The struggles of a starting business are unique and profound. Just like Elizabeth Ruth from E.R. Marketing Services, at some stage we’ll all have to sit down and ask ourselves WHY we’re doing what we’re doing?! The answer to that question provides the roadmap to progress.
‘If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.’
These were the words of the 44th President of the United States during his farewell speech. I guess he built some experience during his 8 years in office.
It’s an interesting quote though, because it implies constant decision making to stay on the right path, constant (re-)evaluation and, of course, persistence.
It’s exactly where my thoughts go, while I’m talking to Elizabeth Ruth, owner of ER Marketing Services.
We’re on Episode 19 and I’ve kind of figured out the natural flow of my podcast with other female entrepreneurs. We usually start off with a few ‘exploratory questions’. (My favourite introduction is “Tell us your background, who do you serve and how do you make your moola?’)
It’s a great ice-breaker, because what usually follows is a slight giggle. Still, the initial replies are mostly hesitant, often factual, a bit on the safer side. (Which of course I understand! I mean, who is Sandra Julian? And more importantly, can I trust her with what’s really on my mind when I lie awake at night?)
But as the podcast progresses, so does the reassurance that my intentions are ‘pure’. At that point, the podcast takes a direction that I never anticipate before we turn on the microphone. And then…out come the gems, the real life lessons to any of us who are on the same path of owning a business.
Accidentally Starting A Small Business
My podcast with Elizabeth Ruth follows the trajectory I’ve come to know.
Initially, Elizabeth explains her signature interview-style-approach to her content writing and marketing strategy. It helps her capture the uniqueness of every business. It helps her weave the story that will captivate the clients.
But to appreciate her nuggets of wisdom, you need to understand that Elizabeth tumbled into business ownership well.. kind of by accident. It happened after the company she was writing for as a freelancer threw in the towel when a pandemic ground the world to a halt. Elizabeth had the strong feeling that for companies out there, this was not the time to stop their marketing efforts. This was the time to invest in them. The message caught on and off she went….
That means, of course, that Elizabeth’s business adventures are reasonably fresh. Figuring out business ownership during a pandemic created challenges on a different level. Her cleverly crafted 5 year business plan? Don’t even bother! Instead, hang on for dear life, because this, my friend, is a roller coaster of the highest order.
And so, I ask Elizabeth what her vision is for this year.
Her answer is ‘Progress’. One foot in front of the next. Figuring out the right path. And also ‘Being present’. (Nothing much we can do about what we can’t control, right?)
Asking the WHY?
Inevitably, to figure out what ‘progress’ meant for her, Elizabeth had to figure the WHY of what she was doing. It’s a key question.
What motivates us as business owners?
What gets us out of bed in the morning?
Why are we doing what we are doing?
Figuring out the answer to this question is not unique to Elizabeth. It’s one of the standard struggles of a starting business. At some stage, every new business owner will have to sit down and figure out their WHY.
To Elizabeth, the answer is helping people. But to other business owners, it may mean bringing in more money. And yet other people may look for a certain lifestyle.
The bottom-line is that the answer to the WHY gives you direction in business.
The Struggles Of A Starting A Business
As Elizabeth figured out, there is no substitute for just doing the miles and building experience with our WHY as our guideline
At every fork in the road, she had to figure out where it is she wants to take her business.
Elizabeth and I chuckle at that. Because sometimes we get it right (Hurray!). But also, sometimes we get it wrong. And there’s a lot of merit in that too. Sometimes it’s the finding out what we don’t like that helps us move to a place that fits.
And as we figure it all out, we hone our skills, fine-tune our processes and slowly but steadily get better and better at what we do. As we improve, word of mouth does its thing…
Biggest Wins And Biggest Problems Of Starting A Business
I recognise so much of the challenges of a starting business from my own business journey. It may be 20 years ago, but the memory is as fresh as it was yesterday.
So I ask Elizabeth what her biggest wins and biggest problems of starting a business are.
She has clearly thought about this, because Elizabeth’s answers are as considered as they are swift.
‘Oddly, my biggest wins are also my biggest struggles in starting a business.’
So she offers up some golden advice:
Don’t be the bottleneck of your business
As business owners, we can be tempted to do it all. It’s how most of us start off anyway, but as we progress and our business grows, it’s important to recognise where you are getting in the way of your own business.
One of my struggles of starting a business was that I had to learn to delegate and trust that somebody will care enough to do a good enough job, so the referrals keep coming.
I also had to put myself forward as the face of the company, which proved both one of my biggest achievements to date as well as one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome.
Don’t be afraid to try new things when starting a small business. Give it a go and evaluate.
Elizabeth found out first-hand how giving a new idea a shot can mean getting catapulted to the next level in your business. Recently, she tried her hand at TikTok. Turns out she enjoys it A LOT. So do her followers. The analytics don’t lie.
Elizabeth is a big believer in ‘Data over Drama’. If the data says ‘success’, then keep going. If not, then tweak it or ditch it.
Keep your goals front and centre
Back to the WHY.
Money, leads, lifestyle, helping people. Whatever is your WHY, should serve as a guide in determining your goals (Check out our BYW blog on goal-setting) That, in turn, guides you to the projects you should turn down or accept. It puts a stop to the overwhelm and gives you laser-eye focus in dealing with the challenges of a starting business.
Or as Elizabeth puts it wisely…. ‘If there is no struggle, there is no progress’
Where are you with your business? Are you also one of the new entrepreneurs who took the jump after the pandemic put your entire life on a wobble? Or are you a seasoned business owner who, like me, finds it very refreshing to look back at those early days? Ultimately, no matter where you are in your business journey, we all need to (re)-visit our WHY.
So, let Elizabeth take you there in this podcast. You won’t regret it!
Elizabeth Ruth also offers a FREE Quiz called ‘Where to go with your marketing’. It’ll pop up as you head to her website (ermarketingservices.com). Handy as heck, I say!
I really would love to hear what you think!