2017 has been an amazing year for me personally and for my business. Although I still have so much room to grow, I have learned a lot over the past twelve months. Here are 17 of the lessons I learned as a small business owner this year.

1. Find Influencers

Look for someone (or multiple people) who are at the next level of business where you want to end up in a year or two. Study their best practices: watch their live videos, listen to their podcasts, engage with them on social media and ask questions. It’s vitally important in this ever-changing social media world to have someone you can go to with those questions – someone who knows you and is always current with changes – especially in the marketing world.

2. Hire a Great Accountant

Finances are an aspect of small business that makes business owners’ hair turn gray, and I am no different. What I’ve learned is that you need to find someone who can understand your books well and has foresight beyond your own. Set up annual and monthly budgets. Find an accountability partner who can hold you to them and dream big. If you’re currently making $20K a year, shoot for $50K next year. Make sure to track each expense, monitor your income, send invoices on time (follow up on unfulfilled ones) and work with a skilled accountant.

3. Master One Social Media Platform Before Tackling Another

It doesn’t matter whether you are mastering Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or Pinterest, but you must become an expert in whichever one you start with first. It is better to be great at one thing than to half-ass many. Take advantage of our FREE Social Media Toolkit to start mastering a platform today.

4. Outsource Before You Feel Ready

Hiring a strong team for KRose has been vital to my success. I recommend all small business owners find someone who does what they don’t do well – and does it greatly. You want to find people whose zones of genius fit the areas of your business needing improvement. You should be doing what only you can do and hire out the rest. At the beginning of 2017 I had one full-time and one part-time employee. Now I have six team members who are experts in each area of business they work within. Trust this process. Add to your team and your business will flourish.

5. Monitor Daily Screen Time

Monitor how much time you spend looking at your phone every day. When you are looking at your screen – whether you’re scrolling through Facebook, hearting Instagram pictures, checking email, or playing Candy Crush – you’re not being as productive as you could be. Strive to keep screen-time to less than four hours daily. Set aside a dedicated half hour for checking Facebook and don’t check it any other times.

6. Multitasking is a Myth

Multitasking is really not doing anything at all – it’s just a distraction. We all grew up being taught that we must multitask. We shouldn’t just do the dishes, but sweep as well! Right? Well, this isn’t possible and leads to two inefficiently done tasks. You can’t edit video and scroll Facebook simultaneously . You can’t successfully listen to a podcast and write a blog at the same time. Set specific times to accomplish individual tasks and don’t move on to the next one until you’re finished. Now, don’t let perfectionism get in the way in the process. You still need to accomplish multiple projects, but do them one at a time.

7. Start an Email List

If you don’t have one already, start growing your email list today. The beauty of an email list is that when you need work, there is a group of people who have already raised their hand and said they are on your ship. When you come to a slow season for your business, you already have these people who know, like and trust you. If social media vanished tomorrow, how would you contact your audience? Email is the answer. Check out the Behind the Scenes of Building an Email List.

8. Attend In-Person Events

As many of you know, I live in rural Montana. Early in 2017 I found myself becoming too much of a hermit and it was hurting my business. Get involved in your community. Volunteer at local schools, go to business groups, show up to a gym class. Get involved face-to-face, or belly up, as I like to say it. People want to see you in person. Don’t hide behind a computer screen.

9. Never Let Your Voicemail Get Full

This has come to bite me many times. It is always frustrating when you try to contact a business and can’t get through to leave a voicemail. I know I’ve left people feeling frustrated for this very reason. If people need to get a hold of you, make it easy for them. The chances of them continuing to call to try to contact you will dwindle the more they find that voicemail full.

10. The More You Know about Detailed Tech, the Lower You Get Paid

Before anyone panics, hear me out. People who specialize in narrow fields hit a pay cap. As a small business owner it is not your responsibility to be the expert in everything or to understand every technical aspect. It is your responsibility to hire great people who can answer your questions when you need them.

11. Customer Service is Vitally Important

Word travels incredibly fast. People talk in-person and on social media. It’s very easy to give a business an online rating or review for all the world to see. You need to up your customer service game. Every phone call, email, and interaction should be the best possible conversation for your customer. Put your best foot forward and serve your customer first.

12. Stop Being the Hero. Be the Guide.

I often find small business owners positioning themselves as the hero in their story. It’s understandable, you’ve worked hard to land where you are. But remember you would be NOWHERE without your customer. Position them as the hero and yourself as the guide. Encourage your customers. You cut down the trees to guide your customer through the path.

13. Repel as Many as You Attract

In your Facebook Group and on your email list there are people who are unsure of you. You want your customers to 100 percent love you, what you teach, your personality, and how you act. Life is too short to serve people who aren’t sure if they love you. If you are true to yourself, you are able to attract the right people. In doing so, you will repel some people who would not be your ideal customer. Don’t be afraid to repel them, because in the process, you are drawing in that ideal customer.

14. Personal Development – If You Aren’t Growing, You’re Going Backward

Every single day you should push your mind to learn something new. Take 15 minutes to learn a new concept, listen to a personal development book, listen to a podcast, research new technology and push your mind to the next level. Life is too short to go backward when we have so much free content at our fingertips. With smartphones at our our fingertips, it’s ridiculously easy to queue up a podcast while you’re getting ready in the morning. Just listen or study for 15 minutes and you’ll find so much information that can change your business for the better.

15. Give More than You Sell

Go check your last five Facebook posts (right now! We’ll still be here). At least four of those posts should be giving value. Make your customers lives better and simply share your knowledge. Consumers get really frustrated when they’re constantly being sold to on social media and in emails. If that is your strategy and you’re wondering why you aren’t selling anything, it’s because people are tired of seeing you sell. Check our last 5 posts and you can see we like to provide a ton of value for our followers. We want to improve their lives. I talk more about this in our blog post 5 Steps for Small Business Owners.

16. Rest

I know as a small business owner this can be a huge struggle. We want to work, work work, and we know our income is related to how many hours we put in. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Make sure to take a day off. You need to take quiet, restful time, because a tired mind is not a creative one. You need to refresh and rejuvenate your passion for what you are doing regularly. Set aside a day where you don’t open the computer, where you sit in silence and focus on your personal mental health. You will be surprised how much positive growth will occur once you start taking care of you, first. You wouldn’t expect your phone or laptop to just keep working and working without being shut down and recharged. Don’t expect the same for yourself. Recharge. Refresh. Take care of yourself.

17. Find your Tribe

Seek out a group of people in your area who are also small business owners. Find those who are also slaving away when they tuck their kids into bed at night; those who put in 60-70 hours weekly to make their dreams come true. Set up meetings with them twice a month, or even weekly. When you surround yourself with people who are better and who have been where you are can only help you grow. Develop genuine friendships. You will find the comradery to be incredibly valuable. If you are having a hard time finding this tribe, please feel free to shoot us a message. We would be more than happy to join a virtual coffee date with you. If you’re in the Bozeman area, I’d love to sit down and have coffee face-to-face with you to talk about life. This is a mutually beneficial practice that helps us support one another and feel a sense of community with those who think the same way.