More Things I Didn’t Know (When I Started My Business)


Ignorance 2

Recently I wrote about some of the things that I didn’t know when I started my consulting business. My first list focused on money issues. That’s no surprise. I’ve had a few financial near death experiences since starting my business almost five years ago.

Now I’m back with a second list of things I didn’t know when I started my business. I’m betting I’m not the only one who didn’t know:

  1. Which services my prospective clients would actually consider critical enough to buy. My first efforts involved selling a service which I thought was important but no one wanted to buy. Clearly I had misjudged the market. So I started over, assessing what prospects and clients said they needed. Then I had to continuously tweak my services to keep up with changing demand.
  1. How to identify my ideal client and niche market. This is a corollary to the above point. I’ve marketed my services to plenty of businesses who couldn’t afford me at any price or didn’t care about human resources. So I created a spreadsheet of key data about each client to identify my ideal client. Now I regularly update my spreadsheet to continue defining my niche market. I recently listened to a presentation by Marcus Whitney, co-founder of Jumpstart Factory, in which he advocated reviewing client metrics every two weeks in order to continuously refine the profile of your ideal client. It’s nice to have validation that I’m finally on the right track.
  1. I’ll always have to talk myself off the ledge. Every time I got a new client I was ready to break out the champagne. Every time my services were rejected I wanted to throw myself into a volcano. Then a very good friend who also runs a small consulting business told me, “You’ll always be talking yourself off the ledge.” That’s a typical day in the life of a small business owner.
  1. That my stubbornness would be one of my best skills. Okay, call it persistence. I sell a service, not a product. That means I must meet dozens of people each week, educate them about my services and what my ideal client looks like, and then hope for a referral. I prefer coffee meetings since it’s less expensive than a lunch or dinner and eliminates the awkwardness over who pays for the meal.  But a meeting does not a referral guarantee. I’ve had many days with caffeine highs when I wondered if I made the right career choice. Then my stubborn streak would kick in and I refused to accept failure.  Ironically, my stubborn streak was a detriment when I was an employee.

The list could go on because owning a business is a process of experimentation in which you never really get it “right.” You just keep learning and that’s fine with me.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website:

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