explore, learn, and innovate.
Business is not as easy or glamorous as media often portrays, but rest assured you are not alone! For many business owners, the first years are often the most challenging, but they can also be the best, because they’re the years that changed you so deeply that you can’t imagine doing anything else.