Tips on Starting a Business…

There are some people who keep their business life very separate from their personal life. They may have a separate Facebook page for their “actual” friends and a page for their business acquaintances.

I know many professionals who are corporate and conservative by day and at night they perform in a punk rock band! They certainly have separate lives.

But for me, I keep my personal and professional life in one bucket. I find that many things that happen to me personally, I can use in my business life and visa versa.

I’ve been in business for a long time. I started my business in the early 90’s out of my one bedroom apartment. Nearly twenty years later, I have a staff and three offices in New York State.

My daughter was just a baby when I started the business. I would answer the phones, talk with media and clients and she would cry in the background. No one really minded and eventually she grew out of her colic stage and went on to day care. At client events, I would take her with me in the stroller and even when I had my son, I did the same thing. I always thought it was important to let my clients and potential clients know the real me behind the suit.

I guess I attribute having a family to building a business because they both started at the same time. My daughter was born in December 1991 and my business was born March 1992.  I always thought of the two as twins.

Coincidentally, when my daughter complained about something, a client would complain. When my daughter was in her happiest moment, my clients would be in their happiest moments.

Starting a family was one of the hardest things for me. I didn’t know anything. I took home a beautiful, colicky baby and no one gave me instructions. When I brought her home, I looked at her and thought, “now what?” I knew nothing about feeding her, nothing about changing her diaper and certainly nothing about how to calm her when she was colicky.  I had no plan. I just did what I thought I needed to do.

When she was colicky, I would hold her for hours. I would take her into the bathroom and sit with her while the water ran to try to calm her down. I would walk with her on the beach and listen to the waves breaking on the shore and I would put on “white noise” music in the house all the time.

As for the feeding and the diapers, well, I got better at those things as time passed.

It’s funny because when I started my business I knew nothing about business. I knew how to be a publicist and I was a great one at that. But I knew nothing about developing business, bookkeeping or insurance.  I had to learn these by doing them, just as I did as a new mom.

The bookkeeping part was the thorn in my side. The one thing I had going for me is that I knew how to save money and reinvest in my business. I learned that through playing a lot of poker and blackjack growing up in the small town in which I was born.  Every time I would win at blackjack, I would pocket the money. I would only use what I made to try to make more money.  And, oftentimes, I would walk away ahead. I never was behind. (Well, actually, I was a few times but I’m not going to talk about it here!)

I did the same thing with my business. My first client was the Coalition for Mainstream Employment Services.  It was a group of 50+ non-profit organizations that needed training for their rehabilitation counselors to work with people with disabilities.  I would set up monthly seminars and quarterly symposiums. I also worked for a bunch of smaller clients.  All the money that I made, I put in an account and only used it for my business.  I kept reinvesting in my business.

I remember one time when my grandmother passed away and I had an extra $3,000 that she left to me, I took that money and reinvested it into my business by buying new computers and software. Although, I’m sure she’s looking down and thinking that I did the right thing, I can still kick myself in the butt for not taking that money and buying Apple when it was at $7 a share!

So what tips did I learn from all of this when starting a business?

  • Just do it – don’t let anyone talk you out of a dream and don’t get caught up in trying to develop business plans.
  • Wing it – Most business owners learn from experience. If you want to be an entrepreneur you have to have the passion within yourself.
  • Start out Slow – If you can start your business from a home office, that’s okay. Don’t worry about not having a “real” office.  You will get there. I did and now I have three offices.
  • Reinvest Your Money – Don’t start taking money out immediately.  Know that you won’t make real money for many years.  Take the money that you make and reinvest it in your business.  You may want to use it for new computers or for marketing purposes.  Whatever you decide, it’s important to keep reinvesting in yourself!
  • Show Your Personality — Try to relate to others as much as possible. Make sure that your personality stands out, whether it is on social media, through networking or even through your written correspondence. People want to do business with people they like.

It’s funny, how starting a business and starting a family is one in the same for me. Overtime, I became pretty good at both.