You’ve been dreaming of this moment for years; the moment that the dream of owning your own business becomes a reality. Your business, after all, is your baby. It’s your passion and your purpose.
But now the fantasy has become a reality, and the simple fact is, it’s not what you dreamt it would be. Especially now, as the COVID-19 pandemic is claiming millions of jobs and endangering small businesses from coast to coast.
You don’t have to be confronting a pandemic, however, to feel a sense of letdown and uncertainty after launching your startup. In fact, like many new “parents,” you are probably going to go through a period of depression, doubt, and anxiety once you’re faced with the day-to-day operation of a business you’ve been dreaming of for so long.
It’s one thing to fantasize about owning your own business. It’s another to actually do it. As reality hits, you’re probably going to realize that, while you love your baby business, you may not always like it.
This article provides tips and tricks for navigating those first bumpy months of business ownership including best practices for helping you keep your startup afloat and at the same time keeping your sanity intact.
Make yourself a priority
The first thing to do when you’re dealing with startup “postpartum” is to give yourself a break for Pete’s sake!
Remember the long hours you’ve been putting in. Acknowledge and honor the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve already invested in creating your baby. Celebrate what you have already accomplished — you’ve turned nothing into something. You’ve taken a dream and made it real.
That means you deserve to make yourself a priority. You’ve earned a little self-care, both for what you’ve already done and for what you will continue to do. So make sure that you are taking time each day to get away from the business. Carve out a chunk of time that is just yours. Time to clear your mind, relax, and recharge.
One of the hardest parts of the startup “postpartum” period is simply facing the uncertainty, the fear. After all, the statistics can be downright terrifying. Eight out of ten startups fail within the first 18 months. More than 65% of new businesses don’t survive to see their tenth birthday.
What that means is that your baby’s survival isn’t going to just depend on the service or product you’re offering. It’s not only about meeting market demand or about being the best at what you do. Sure, that’s essential, but it’s not all.
You also have to be strategic, know your industry, and be on top of industry or market changes. Always. No exceptions. No delays.
Nurturing your business through its difficult early years means understanding your customers, your competitors, and the market. Your products and services may be the best around, but if there’s no demand, whether due to market changes or competitor dominance, your business, sadly, won’t be long for this world.
Now that you’ve launched your business, you are probably already well aware that things don’t always go as planned, and that’s okay. After all, life would be pretty boring if there were no surprises.
Surprises can also be opportunities, especially if you’re keeping on top of the industry as we’ve already discussed. Being ready, willing, and able to adapt and improvise is what’s going to keep your business healthy, lean, and agile.
At the same time, it’s important to be patient. Not every change will bear fruit right away, nor is every decision going to be the right one. The key here is learning when to sit back and see what will come of the choices you make today and when to step in and change course. Revisit and update your business plan for guidance and to ensure your initial goals and OKRs make sense.
With time, you’ll get far better at learning when to fish and when to cut bait.
When you’re nursing your new business through its first months, it’s going to be tempting to put your business into spending overdrive. You’re probably dreaming of growing your startup into a full-fledged empire overnight.
If you’re managing a boatload of cash, such as from a small business loan, it’s going to be hard to apply the brakes, but growing too much, too fast is one of the surest ways to guarantee your company’s failure.
That’s why it’s critical during this time to be deliberate and strategic. Actively managing your cash flow and forecasting what it and your sales may potentially look like in the coming months is key. Doing so helps you gauge the health of your business and avoid unforeseen problems moving forward.
Part of managing your company’s financial health also means managing your inventory. It’s imperative that you have enough product on the shelf and supplies on hand to keep your business flowing and your customers happy. At the same time, however, you don’t want so much inventory that it becomes a drain on the business. Like the best things in life, it’s all about balance, and sound inventory management is the way to strike it.
No matter how much you love your work or how long you’ve been dreaming of owning your own business, starting a company isn’t easy. The first months after launch can feel like a letdown, as stark reality begins to dispel the fantasy.
You can make it through your startup’s postpartum period with both your mental health and your company’s financial health intact. What it takes, first, is learning to celebrate your achievements and practice a bit of self-care so that you can remain in the entrepreneur’s game for the long haul.
It also means being strategic, data-driven, and keeping on top of the industry as well as learning to expect–and adapt to–the unexpected. That includes knowing when to let your business ambitions fly and when to pull back the reins.