Shortly after getting engaged, Caleb and I started a master bedroom/bathroom renovation project. I was told that the renovations would be done in 3 months, right in time for us to return from our honeymoon.
That was 9 months ago. You guessed it – we still aren’t done.
There are so many things I wish I would have known before starting a major renovation project, a marriage, and a business in the same season. The last few months have had their challenges, but it’s also been a season of enormous growth and learning.
Many people avoid starting a business because they feel like they aren’t ready. However, like renovating an old house, sometimes you need to jump in feet first before you can get the information you need to move forward.
In this post, I’m going to share 5 lessons that you can learn about building a business that I’ve (re)learned while renovating our house.
#1 It Will Take more Time than You Might Expect
Our renovations will likely take 4x longer than I expected. When we first returned from our honeymoon, and were still expecting that the project would be finished soon, every delay was a disappointment that hit me a little bit harder than it needed to.
There’s an equation in marketing that states that your satisfaction will be equal to your expectations minus your reality. If your reality is better than your expectations, you will be extremely satisfied. If you have high expectations that are not even close to being met, you will be extremely dissatisfied.
If I would have taken the time to educate myself and set a realistic expectation for how long the renovations would take, I would have been much better equipped to enjoy the process and avoid major disappointment when something went wrong.
Similarly, the further I get into building my business, the more I realize that it will simply take time, and I need to be okay with that. There are so many exciting projects that I want to take on, but I can’t do them all at once. I am a limited human in terms of the energy, time, finances, and focus I have to dedicate to my work, and that. is. okay. Be patient and gracious with yourself and others in the process.
Our dry-wallers did half the wall, but charged full price.
#2 Hire the Right People for the Job
This may sound obvious, but it’s a mistake that so many entrepreneurs (and homeowners!) make. We often don’t take the time to ask simple questions that can ensure that your expectations and ideal outcomes will be met. We often don’t take the time to communicate, check-in, and to have difficult conversations.
At one point, we didn’t take the time to check the work of one of our hires before he left, and we ended up with half finished drywall (some of which we need to redo). When we reached out to tell him about the mistakes, we never heard back.
As a business owner, you can rest assured that NO ONE will care about your business as much as you do. This makes it all the more important to carefully select your contractors and employees to make sure that they are not only capable, but trustworthy.
#3 The Show Must Go Wrong
It can be surprisingly easy to plan out a project, get started, and assume that everything will go according to plan. However, I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s owned a home for more than an hour can tell you that something will go wrong. We can’t account for every possibility, but that’s just part of the process.
As a homeowner, you don’t really have the choice to give up and sell your house when something goes wrong. You find a way to fix the problem, attach the handle, remove the debris, recruit the neighbors, or call the expert. Let me tell you, there have been so many, “I wish we could go back and not start this project” moments for me over the past few months. But we can’t go to the dump and pull out our old tile and tub and sink. We have to keep moving forward, one step at a time.
I’m currently in the middle of a large research project, which involves interviewing female entrepreneurs and asking them questions about their work and life. One question I ask is, “If you could go back to when you were first starting out, what advice would you give yourself?” The majority of business owners I speak to would tell their younger selves to keep moving forward. Don’t give up. Take it one day at a time, one client at a time.
When things go wrong, it’s not a sign that you weren’t meant for this or that you should quit. It means that you’re experiencing the same things that every other business owner on the planet has experienced. And if you don’t know what step you should take, there are dozens of people that you can go to for advice.
In this together.
#3 It’s a Team Sport
When we first started renovating, I was very hands off. I didn’t feel like I had any significant contributions to make other than choosing tile A or tile B, and staying out of the way of the experts. However, the longer the project was drawn out, I realized that Caleb needed my help more than I thought he did.
He may know what that fuzzy pipe in the ground is for, but I know that we should not drive across town for yet another Menard’s trip before we think through our to-do list, make a shopping list, and research price options online. Caleb helps me from losing my mind, and does virtually all of the physical labor while I opt for the things I’m better suited for, like project planning, painting, designing, and occasionally taking a break to have a drink on the porch.
So how is this like running a business? Well, there are some days when happy hour is also mandatory. But more importantly, according to the Small Business Administration, 81% of American small businesses don’t have paid employees. That means that there are roughly 25 million solopreneurs out there that are responsible for every area of their business.
But remember, entrepreneurship is still a TEAM sport!
I am one of those solopreneurs and I feel the challenges of growing a small business on limited resources every day. I have a BBA in Entrepreneurship and an MBA in Marketing, but I will never be able to manage every aspect of my business by myself. I need the support of more experienced entrepreneurs, leaders, and marketers to guide me through tough spots.
Like most homes, businesses aren’t built in isolation.
#4 Your Time is Valuable
A few weekends ago, Caleb and I spent approximately 4 hours repainting the rim of our bathroom mirrors black. We saved about $200 buying mirrors that were the wrong color and painting them ourselves, but when you consider that our time is worth at least $50+ per hour, we made the wrong decision. We spent well over $400 worth of our time in order to save $200.
When it comes to running a business, you need to determine how much your time is worth and track where you’re spending (and wasting) it. I need to invest in things like software, automations, and templates in order to spend the majority of my time doing the things that will actually grow my business. So many entrepreneurs waste weeks doing things like playing with their website text or trying to design their own logo, but they don’t realize that they aren’t actually saving money. They’re simply holding their business back from growing. Know what your time is worth and learn when to delegate.
#5 There’s Always Something to Celebrate
There was a turning point in our renovation process when we finally had all of the tile installed in the bathroom. I could finally see what the end result was going to look like and celebrate all of the progress we had made. I finally stopped focusing on the fact that the project wasn’t in the place that I wanted it to be (done months ago), and started appreciating and rejoicing in all the progress that was happening.
In business, I’ve learned that comparison really is the thief of joy. I can look at the work of so many other photographers and see that I am nowhere near where I want to be. However, I can also look back on the past 9 months and celebrate the fact that my photography skills are already night and day from when I began. Then I can be excited about how far I can go in the next 9 months instead of comparing my progress to someone who is 10 years ahead of me.
So Just Keep Building
If you’re in the process of building a business, I hope that you can start to think of it like building a house. You don’t have to do it alone, and in fact, you can’t! Every entrepreneur experiences challenges, but don’t give up. There is a light at the end of the tunnel – remember why you started.
As a marketing consultant and brand photographer, I am passionate about helping women to simplify their lives so that they can harvest their full potential in business and life. If you are finding the demands of building a business to be challenging, I hope that you will contact me to schedule a free consultation. You don’t have to feel stuck – there are simple, yet effective ways to move forward and accomplish your most important goals in life.