What is the absolute truth about owning a business?

There are a number of reasons that someone can decide to start up a business venture. Some look for the freedom of controlling their schedules, while others want to work from home. Still, others have an idea for doing something differently than it has ever been done before.

For every entrepreneur, however, there is a basic desire to pursue a passion or a dream. While there are a lot of benefits to launching a company, here are some things to remember when it comes to the truth about owning a business:

Not every customer is the ideal customer. It’s easy for business owners to get tunnel vision when it comes to their products or services. Rather than trying to convince everyone that they need your product, look for the customers who are excited to use your products, who buy into the vision and mission of your brand, and satisfy these customers. Chances are that they’ll be advocates for your brand in the community, which is the kind of press that you can’t buy.

The product or service that your company offers isn’t necessarily unique. In any business category, you can find competitors who offer similar things. What differentiates you from your competitors is not necessarily what you do or what you offer, but rather how your company interacts with its customers, the purpose driving you to offer your product or service, and what defines you as a business. These factors all come together to make your company unique.

Sometimes seeking the cheapest option decreases the value of your company. If you spend a lot of time having to shop for the latest deal and are focused on spending as little money as you possibly can, chances are that you are devaluing the cost of your time. If you have to constantly replace the things that you are buying, it may be time to start thinking about the places that you have focused too much energy on saving cost and not enough energy on creating value with the money you spend.

It isn’t always true that the customer is always right. You never want your business to be overly controlled by either the customer or by your own opinions. In any situation, there are compromises to be made. Some customers simply will not be happy, no matter how much you do to try to make things better. In any given situation with a customer, try to look at the consequences, both positive and negative, for handling the situations in different ways before deciding how to proceed.

Always put things in writing. When dealing with other businesses, no matter how small they are, it is important to put agreements down in written form. Even if you are trading services with another company, having a written agreement that details exactly what each company will provide can help to ensure that you continue to have a good working relationship with the other company long after your agreement is completed.

Deal with your finances carefully. Be careful about categorizing every single purchase as one made for the business. The best way to make sure that you are handling your company’s finances in a responsible (and legal) way is to hire an accountant who can help you to navigate the intricacies of owning and managing a business.

Technology can be helpful, but it isn’t a fix-all solution. Yes, it’s great to have nice equipment, but a new computer won’t fix a broken business strategy.

Learn the art of delegation. When you first start a company, every decision rests with you. As your business grows, however, it is important that you grow and set up systems that allow others to take on responsibilities so that you can focus on getting the things done that no one else can. When you try to control too many things, you’ll end up burning out and hurting your company in the long run. This also allows you to enlist the help of people who are experts in certain kinds of tasks. When you trust the right people to help you, your whole company can benefit.

Schedule time to listen to others. In business, it’s easy to get stuck in “sales” mode, always pitching your products or services to others. By taking the time to listen to what your customers, employees, and even competitors have to say, you create an opportunity to work on your business, rather than just working within your business.

Look ahead to the next step. The businesses that grow the fastest are the ones that have set themselves up for growth by planning for the next step. This allows business owners to hire and make decisions that will benefit their long-term growth, rather than trying to catch up after the growth happens.

Only hire people you are willing to trust. When you have a trusted team in place, you don’t have to micromanage them because you know that they will make the right decisions along the way to help your business to grow and succeed.

Success takes time. Even the fastest growing businesses may have taken months or years of planning before they were launched. It may seem like it takes a long time to grow your business, so create realistic goals and celebrate your wins along the way.

Always come in with fresh eyes. How do your customers experience your business? If you can begin to ask that question regularly, you’ll be astonished at how your decision-making processes become more straightforward and more effective.

Set time aside for yourself. If you aren’t healthy, your business won’t be healthy. If you are trapped in the cycle always serving your business, giving it your full attention at every second of the day, it may be time to step back and change some of the things that you do.

The truth about owning a business is that it can be harder than you’d ever imagine, but also more rewarding than you ever thought possible. By creating a healthy environment for yourself and your business, you gain the tools to succeed and overcome the obstacles that you may encounter along the way.

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George Meszaros is the editor and co-founder of Success Harbor where entrepreneurs learn about building successful companies. Success Harbor is dedicated to document the entrepreneurial journey through interviews, original research, and unique content. George Meszaros is also co-founder of Webene, a web design and digital marketing agency.

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