Entrepreneurs start their journey for many reasons. Some may be motivated by the potential for financial rewards. Others are encouraged by the flexibility it provides in their lives. Many don't realize there are other surprising benefits to starting the solo business owner journey.
Working with thousands of Herbalife Nutrition entrepreneurs – our independent distributors – for the past 13 years, I have heard stories and seen firsthand the range of benefits they have experienced in starting their own business. From learning new skills and making new connections, increasing professional confidence, and finding out how colleagues, partners, friends and customers encourage them to continue the journey through even the most challenging times.
Learn new skills
When many entrepreneurs embark on their own, they are the sole employee. Some who previously worked in a large company are caught off-guard with the lack of an IT department, HR, payroll or administrative support. They may go from having a range of services to suddenly doing everything for themselves.
Entrepreneurs quickly, and sometimes painfully, learn a range of new skills. This includes setting up an office, purchasing equipment and supplies, handling legal and accounting tasks, and advertising and promoting their own business. Wearing many hats is part of the job, especially when starting, and learning on-the-go is part of the journey.
Fortunately, there are excellent free online resources available to help ensure you have checked all the boxes during your start-up days. Many independent distributors I have spoken with share the importance of becoming steeped in their products' knowledge. They want to understand the why behind each product – spending time to become a nutrition expert for the benefit of their partners and customers.
Becoming an expert comes from experience on the job, passion for the category, diligence and openness to continuous learning. Those who take the time to become experts garner respect not just for the quality of the product or services they sell, but also for how much value they bring to a transaction. As the world moves incredibly fast, staying current and knowledgeable adds credibility to your business.
Whether you are selling a service or a product, having up-to-date information, and sharing that with your customers can set you apart and help you stand out. Many entrepreneurs are surprised at just how deep into a category they can go and how continuous learning benefits their business. From staying current on your industry with daily news items, taking online classes, or continuing education courses, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to expand their expertise and bring new value to their customers.
Wearing multiple hats is not for everyone, but entrepreneurs learn they can surprise themselves by realizing that becoming more self-reliant can also breed confidence. When you are the only person working the copy machine, you become adept at changing toner, adding paper and figuring out what the flashing lights mean. Ordering supplies can become a streamlined function with online purchasing. You may even be surprised at how good you are at accounting and determining when to buy and hold off on purchases.
Many entrepreneurs find that they can better hire team members after having done jobs they had never done before. Small business owners also gain more respect for those who can perform tasks that are very difficult for them, such as putting together a graphics presentation.
Self-reliance can make us stronger as business leaders. We understand what we need to do to make our company successful, as there is no one else to blame. If we want to meet with a prospect – it is on our shoulders to make the connection. If the business is soft, we need to determine which levers to pull to spur growth.
In previous jobs, many people take for granted the customers that the company had. When you open your doors, each customer is precious, and each takes on greater value. You look at them as not another customer, but begin to value them in new and rewarding ways. Business owners may realize how much work it takes to get a customer and how important it is to retain them.
This knowledge encourages owners to bring their "A-game" to each interaction. You see them as necessary not only for their business, but for the referrals they can share. Perhaps they stuck with you or were willing to use your business when you first started your business, and so they deserve your best work as you continue to grow.
It is critical to think about how much work it takes to bring in a new customer vs. the care of maintaining an existing client. Taking more time to say "thank you," acknowledging their patronage with discounts or added value, or giving them early insights into new products are all ways we see our entrepreneurs increasing customer loyalty.
As an entrepreneur, you should also take time to remember key dates and moments significant to that customer – from weddings to births – and take the extra time to share their joy or sadness. With the mindset that building a lasting relationship requires the utmost attention, a business owner can build trust. Customers appreciate the commitment. In addition to ongoing business, the reward for valued customers is that satisfied customers are only too happy to refer their colleagues and friends to you.
So how do entrepreneurs level-up their customer relationships? It begins by remembering that all relationships are personal. Who are your customers, what motivates them, what are their challenges, and how can you help them solve them? Do you know their birthdays, their children's names and their favorite sports team? What challenges do your customers face? How can you sell a product or a service that will improve their life? Business owners need to stay connected, via email or text, not to sell, but to create genuine, long-term partnerships.
There has been a lot written on the importance of gratitude. We are often told to remember what we should be grateful for each day. But appreciation and business don't always seem to go hand-in-hand. After all, you run your own business; you are your boss – so who are you grateful for, and why is it essential?
Very few people start their own business and even fewer succeed. Becoming an entrepreneur takes hours of hard work and dedication, but few get to hang their shingle without family and friends' support. If you have a partner, the chances are that they struggled with you during the decision to open your business and the challenging early days. They may have even pitched in to help out – whether with purchases or office administration. Many of your friends were not only your cheerleaders but first customers or valuable referrals to potential clients. Remembering to thank those people and appreciate their support is an invaluable part of the entrepreneur’s journey to discovering unexpected learnings.
Finding the time to thank your customers and business partners is also rewarding for paving the way for future business and helping you live in a place of positivity and gratitude. Sometimes a hand-written note or a phone call to express appreciation can go a long way to making someone’s day that much better.
There is no question that the entrepreneur’s path is paved with many potential rewards. Being your own boss, controlling your time, and reaping the financial rewards are all upsides and exciting aspects of the journey. But owners also learn more about themselves during the process. They grow, become open to new ideas, and have a greater sense of appreciation for their customers and those that supported them along the way. Those unexpected rewards make the sometimes challenging and tiring entrepreneurial road easier and more exciting to travel.