Hey, guys. Josh here. The sun is shining outside our downtown office in Plymouth, Indiana and it’s officially Small Business Week 2018! This time last year, Recon Media was a very small agency and we’d just moved into our first official office on the other side of town. A year later and we’re right where we want to be and are growing faster than ever. I’m already looking forward to where we’ll be when Small Business Week 2019 comes around.

If you’ve just started your business or are thinking about it, here are a few tips I’ve learned (some the hard way). I work with a lot of small business owners who have different fears, anxieties, or challenges and can’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Some of those things can be solved by building company culture, branding and awareness, or marketing, but there are some things that will just fall on your shoulders as the leader of the company. Whether you own a dog-walking business on your own or lead a team of 100 people in a manufacturing company, here are some of the basics I’ve learned it takes to move the needle in the right direction.

 1 – Don’t be scared

If you’re in the middle of the first year of your small business and are second-guessing your life decisions, that’s completely normal. Take a breather. Take a night off. Take a full day off  ? You’ll feel refreshed, recharged, and have a little more clarity when you realize the world didn’t disintegrate without you at the helm for a 24 hour period.

You might be terrified of quitting your day job. Maybe you can’t find a job and think it’s time to try this whole entrepreneurship thing out for yourself. If that’s the case, look your fear in the face, give it a good throat punch, and then push forward. Secure your domain name, set up a website, buy some business cards, and get to work. #hustle

Whatever it is don’t let fear slow you down or stop you. Take time for reflection, but then get back in the saddle and get it done.

2 –  Dream big

So you want to sell a pair of your boutique sunglasses to everyone in your hometown? Not big enough. What about everyone in your state? Still not big enough. How about selling two pairs of your killer sunglasses to people all over the country and becoming the go-to choice over Ray-Bans? Start there. Then work backward and see the next step. Dreaming big will help you develop ideas you may not have had otherwise.

3 – Plan, plan, plan

Plan for what happens when you lose your biggest client. When you lose all your customers. When your supplier has a warehouse fire and your product is destroyed. Then plan for success. What happens when your business is highlighted in the local news and then picked up by the national feeds? When you get a government contract? Or when the market shifts in your favor and all the sudden you’re so busy you’re working 20 hour days seven days a week just to keep up? Too many businesses plan for failure but never think about how they’ll handle unforeseen growth and success.

Planning for both failure and success is going to help you weather the storms and recognize the great opportunities when they arise.

A goal without a plan is just a dream

When you’ve set goals, lay out a roadmap to show how you’ll get there. Put your plans on paper, a sticky note, a whiteboard, or whatever app you use. To really help get there, share them with someone close to you. This can be a good mental push to keep you on track if others know what you’re working toward.

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4 – Adapt quickly when things don’t go according to your plans

Because they never do.

Don’t let this throw you off. Instead, use it as an opportunity to review what went wrong, why, and how you can prevent it in the future. You might discover your plans had a gap. If that’s the case, take time to revise and update your plans and get back on track. Don’t let change and unexpected events get in your way. Your ability to adapt and overcome these challenges correlates to your future success. Being able to push through and come out stronger than you were before will help you be a better leader, sharpen your focus, and give you perspective.

5 – Document your processes and review them obsessively

If you do anything (if you’re in business, you do a lot of things) you should be able to explain what it is you do, how you do it, why you do it, and the value it brings to your customer or end-user.

I own a creative agency and the majority of our work is in the creative space. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a process, though. In fact, it necessitates a well-documented and repeatable process that much more. With multiple clients in different industries at different points in their project timelines, it’s vital our team uses standards in a lot of our regular job functions.

We use a few specific tools at Recon Media to help us in the sales process, onboarding clients and kicking off projects, seeing the milestones through, and delivering projects to our clients. Touching on the previous point regarding adapting to changing plans, it’s important to set systems in place so your team can operate in your absence. Even when things are going good, make sure to take time polishing them and finding little tweaks that can add more value to what you do. When things go wrong, audit your processes and discover what can be done next time to prevent it.

Humans require structure. I don’t care who you are – if you’re running a business and employing just yourself or 100 people, you need to have a process for people to follow. Understanding why it exists and the value it brings makes it that much more powerful.

6 – Treat people better than they treat you – always

If you only follow one of the tips from this list, let it be this one.

Your clients. Your staff. Your vendors and suppliers. Everyone you interact with. Period.

Give more value than you take. It will pay dividends down the road, and it’s just the right thing to do. ?

7- Take notes – lots of notes

I’m notorious for writing notes on post-its, punching out quick posts in Evernote, emailing myself (which I hate but I do it), journaling in my Moleskin, and brain dumping on whiteboards. At first glance, this seems like chaos, but I use whatever means I have at the time and whatever makes the most sense to me.

It’s not the tools you use to take notes – just get them out of your head and in a place that will remember them for you. That way, when you’re going through one of the above tips (dreaming, planning, reviewing, etc) you’ll have your thoughts down and can organize them in a way that makes sense to you.

Let’s get to it

I absolutely frickin’ love entrepreneurship and small business. I love the challenges and roadblocks. It really pushes you to see what you’re made of. It requires you to find people who can help support your vision and go on the journey with you. It’s a blast, and I’m excited for you.

So where are you in your small business journey? What tips do you have for someone starting a business or working to make it thrive? What challenges have you come up against?