Nine things I’ve learned in 9 years of running a business

Yesterday was my 9 year business anniversary. After six months of planning, on Jan. 1, 2008, I began taking design clients. I had never taken a business class or run a design project. My daughters were 1 and 3 years old. I knew if I didn’t do this I’d look back on my life one day and wonder “what if?” I’m sure my husband, who has supported me 110% since day one, thought I was crazy. He was right! 

While my business is doing very well now, that hasn’t always been true. I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve questioned my sanity. I’m glad I’ve taken this journey, but in the spirit of not sugar-coating things, I want to share nine things I’ve learned in 9 years of running a business.

First I want to thank everyone who has supported me along the way. There are too many names to list, but I certainly haven’t done this alone. My wonderful clients allow me to do what I love – create beautiful homes for them. I appreciate their trust in me. I could not run this business without my husband’s support. I can’t overstate how important this has been, especially during the tough times. My friends and family are wonderful cheerleaders. It means so much to me to have them all in my court. I also have a wonderful group of local designer friends who are invaluable. Thank you, ladies!

 {Tangerine poster by Amanda Catherine Des, on  Etsy .}

{Tangerine poster by Amanda Catherine Des, on Etsy.}

Now onto the nine things I’ve learned over the last nine years.

  1. I am a business owner before I’m a designer. In order to spend time creating plans and selecting fabrics and tiles, the business has to be constantly humming in the background. Money has to come in and be managed and analyzed. Marketing has to constant and smart. Employees and consultants need to be supported, directed and appreciated. Truth be told, there are some days when I’m not sure what I’m doing.
  2. “Nobody ever died of sofa.” (A favorite quote from a coach I worked with.) I take my clients and the work I do for them very seriously. But I can’t take design itself too seriously. I try to remember this when problems arise in the hopes that I’ll lose a bit less sleep!
  3. Much like raising a child, there’s nothing except the experience of running a business to prepare you for running a business. I naively said “I’m going to start a business, how hard can it be?” to my husband when I decided to start this business. I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the responsibilities of running the ship because nothing can prepare you.
  4. Design is simultaneously looking at both the big picture and a million details. This summarizes why I feel mentally exhausted some days.
  5. There isn’t ever going to be a day when the business is perfect or complete. The checklists keep coming. 
  6. Seeking advice/learning from those who are successful always makes me & my business better. Every time. Investing in education and coaching is always smart. From podcasts to live classes, I’m constantly seeking learning opportunities.
  7. Great clients, not great design, make great projects. Great clients make the entire process easier and more enjoyable. Their energy makes me more creative. I’ve learned what makes a great client for me & my business. 
  8. It’s amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it and consistently work hard. 
  9. Many of my “victories” have come to me because I did one simple thing. I asked. I’ve learned to just go for it sometimes when I want something. Sure, I have built relationships and a business to back up the requests, but if you don’t ask, the answer will always be “no.”

I’m looking forward to learning more over this next year as I continue to grow and strive to improve the services I offer and my clients’ experiences. What have you learned while running your business? I’d love to hear your insights in the comments, below.

Here’s to an amazing and creative year to all!  

April Pardoe