Time to switch gears from cleaning and talk about something that I get a lot of questions about. And that is my businesses! I started out as a one-woman show, starting a single business (a cleaning service) with a single employee (moi), and 10 years later I run three businesses and employ 40 people. Many of our fans and a number of young entrepreneurs just starting out have asked for my best advice. So, in this article, I’ll round it up in a nutshell!
Jump On Opportunities
Especially in the beginning, putting yourself out there can feel really awkward. But remember, nothing changes if nothing changes. If you want to find success, you have to be willing to do things differently. When an opportunity presents itself, if it intimidates you a little, it’s probably a sign that it’s a good thing to do—even if some aspect of doing it makes you feel foolish.
Case in point: I joined a networking group when I was 25, and my business was a year and a half old. I only learned once I showed up that everyone in that group was my parents’ age. They looked at me like I was their daughter at a lemonade stand. It was almost demeaning. I really had to push through judging myself from their point of view. I had to stop in my tracks and say, no, you’re a business owner just like they are. You’re here to get and give referrals and so are they. Getting over that hurdle really made a difference and helped me build my confidence.
Make Genuine Connections
Don’t just evaluate people for what they can get you. Years ago I was invited to attend a networking cocktail party. What I didn’t know was that if I wanted to bring Chad, it would mean ponying up $1000 for a ticket. Yes, it was for a charitable cause, but $1000 was a bit much for us to swallow. So I went alone. Walking into that room of high rollers alone was not easy, but I realized I had two options: I could either stand in the corner and feel awkward, or I could go meet people.
This couple walked in, I said hello, and we started chatting—it turned out the husband was the chair of a very prominent committee in Toronto, and the CEO of a major construction company (for a cleaning service, construction is a goldmine!). We didn’t even talk business, other than my mentioning the type of company I was running. When it was time to part ways, he requested my contact info, and a few days later, I received an email from him requesting a representative who could put together an estimate. You really never know when even a casual new contact can lead you to new work.
Hard Work is More Important Than Talent
A lot of us get into the mindset from school that we’re either smart or stupid, an A student, or C student. But in the real world, hard work is what gets you far, not the highest marks. I always struggled a little in school. It taught me how to fight for what I wanted, and made me realize that working hard and applying yourself is the secret to success. I’ve seen so many people start and fail at businesses, and in some cases, it seems they just don’t have the tenacity to get through the hard days. Always try to be working harder than your peers, trust me, your hard work will get noticed.
Similarly, don’t think that schmoozing with the right people can provide a shortcut to working hard. This editorial from the New York Times reflects on how networking is not worth much when it’s not backed up by hard work and meaningful relationships, and how if you are a hard worker, the network will find its way to you.
Learning When to Say “No”
New opportunities have a way of looking, well, shiny and new. When you’re just starting out, it can be hard to know which dream to chase. It’s important to weigh everything with a sober outlook, not just in the moment that you’re swept away by the possibilities.
If a great opportunity comes your way, do your research, assess requirements, and most importantly, be realistic! Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something. I’ve seen a number of businesses bite off more than they can chew, or take on something that really isn’t within their realm of expertise just to make a few extra bucks. This can lead to embarrassing failures and blemishes on an otherwise sparkling reputation. Bottom line: Do one thing really well.
Be Careful Who You Work With
Many people can promise you many things—but if you listen to them and go into things with eyes closed, you can get screwed in the end. Quite frankly, when you start working with other people, you will get burned a couple of times. It’s an inevitable part of the learning process, so don’t beat yourself up too badly. But hopefully, you can learn your lessons and try not to make the same mistake twice.
Start off slowly with people so that they don’t over-promise and then under-deliver. If someone sounds incredible, yes, they might actually be amazing, but let them prove themselves. It’s sort of like dating. Start small, build trust, and learn who you can bring into your inner circle.