10 Things I’ve Learnt From 10 Years In Business

At the age of 24 years old, freshly married, I decided that employment wasn’t my future and I started my first business.  Last week marked 10 years in business for me.

It has definitely been a rollercoaster.  I’m not a big rollercoaster fan (mainly because I have a bad fear of heights), but I’m really glad I got on this one.


So, what have I learnt in my ten years of business?

  1. Don’t Do It All Yourself

In terms of the payroll, my business is just me.  But I’ve used many, many services over the years that I could technically have done myself, but either would have done them badly or wasted time that I could have spent on growing the business.  Knowing the worth of my time shifted a lot of things for me, and I stopped doing stuff that could be outsourced.


  1. Marketing Matters

When I started my first business, an employee survey business (for which I still do work for clients, though focus the majority of my efforts on the social media training business now), I thought I could get a great website then the phone would start ringing. It didn’t!  I quickly learned I would need to focus the majority of my efforts on marketing.  It doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do if no one knows about you!


  1. Your Business Could/Will Change

When I started Personnel Surveys, I thought that was it for me, my business was outlined for ever more. Within a year, I had started Sam Flynn Social Media.  I never would have dreamt that it would become my main business and passion.  And it’s going to change again next year (though still with a social media training focus!).  Nothing is permanent.  And, when I listen to interviews with entrepreneurs, it seems that many started out on a completely different route to the one they’re now on!


  1. It Won’t Always Be Easy

After having my second daughter, I really struggled to get back into my business.  There were numerous factors (the main being that she was a terrible sleeper, and I was running on about 2-3 hours a night!) but I seriously thought about calling it a day and seeking employment.  I decided to give it another 6 months to cement my decision. That was about 3.5 years ago.  I’m still here and so glad I stuck around!


  1. Learning is Key

I’ve always been quite academic and love learning new things.  And I can’t imagine my business would be where it is today if I hadn’t kept learning new things.  Reading books, listening to podcasts, investing in courses and memberships.  There’s always something new to learn when it comes to running your business, and I love that!


  1. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

There have been so many ways in which I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone as a business owner.  I’m quite a shy person, so even going networking felt like a huge step for me.  Putting myself out of my comfort zone, going on the stage, creating video content, putting myself out there more, has actually really helped my overcome my shyness. And the saying I always have in my head is ‘success happens outside of comfort zones’.


  1. Work Smarter, Not Harder

Before I had my first daughter, I worked flat out on my business.  After having her, I cut down to 2-3 days a week.  I now work only 3 days a week, but my business is more successful than it was working 5+ days a week.  I’ve realised the importance of working smart and making the most of the working time I do have.  Time off is so important.  And I started my business to allow me the flexibility to be with my children, which is working out great!


  1. It Will Be Stressful Sometimes

I’ve had times of extreme stress.  It’s not as possible to walk out the door at the end of the day and switch off from work when it’s your business.  I often wake in the middle of the night stressing about something to do with the business.  I’m trying to find ways to make sure that doesn’t happen, but it’s not always that easy!


  1. You Decide What Success Looks Like

Success is different for every person.  And it can change.  How success looked like for me when I started the business is different to how I view success now.  And it’ll change again in the future, especially when I have all 3 girls in school!  Right now, I do feel successful.  I’m running a business that works well around my family, that allows me two days a week to do school runs and spend with my youngest, that gives me an admirable income and that I enjoy.  I’d say that’s a success for me!


  1. Business Relationships Matter

In the early years of being in business, I did a lot of networking.  I dropped back on networking after having my first daughter, and shifted most of that online.  While I work on my own, I have lots of people that I’ve built working relationships with over the years.  And they have been so valuable for me.  I love meeting new people, especially now on social media, and building those relationships.


It’s been a good ten years and I’m so excited for the next ten!

What have you learnt in your time as a business owner?

Momentum Rather Than Firefighting

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 9 years I’ve been working for myself it’s that firefighting doesn’t lead to success.

I’m sure we’ve all been there as a business owner at some point.  We’ve had a good bit of work in, then suddenly it dries up.  And we go a bit crazy trying to fill the gap.  We release mad offers.  We start discounting quotes we haven’t had a positive response from.  We stop sleeping and start wondering how we’re going to pay next month’s bills.

We firefight.

And it is stressful!!!!

Over the last few years, I haven’t done any firefighting.  I’ve realised the big difference comes instead from momentum.

But momentum takes planning.  It takes thought.  It takes looking to the future (as in months in the future, rather than next week).  It takes doing stuff now that will lead to work later, and carrying on doing that stuff even when we’re doing that work.

Social media is a prime example.

We jump in all guns blazing when we have no customers to serve.  But when we get busy, we stop.  Stop posting, stop being present.  Complete the work, and back to firefighting by posting constant content.

Instead, if you continue your online activity, the momentum carries you on.

This means thought through content, pre-planning and a schedule to help you achieve this.  Or potentially outsourcing some areas of it.

I’m busy working on something now that I won’t be releasing until February.  It’s taking me a lot of willpower to not bring forward that release date.  But I know, for this to be a success, I need time.  And then I can ride that wave of momentum, because I will have a plan and programme in place after release.

There’ll be no firefighting.  Only momentum.

How do you ride the momentum wave rather than putting out weekly fires?

Finding my motivation…

As many of you will know, I had my third daughter 6 months ago.  In the last 5.5 years of my business, I’ve had three maternity leaves (and 3 pregnancies!).  While it’s brilliant to be able to run your own business around your family life, the downside is trying to stay motivated to keep it going and pushing forward when you have a young family to focus on.  There’s a lot to be said for there being a return to work date after maternity leave, and knowing that you’ll be returning to the income you are used to.

With all three babies, I’ve been back at work in some form almost immediately.  With this one, my daughter was born in October and I had a big project on in November that was deadlined.  It does make me question whether I’d be better off returning to employment, rather than being held to account by me.  But I know deep down that this is much better for me.  I like to be in control of my own path.  And I love that it works so well around my family life (mostly!).

It means I have to rediscover my motivation.  Get past the life changing experience I’ve just gone through in adding to our family, and get back at the MacBook getting ‘stuff’ out there.  And that’s the hard bit! So, I thought I’d share with you how I rediscover my motivation in case you go through periods where you struggle for motivation.

  1. Focus on why you’re doing it

I don’t just run a business for fun.  I do it to earn money for my family.  One of my ‘whys’ is definitely being in control of my own destiny.  But the other is them.  I can earn money and work part time.  At the moment, I’m only child free one day a week and that will increase to 3 days in September.  The rest of the time, I get to spend with my kids and be very present in their lives.  Do school runs, make dinner, help with homework, listen to them read, give them cuddles.  That’s my why!  What’s yours?

2.  Listen to inspiring people

Last weekend, I went along to the Grace The Stage event.  It really turned on my burners and made me want to crack on with work straight away!  There’s something magical about listening to inspirational people.  So much so, I’ve decided to create a YouTube inspiration playlist and try to listen to someone inspiring every morning!

3.  Learn, learn, learn

For me, changing how I do things and coming up with new ideas really pushes me forward.  But to come up with those ideas, I need to learn.  Read, listen to podcasts, watch videos, attend courses.  Whatever way you do it, learning is sometimes the toe you need and where you need it!!!!

4. Move

The more I exercise, the more energy I have.  I’m no ripped and toned gym bunny, believe me!  But moving regularly definitely gives me the energy I need in my business.  Whether it’s going out for walks with dog and baby or sticking the earphones in and getting sweaty in the gym, I need to move to keep me moving forward.

5. Earn money

This might seem obvious, but there’s nothing more motivating than seeing it working.  People wanting to work with you.  People buying your stuff.  It definitely drives me to carry on and work harder on my office days.  Once the momentum kicks off, don’t let it stop.  Keep that ball rolling.

I’d love to hear how you motivate yourself in your business!

If you run your own business, you might want to read this…

I’ve been my own boss now for 8 years.  8 years of having to answer to no one but me!!!  And those 8 years have certainly been a rollercoaster and a HUGE learning curve as well.  After two weeks off due to illness and school holidays, it got me thinking today about the pressures of working for yourself and how sometimes it can feel like a huge weight.  So, if you are having/have had one of those days, I thought this might help.

  1. Remember You Are Your Own Boss

Being your own boss is fab isn’t it!  But sometimes, it can be incredibly overwhelming too.  There’s no one there to ask ‘is this the right way to do it?’ or to pass the buck when you need someone else to take the heat off you.  So, instead of getting down about the hard stuff.  Focus on the good stuff!  “I can do this however I want to”.  “No one is watching me to see if I’m up to the job”.  “I did this all on my own and it’s amazing!”.  You are doing a great job!!!


2. You Can’t Do Everything

I’m a sucker for business books/courses/blog posts that give me great ideas about how I can grow my business.  Without trashing them too much (because I am one of those course creators!), you don’t have to do everything!  Pick the ones that will work best for your business.  Maybe give yourself a few things each month to put in to action, rather than trying to do it all at once.  Then give yourself a nice reward when you achieve it.  Also, I’ve found outsourcing to be a godsend!!  And it doesn’t have to be expensive.  I’ve realised that it is far cheaper to pay a bookkeeper than it is to spend the time doing it myself, when I could be billing my clients for that time!  There are also lots of virtual assistants out there who can take on tasks for you by the hour or project.  You can’t do everything, so stop trying!


3. It’s Up To You What To Do

And the great thing is, it’s completely up to you how you run your business.  Some of the most successful businesses started with one woman/man doing it the unconventional way.  You don’t have to follow a formula.  Do it your way!  I sometimes panic that I’m not running my business how others are.  Then I realise it’s my business, so that’s fine!!


4. Enjoy the Flexibility

This has to be one of the biggest advantages of working for yourself right?  After I had my first daughter, I dropped my working days to two days a week (give or take), and have only recently increased that to three days (so long as people stop having events they want me to speak at on Mondays and Fridays!).  It means that I get to drop off and pick up my eldest from school a couple of days a week.  And that I get to spend two extra days a week with my littlest (though don’t get me wrong, work is sometimes a more appealing option than spending the day with a two-year old!!).  It also means that sometimes, I take some time for me.  I go get my hair done.  Or I fit in a gym session in the middle of the day.  It does mean I occasionally have to sit with my laptop on my knee in the evenings, but it is definitely so worth it for the time I get back.  You’ve got to enjoy that freedom (so long as you’ve earned it of course, by being productive in the time you do work!).


5. You Don’t Have To Be Aiming To Be The Next Big Thing

This is also another one I sometimes struggle with.  Other than breaks to have my two kids, I’ve steadily seen my business grow over the 8 years.  But, that growth is relative to where I want my business to be.  I’ll be honest, right now I don’t want to employ anyone.  It works really well for me to outsource what I need to and do the rest myself, without having the headaches that come with employing.  It means my business can’t grow beyond a certain level.  But I’m cool with that!  I’m achieving the success I desire right now, while getting to spend time with my kids, and that’s amazing!

I really hope this gives you a boost if you ever have a ‘why am I doing this?’ day!!

Knowing Your Target Audience

Knowing your Target Audience

Your target audience is who you want to be ‘listening’ to you on social media. So, do you know who yours is? And are you generating content that appeals to them. In this week’s vlog, I talk about the importance of understanding who your target audience is.

As I mentioned in my Vlog I have a CREATING ENGAGING CONTENT FOR SOCIAL MEDIA online course which includes 9 key modules!

Content Includes :

  • how to stand out on social media with your content
  • how to engage with your followers
  • how to build effective relationships with your customers and prospects
  • how to increase awareness of your brand
  • how to increase web traffic to your web page with fantastic content
  • plus I share 30 different content ideas for you to use!




The Only Marketing Steps You Need This Year!

We all know that Marketing is something every business strives for.

To achieve the best Marketing for your business this year, follow these easy steps to Marketing heaven!

The use of Marketing has established itself as one of the most dominant ways to increase customer population in today’s market.

Here are the steps you need to incorporate into your marketing campaigns this year; how many are you already using?

Document your strategy
If you want to be more effective at content marketing, document your marketing strategy!

Having a verbal strategy is a great first step. However, as the research shows, it pays to take the time to write it down: 60% of those who have a documented strategy rate themselves highly in terms of marketing effectiveness, compared with 32% of those who have a verbal strategy.”

Time to invest in visual content

For Marketing content to be truly “creative” and successful it’s important that it’s visually arresting, not just pleasing.  Every day consumers are handed with well-designed marketing offerings, with good colour schemes, professional imagery, and nice fonts. All the pieces truley break through to the consumer as well as introducing something unexpected.

Stick with The Big Three
The Big Three of social media are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Quality content posted on these three is paying bigger dividends than ever before. Everything else on the social network is basically chump change. But, keep an eye on the up-and-coming venues like Vine and Snapchat. These upstarts are becoming more and more valuable as their audience becomes more dependent on mobile devices like smartphones.

Focus on using Information that is Informative and useful
Customers don’t want to be force fed advertising copy anymore. They are looking for information that is both informative and useful. You, as a marketer, need to find ways to locate and curate information that your clients both want and need.

Always remember, your marketing is only as good as your content — so invest in your content!



Your Social Media Story

This weeks Vlog is all about you and your social media story.  The power of your story is what sets us apart from our competitors.

Social Media is a perfect way to express your story with your customers with more than just words!

The dos and don’ts of using social media for your business

I came across this article a few days ago during my morning browse on the internet! If you use social media to promote your business these tips are going to be lifesaving for you and your business! A relatable situation is what we all need when changing something within our business. I hope you find these tips useful, putting them into practice is going to be easier than you think!

Social media is one of the best ways to engage with your target audience and increase your brand visibility.
One of the main reasons companies adore using social media for their business is because it’s extremely cost effective! Which business wouldn’t want to increase their brand following by using a range of affordable platforms?
DO: React to any posts
It is important to remember that social media is interactive and reactive, to gain a bigger brand following you must interact with current and potential customers. Each reaction from a customer could lead to a site visit, an enquiry and eventfully a connection.
DON’T: Ignore any interactions
You should never ignore any interactions from customers or potential customers, or even worse respond to a customer and ignore another! If a customer has directly connected you on social media they will be awaiting your response, if they see you have responded to someone else and not them, well you’ll have one very unhappy customer which may lead to one less customer.
Responding to every customer’s interactivity will promote the brands customer service and put trust in outside customers who may be viewing the conversation via their time line.

DO: Post at the right times
Scheduling is key to making your posts reach more people, you can easily find out what time customers are viewing your pages via analytics and then schedule your posts to fit in with the customers.
DON’T: Post too much
Each platform will have its own trends in terms of peak times to post, find out these times and stick to them! Don’t over post, this disengages customers and may lead to negative feedback.

DO: Think about what your audience wants to see
Your audience may not want to see what you want to see. You have to alter your posts to suit their needs! It’s all about building relationships online with your customers, this strengthens the foundation to your business relationship which eventually leads to more sales. Find out what your target audience wants to see and post it!
DON’T: Mix your personal and professional accounts
The worse thing that can happen is you posting a picture of irrelevant content to your feed. This could negatively impact the reputation of your business. Your customers won’t want to see how cute your new puppy is and they certainly won’t want to read about how much you love him.
DO: Keep thinking of ways to build your audience
One of the easiest ways to connect with a wider audience is to find out what they like and create a promotional factor which will engage them into your business. Create a customer incentive which gets the customer to “like” or “follow” your business who otherwise may not have engaged with you.
DON’T: Forget to post
The main purpose of having a range of social media platforms is to post and engage with your customers. If you’re not posting you’re not engaging! This will lead to less followers and a negative opinion towards your business. Always delete social media pages until you have time to update them daily.
DO: Maintain a loyal audience
To keep a loyal audience, all businesses need to do is keep giving the customers what they want to see! Nobody ever complained about getting what they wanted! Remember to analyse competitor’s social media, if what they’re doing is working…Do it too!



Become Customer Loyalty Royalty

Hello, Emily again while Sam’s on the move! My inspiration for this week’s blog is the so called “Queen of Imgur”, Sarah Schaaf. The image sharing site, used by 150 million monthly active users, has at its core a representative – the voice of Imgur.

Imgur has built a community based on ‘upvoted’ user content – to the extent that it’s now the place many large companies (Old Spice, Sony, eBay) go to for valuable information on a tricky audience to target – “nerdy millennial males” according to Forbes (who are predicted to make up about 40 million internet users by 2017).

Sarah’s role as Imgur grows from an image sharing platform to something that more closely resembles Reddit (with its loyal user base spending more time socializing on the site) is really interesting. If you are building a social media presence that aims to attract a particular community,  what can we learn from Sarah Schaaf and Imgur?

In becoming the voice of Imgur users, Sarah has had to wear many hats. She’s a friend, moderator, support staff, advocate and even a meme in her own right. To do this, she claims to constantly have her “stethoscope on the heartbeat of Imgurians”. This approach works particularly well with B2C marketing efforts. Encourage your customers to interact with each other and observe their conversations on your posts as well as joining in yourself. Try to make listening in to your customers a key part of your morning social media routine.

What Schaaf does so brilliantly at Imgur is realise and work with this finger on the pulse attitude. As Sam always says, social media is about PEOPLE. Although Imgur are focusing more on increasing revenue in 2016, the community are Sarah’s top priority. She doesn’t make the mistake of some and assume that relationships with customers/users online are only for conveying serious sales or business messages; “the value of coming to Imgur and getting a bite-sized moment of entertainment is just as important as deep personal connections”. So don’t be afraid of having a little fun! To truly engage a loyal community you need to provide your audience with things that make them laugh, get them riled up and ready to discuss; it doesn’t have to be all business! In fact, this will often turn people off. As Sam mentioned in her vlog, think about what your audience want to hear on social media – not what you want to tell them.
The bottom line is, BE YOU! Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in real life.

Also; Be All Ears! Really listen to your audience, your target market or your community to get to grips with what makes them tick, what makes them stay. Then, when it comes to putting on your customer service hat, you’ll be well versed in what they want to hear!

Be mindful though, especially if you are trying to target a younger audience. Millennials don’t respond well to advertising and marketing ploys are just that – inauthentic spin.

Schaaf is right when she says; “You have no idea what the next huge joke is going to be. No one is going to be able to predict or commoditize that.” So don’t try! Instead, spend your energy building relationships, being your authentic self, and listening out regularly to the ever changing tone and mood of your market. Be open, honest and show that you are there to help.

Think you’ve got it covered? Then step forward, with the power vested in my keyboard I dub thee customer service royalty.

Do you remember your dreams for success?

All too often you hear business owners looking to ‘keep their heads above water’ and ‘get through these difficult times’. But, do they remember the dreams for success they had when they started their business? I’m sure those dreams weren’t to work all hours of the day just to keep their heads above water!

That is why I’m looking to help local business owners in Manchester grow their business and together we can Get Manchester Business Booming.

You can join the LinkedIn group and Facebook page to get involved and share tips from other business owners in growing our businesses.

Plus, keep an eye out for the details of a fantastic business building event, the details of which will be released this week!  And please use the hashtag #mcrbizboom!