8 lessons learnt after my first two years in business - Part 2

Two years ago, my role was made redundant. My visa to work in Australia hung in the balance, all the work that I had done for the past three years was going down the drain, and I was panicking about how the heck I was going to make a living. 

Having recently taken a coaching course with Athletics Australia to learn about coaching recreational runners, I decided to set up my own business coaching recreational runners.

I launched GoRun Australia and, two years on, my business is still alive and kicking, I have paid back my initial $10,000 investment and have a steady stream of clients who are achieving awesome results. The business is making a profit each month and I’m now in a position to pay myself a salary.

What have I learnt along the way? Here’s the second instalment of the top eight lessons I’ve learnt in the last two years, which you can use to avoid many of my mistakes!

(Want to see the first four lessons? Check out part 1 of my story.)

5. Find other people in the same situation

When I set up my own business, I had no idea how vulnerable I was. Everyone wants to give you their two cents worth of advice. Ever heard the phrase, “What you really need to do is (fill in the blank).”?

Eventually you realise that nobody understands your business better than you. Your friends and family are great shoulders to lean on, but you should take their advice with caution. (Yes, even your parents, and even your wife – though don’t tell her I said so!). This is not to say that these people are wrong, but they can’t look at things dispassionately because they love you.

To counter this, one of the best moves I made was to link up with a couple of other sports coaches who were trying to grow their businesses. We meet up once a month and chat honestly about our businesses and help each other work through problems. It feels like a release each time we meet, and I always come away with something valuable.

6. Think of a relevant, interesting challenge

One of the best things I have ever done is sign up to a challenge of running 17 marathons in 2017, raising $17,000 for charity.

Having the challenge that has generated interest, good will, partnerships, opportunities, friendships, learning and more.

Taking on a challenge like this creates a new and interesting story for your customers to engage with. It gives people something to talk to you about and provides a range of opportunities for raising your profile and building partnerships.  For example, my final marathon in December will be an opportunity for all the partners to come together, network and celebrate, my own runners to run with me, as well as raising funds for the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. There will be media opportunities, social media opportunities and more, none of which would have been there if there were no challenge.

It has also forced me to think through some of the fundamentals and systems of my business. For example, I want to build my business in a way that encourages me to travel. What better way to force those systems than to say you are going to be out of action for 17 weekends of the year?

7. Don’t invest beyond your means…

I learnt a huge lesson when designing my logo. An ex-colleague said that she could get me a great deal on a design for a logo – for a ‘couple of grand’ I would be taken through a design process with professionals and have an awesome logo pop out the end.

While a few thousand dollars might make sense for an established business, as a new business that didn’t have many paying clients, I didn’t have a couple of grand to spare.

So I went on to Fiverr and paid $15. What came back wasn’t perfect, but it was a starting point. It gave me ideas that I could refine using Adobe Illustrator (with the help of some YouTube videos), and this led to the finished logo that is now on my website, banners, t-shirts and more.

8. …But do invest in the things that matter

One of the best investments I have made is in a co-working space. I tried for almost a year to work at home, but I was unproductive, lonely and constantly distracted. I had even set up a home office, but it just wasn’t working.

Unfortunately, my mindset of not wanting to spend or waste money stopped me from making a change. Today I use Studio One in Richmond and love it. It’s a short walk from home, it costs me $220 per month and I can use the office there three days per week. It works really well for me.  With hindsight, I wish I had made the switch earlier. My productivity would have been higher, I would have been able to leave work at work (rather than constantly having work around me at home), and I would never have bought the printer that is now gathering dust in my spare room!

What’s the takeaway? It’s important to invest in yourself and your environment. Often we put ourselves at the bottom of the list when it comes to investment, but if you are learning, feeling good and working well, good things will flow from there.

I am immensely proud of what I have accomplished so far but there is a long way to go before this becomes something that I can begin to see as a success. I am looking forward to my third year in business and will hopefully be one of the 40% of small businesses who make it past the three year point.

Challenge accepted. Bring it on.

About the author

Chris White is the founder of GoRun Australia, which coaches beginner and intermediate level runners who want to enjoy their running, learn more and like to laugh! Whether your goal is a personal best at parkrun, a sub-2-hour half-marathon or finishing your first marathon, runners at GoRun have achieved these goals with the help of run coaching, and you can too. 

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