Sitting here today, it's hard to think about all that has happened since this began in 2008.
Where my desk sits, in this little Parkdale loft, was once the partitioned off area that was my bedroom. My home was a cooking school, my bathroom shared with the hundreds of students that came through here over the eight years I ran live classes. The space has since been renovated twice to suit the ongoing evolution of my business – once in 2009 to support larger cooking classes and again in 2014 to support video-based course production for the Academy of Culinary Nutrition.
In the early days I relied heavily on interns and volunteers who lent their time to help me make it happen in exchange for me sharing everything I knew. Together we ran cooking classes, tested recipes, hand packed sea moss (one of the more random things I've sold), and washed (and broken!) countless dishes.
If I am counting correctly, since 2008 I've employed fifteen full-time staff members – many of whom have gone on to find success in their own businesses, or work for some of the big guys like Shopify and AirBnB. I've also worked with dozens of contractors who took care of web development, design, video production, special events, and more. With the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, I've worked with nearly 60 program coaches based around the world since we took the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program online in 2013.
My business endeavours have evolved right alongside my personal endeavours as my priorities continue to be shaped by the life I am living.
I cook, I research, I write, I experiment, and with that, I aim to lead and to share. That is the core of my business.
I run an awesomely successful, conscious, good karma business of which I am incredibly excited about and proud of.
I don't ever think of myself as a #mompreneur, #bossbabe, #ladyboss, or #girlboss – those titles make me cringe. I am a business owner, a CEO, a president, a founder, a creator, an educator and my favourite 'job' of all, a cheerleader for your awesome life.
I have written in the past about the life lessons I have learned in running my own business for over a decade. In that time I have also learned some fundamental business lessons. These are the lessons I want to share with you today.
5 Business Lessons To Help You Succeed
1. Be A Professional
I have shown up to my business, my job, every single day since I made the decision to start this in 2008. I don't always feel like it. I definitely didn't always feel like having 25 people in my home for a Tuesday evening or Sunday morning class. I didn't always feel like answering 40 questions in an hour during a Culinary Nutrition Expert live stream when my son was three months old and I hadn't slept in a months. I did it though. And I did it with a smile and with joy. I show up to offer the experience my guests, clients and students have come for.
I have welcomed all of you into to whatever it was you were joining because I am grateful that you are here. And I mean it. Not like "#gratitude" but really just so happy that you are here reading what I am writing and letting me do what I do.
Because you have invested in me with your time, or your money, or both, I will show up for you with everything I have. I don't show up because I feel like it, but because it's what I do. Showing up and delivering is what it means to be professional.
Be professional. This doesn't mean being frigid or unkind or impersonal, but being the version of you that leaves you feeling proud of how you communicated, worked, created, presented, responded or resolved that challenge. Being the professional means being the version of yourself that you'd want to hire or work with. And being the professional also means being open enough to know that you don't know everything, and there is always more to learn.
2. Busy Is Not A Badge Of Honour, It's A Problem To Solve
I'm super busy. I bet you are, too. Aside from my parents, kicking back in Palm Springs as I write this, I don't know anyone who isn't busy. It seems that no matter our circumstance, we are all feeling full to the brim.
"Busy", however, is too often used as an excuse for doing less, or being less and when it comes to business, it can't or shouldn't be. I recently purchased something from a small business that I was ready to celebrate and promote with all my might-- until one month past and I hadn't received my purchase. The autoresponder when I inquired was about how busy she was. Your customer who has just paid you money, is not who you explain (whine?) away poor service due to 'busyness'.
This isn't to say that we have all the time in the world for everything we're asked to do or want to do. Absolutely not. However, if we're too busy to respond to that email, to deliver on time, or need to cancel last minute, we have to own the errors we made for taking on more than we could fulfill in a professional way.
What does that mean to the busy business owner (or business starter)? Get sorted! Organize yourself. Manage your time and your commitments. Get to know how much time certain things take. Plan for emergency stuff ('cause there is always emergency stuff), space out the rest and then learn to set your own boundaries. Being too busy isn't fun. It means you don't get to give full time or attention to anything – your business or you life.
How do we become less busy? "Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity, but my schedule is full at this time", "Thank you for thinking of me, but I am unable to take on that project with your proposed deadline", "Thank you for your order, due to current demand, there is a three-week wait for delivery. I promise, it is worth the wait."
There are ways to unbusy ourselves so that we can have enough time to do the work we need or want to do. And also enough time to not do work and get out and play and perhaps enjoy some of the freedom that inspired us to start our own business in the first place. Don't wear busy as a badge of honour. Being "super busy" doesn't make you more awesome, it just shows that you need to gain better control over how you organize your time and your life. (I'm currently a work in progress on this one.)
3. It's Rarely Personal, Unless You Make It So
Feedback is the breakfast of champions and as a business owner, let's have a feast! Positive feedback is the best, right? It makes you feel good, validates your efforts, let's you puff up your chest and have a little "I'm awesome" moment. We don't feel the need to question positive feedback. We just take it and feel shiny and happy – personally and professionally. Positive feedback is easy.
What about the other stuff? There are three kinds of constructive feedback I get most often:
- Constructive or negative feedback that provides valuable insights that I can apply whenever possible that will ultimately improve an aspect of business (or myself!).
- Constructive or negative feedback that could be resolved if the customer/client/student read the email/instructions/coursework.
- Constructive or negative feedback that has absolutely nothing to do with me, or my business offering, and is the customer/reader/student's own stuff that they clearly need to work through and are using me/my company as the punching bag.
Too often, people confuse these types of feedback, ignoring all of it and instead wallowing in it as a personal attack. It's not personal, and as a business owner, your business will be negatively impacted if you believe all feedback is personal. You'll be missing out on opportunities to grow and evolve and develop what you are creating and building.
Look out for the valuable insights in the feedback. This requires you to step out of your ego and see how and where you can improve.
And that last type of feedback? It's not you. Don't let your buttons be pushed. Be the professional, respond professionally to find a solution that doesn't compromise the quality of what you do – but don't get personal back. That never goes in a good direction. And of course you always have the option to delete and forgive and not waste your time trying to make yourself right.
4. See Things Through
This is one of the biggest missteps I see in small and growing businesses. I was a super pro at rushing stuff through and making it all kind of mediocre. This happens when there is too much taken on at one time and so nothing is done to completion. Details are missing, information is poorly communicated, the message is confusing.
Amazing efforts are squandered simply by trying to do too much at a time. Ideas are easy. Execution takes time, and planning and work.
Do you have a hundred and five things you'd like to launch this year? Me too! How many totally brand new things am I actually launching this year? One. Okay, maybe four.
In my first few years of business I made the mistake of trying to get too much done too fast. Blog posts and eBooks would be full of typos, email automations wouldn't make sense or be out of date, programs were launched too close together and so didn't get the amount of registrants they could have. I learned.
So much effort can go into creating. Make each step from concept to launch to delivery as well planned as you can today. Schedule out all of your ideas so that optimally you are working on them one at a time, seeing it through and then moving on to the next, applying what you learned from the previous one.
5. You're Not That Important
Most people who start their own business tend to think of themselves as critically important to the business. I'd like to think my school wouldn't be where it is today, without me. My goal, however, is to be so dispensable to my business that I could fire myself and my business would still succeed because the supporting team is just that awesome.
Now, obviously, I don't want a coup in the kitchen – an uprising where the spatula is pried out of my hand and I'm tossed out. However, I have gratefully come to learn that I am not nearly as vital to every operation of my company as I once thought. I am not that important.
When I started my business, I did every job, right down to being my own assistant. Yes, I had a general delivery email account that I managed under a different name just so it would all look more legit. I started my company in 2008 and didn't have my first full time team member for nearly three years. Hiring my first team member was a big leap for me. I started by keeping track of the tasks I was doing everyday that I didn't think I needed to do. Soon, I was freed up to do more of the stuff that did need me, and to work on growing the business.
Let me tell you, this list continues to grow. With a small business, every time we have a change in team members, roles and responsibilities shift and shimmy a little as I aim for everyone who works here to do the tasks that they are best at, just as I aim for the same for myself. So far it's worked pretty well.
As we move into a new year, where my business will be surpassing the eleven year mark, I know that I still have so much to learn. I'm excited and scared, which is basically how I've felt every single day since this whole shebang began back in May of 2008. Changes are on the horizon and as I gear up to teach the Biz Rocking Insider Program, I can't wait to see what I learn in the process.