Things I’ve learned in My Six Years of Business

Things I’ve learned in My Six Years of Business

- by Susan Walsh, Expert in WorkTech

Six whole years as a business owner, and I’m tired, that’s the honest truth. I really need a holiday and to make more time for myself, that’s my top tips for the year ahead. And if I thought last year was hard, well hold on to your hats this one was even harder! Growth is a huge challenge, plus I’ve expanded my event experience – speaking, exhibiting, attending as an influencer! So, I’ve needed to rely on and trust my team more.  Unfortunately, more people can risk more problems, both financially and personally.

I did not anticipate the extra costs and stresses that having a larger team would bring. Taxes, salaries, bills… it just never seems to end. But guess what? We’re still here. Still in business and still paying the bills. And while it’s been really tough, I’ve also had a lot of fun so it’s not all doom and gloom. But when you’re tired you tend to focus on the negative, cue need for a holiday as mentioned above…

So, have I been learning from my own advice all these years? Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, but when I speak to other business owners, they’re experiencing the same thing so I know it’s not just me, and there’s some things I just can’t change. Sharing with others has been one of the most helpful things I’ve done this year, but what else did I learn?

Delegate, delegate, delegate

I am so much better at this now, but I also think it’s because I have the right team in place as well, they make it so easy for me to leave work in their capable hands, and that frees up my time to go off to speak and attend events all over the world without having to worry.

Which moves nicely on to…

Having the right people in place is critical

This is possibly THE most important piece of advice I can give you, and if you don’t find the right people the first time around, don’t give up – keep trying! Understanding what you need and the role that you need to fill is really important. Having self-awareness is also super helpful, I know I can be hard work, chaotic and impulsive but finding the right people to work with me will be key to my success down the line.

I’ve also learned that what I thought I needed from one person was actually two different roles altogether! Every day is a learning process to help you refine and define your requirements. And when you have those people in place, it makes delegation so much easier, and trust comes naturally.

Once you have this in place, it becomes easier to follow the next piece of advice…

Don’t BE the business

I’m better at this over the last year but I’d say I still have a way to go, I’m still the face of the business but I now have people who know more than me that can do the job better than I ever could, so I’m slowly eeking away from this, I now realise I don’t have to do everything.

You can and can’t be friends with your team

This is a tricky one, because with some people you can be friends and work together, and with others you can’t. Or maybe that’s just me…I think it depends on the relationship you have with the person, as well as your own personality.

Having tough discussions with some people is a lot easier than others, but I do believe that if you look after your team, and make them feel valued, most of them will be loyal, work hard, and support you.

Communicate properly

While I’m pretty good at communication (we chat in Teams and have a weekly team meeting), I’ve realised that I assume people understand what I have meant without confirming. Now it falls on both of us to do this but communicating your expectations clearly will ultimately lead to fewer issues down the road.

This is the same with clients. I’ve learned over the years to be as specific as possible when it comes to what I will and won’t be delivering on projects. This means the client has less room to take advantage of an open and unclear scope of work which results in scope creep on my side. If you are ever unsure, always clarify. It will save you time and money in the long run.

Don’t undersell yourself/the business

I’m also improving in this area but could do much better. I often forget to look at the value we bring to the client with the services that we provide. We could save them months of time, if not years in some cases, plus drive profitability, and that’s not including the cost savings. But we work to give our clients value and benefits, and as long as we can pay our bills and the clients are happy, I’ll be happy.

At the end of the day, we can quote the same piece of work to two different clients, one would accept and the other would reject it, you just have to come to terms with that and move on to the next project, I used to dwell far too long on these things.

Cashflow is a b!@tch

This was even worse this year, having to pay six people and not getting paid for three months is an absolute killer, and if truth be told it almost sunk us this year. The trouble with the type of work we do is that overall, we can’t invoice until the project is complete, and if it goes on longer than expected it drains your reserves. There are some clients who will accept 50% payment upfront but on the whole, we are dealing with large global companies who don’t negotiate. And no amount of mansplaining from LinkedIn will change that!

And then there’s supplier onboarding. It’s taken almost two months and I’m still not set up on a suppliers system, which means I can’t invoice for work completed back in April! There are so many things you just can’t plan for but learn along the way.

Fortunately, this year most invoices have been paid on time or early, so I haven’t had to use the threat of publicly posting about a client to get paid.

You can put as many plans and buffers in place as you like but if several invoices are all late at the same time or projects are delayed, you’re in a pickle. Having a couple of months of money in the bank is a great idea and I’m working towards it but every time I put something away, I need to use it to cover something else.

Things still take a long time to come together

This never changes. Your timeline is not your client’s timeline. It may be important for you to get that project, but it might be low on the list of priorities of your client – always keep working to build up your pipeline while balancing the fine line of not overloading yourself with too much work.

Most of our projects take months, rather than weeks to materialise. This is tough when you have a small workload or cash flow issues. Quite often there will be an unexpected project that pops up which always helps. Being aware of this is the best preparation you can have.

There will always be meltdowns

This never goes away, regardless of what stage you’re at, it’s perfectly normal to question absolutely everything you are doing, feel overwhelmed, and both a success and a failure at the same time. Many times, I have questioned if I was doing the right thing, should I just give it all up… but I would be miserable if I had to go and work for someone else.

You need a coach and business owner friends

I say this every year and as each year goes by, I am more thankful for having my coach. She has helped me navigate new and tricky waters this year and has been invaluable.

I never believed in coaches until I met Vicki Connor ( – a straight-talking no-nonsense coach. She’s developed my tone, language, thought process, helped me curb my limiting beliefs, and manage those meltdowns I just told you about.

She has undoubtedly helped me progress forward at a rate faster than I could have achieved alone. I highly recommend you look into getting a coach of your own, but make sure it’s the right person for you.

More than that, having friends, people you trust, who are business owners and talking to them helps a LOT. Way more than you’d think. To be able to speak to people who get what you’re going through without having to explain is such a comfort. Go out and seek those people and speak to them regularly, they might even have a solution for you.

You can’t please everyone

No matter what you do, whether it be with clients, your team, or suppliers, you can’t please them all. Sometimes no matter what you do it will never be enough. You must learn to know when to walk away. Arguing just makes it worse and is an energy suck. Let it go and move on.

Aim high

Aim higher than you think you could ever achieve and just go for it. Say yes to as many opportunities as you can, and if you’ve never done something before, well just figure it out.  Because of this, I’m now a published author of Between the Spreadsheets, a TEDx speaker, listed as a DataIQ100 thought leader twice, won DataIQ Data Champion of the year 2022, now an international speaker, content creator and I’ve created my first course Fixing Dirty Data.

I’m growing my business in ways I never thought possible, travelling the globe and getting to meet so many of my online connections.

Never in my wildest dreams…

So, until next year… will I get a holiday? Will I still be in business? I very much hope so on both points, keep following me to track my progress…

What has your experience been? Why not get in touch and let me know

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