5 Ways to Maintain Sanity While Launching a Small Business

As I begin this adventure of trying to start my own business, I’m finding that my general disorganized approach just hasn’t been cutting it.  I’ve had to re-think my entire approach to this process and how to maintain any semblance of balance with the demands of a full-time “real job” and a family with two young daughters.  So to ensure that I keep my sanity with so many moving pieces, here are the 5 things that I’ve found really helpful when trying to launch a small business:

1. Make a Plan:

As some wise sage once said, “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”  I actually believe this is true and it’s a lesson that unfortunately I’ve had to learn the hard way.  Too often, I’ve taken a leap before glancing down to see if there are rocks below and I end up getting hurt.  If you really want to accomplish something big, go into it with a plan of attack – your likelihood of success increases infinitely.

When I decided that I really wanted to commit to launching my own business, I first did a little happy dance, because there is always time for a happy dance.  Then I sat down and started working on a business plan.  Even though the cost to launch a storefront on Etsy is ridiculously cheap and I don’t need investors, I took the time to research, organize my thoughts and put down in writing, a plan for my business.  (I’ll have a post tomorrow about how to write a really simple business plan for those who are interested.)  Attached to that 5 page business plan (told you it was simple!) was also a Pink Bulldog Action Plan – a full list of everything I need to do before my online shop opens it’s doors.  This action plan is complete with milestones and a timeline.

As I was writing the business plan, I really did feel a little silly creating a full plan for a business that hadn’t earned a penny yet, but I actually found the process really helpful.  First, it helped me really think through what I want this business to be, what I want it to represent and what my goals are.  Secondly, it helped give me some tangible things to do and key milestones to work towards.  In these early stages, I cannot stress enough how important it has been to have something written out to help guide my actions.

Also, I made sure that my business plan and my action plan both contributed towards the ultimate goal of achieving my BHAG.  All of these things are working together to help make me a woman on a mission!

2. Create daily to do lists:

I cannot stress enough how helpful daily to do lists have been for me.  My life isn’t insanely busy, but I do work full time, have two kids under the age of 2, have a husband, a dog and 2 cats to take care of along with all of the everyday stuff like laundry and dishes and keeping our house from descending into complete disarray.  I look at my daily to do list as the small steps that get me to the end of the marathon.  Your daily to do’s get you to the next step in your action plan, which leads to the next milestone in your business plan, which will ultimately lead to you achieving your Big Hairy Audacious Goal.  It’s a beautiful thing!

On any given day, my to do list looks something like this:

  • Create 2 new prints
  • Write descriptions for 3 prints
  • Write one blog post

Usually it’s just 2-3 pretty simple things to keep me and Pink Bulldog moving forward in the right direction.  And man does it feel good to cross those things off.  If I’m being totally honest, sometimes I even write things down that I’ve already accomplished, just so I can get that feeling of crossing it off the list.  At the end of the day, if I’ve crossed everything off my list, I look at it and think, “Boom!  Roasted!”  And then I do a happy dance.

3. Keep your priorities in check:

This is sometimes a tough one for me.  My personality is such that when I latch onto an idea, I just want to run with it and the rest of the world just kind of goes on without me.  I can get really absorbed in what I’m doing and really excited about making things happen and those qualities are both really great and I think really necessary if you want to start your own business.

On the other hand, absorbing oneself completely in a new project is not really healthy, nor is it really an option if you want to maintain a happy home and family.  The thing that keeps me grounded in reality is that one of the biggest reasons I’m doing all of this is for my family.  It makes absolutely no sense to pour your heart and soul into something for your family if you are going to neglect them along the way.  That’s why for me, it’s important to take time to have dinner as a family and cuddle with my daughters and watch some TV at night with my husband.

As a side note – the divorce rate among entrepreneurs is higher than the average.  My hunch is that it’s because a lot of people who start a business have priorities that are a little out of whack.  Instead of putting family first, the business becomes the priority and when that happens, things start to fall apart very quickly.

On the other hand if you want the kind of success that will put you on the covers of magazines and will make your company a household name, you probably do need to make your business the #1 priority in your life, which leads me to my next point:

4. Define what success is to you:

This seems like a pretty straightforward question, but my guess is that if you really thought through what you would consider a success, it might not be all that clear.  Is success a million dollars in the bank?  Is it having 100,000 followers on Twitter?  Is it getting your face on the cover of Time magazine?  What does success look like to  you?  What will it feel like?  What does it taste like?

For me, success for Pink Bulldog rolls right into my Big Hairy Audacious Goal – I want to create a business that will allow me to quit my day job.  There is obviously a financial piece tied to this too.  I know exactly how much income it will take to get me to that level and I’ve committed in writing that once Pink Bulldog generates that amount consistently for 6 straight months, that I can start treating it like a full time occupation.

Note here that I don’t view success as a static, stationary thing.  It’s not something that once you’ve achieved it, you can just rest on your laurels.  Success takes continual work to maintain and your definition of what success is will likely change over time.  The important thing is have a solid idea of what you want to achieve and where you want to go before you dive in.

5. Cut yourself some slack

Even the best laid plans can sometimes go awry.  Kids get sick, your computer crashes, the dog actually eats your homework.  Life is always going to hand you a few lemons that will get in your way.  Or the analogy I actually prefer is that even if you’re in first place, you’ll inevitably get hit with a red turtle shell every now and then that will slow you down.  (That’s a Mario Kart analogy for those who didn’t pick up on it. :))

When you get hit with that turtle shell, I’ve found that it does absolutely no good to pout about it.  It might make you feel a little better for a minute, but whining or feeling bad about what you didn’t accomplish serves no purpose other than to slow you down even farther and take away your motivation.  If you’re truly working hard, cut yourself some slack!  Don’t let the stress of things left undone ruin your night and don’t feel guilty about taking time to enjoy life and those around you.

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