Whew … four years in business. I made it.  Apparently, I am a high achiever; in the top 5 percent of businesses who make it past the first two years.

When I look back over the first two years, I am amazed I made it.

I came into business with no business nous AT ALL.  None. Zip. Nada.

Yes, I had worked in corporate but I had a team backing me up.  I did not have to know everything. I delegated, redirected or outsourced.  When you have a big budget, you can do this.

Entrepreneurship is different. Way, way, way different.

You go into business with a great idea; a solution to a problem that you have the skills to solve.  That is the easy bit.  It is all the other things you must make work in business that ensures your growth and profitability. Such as administrative skills, systems and processes, customer service, finance, bookkeeping, web development, social media, marketing … You might tick some of the boxes but chances are not all. The thing is even if you do tick all the boxes, who really can do all of the things you need to do in business well all THE TIME?

Quite often, when you start a small business, you begin with little capital (like me) so being able to engage a team to help with all the business management side is not possible.

So begins the frenzy of business growth.

The long hours trying to get everything done. Family and friends looking at you like you are crazy because you should just go get a job (after all, it is more secure). Losing clients because trying to be everything in your business means something must give. Worrying about how you will pay rent because you have not time to market. Getting sick because you are burning the candles at both ends. Goodness … I am tired just thinking about it. Feeling like a loser because you cannot do everything.

Something must give. At about the 18-month mark, that something is YOU.  So how do you stay sane during this time … this very crucially important time. The first couple of years is what decides your business longevity.  How you cope and the lessons you learn.

This is what I learnt.

STOP – sometimes you have to stop and rest. While the urge to push through to meet a deadline is strong, it will ultimately crush you; something will give – your health, relationship, your mind. Take some time to do something for you – go for a walk, catch up with a friend, take of your shoes and go stand on the grass.

ASK – for help.  Ok, you may not be able to afford to pay someone so look for someone in the same  boat as you and swap skills. Exchange skills. Collaborate.

NETWORK – you have to leave your office otherwise you will go crackers with only yourself to talk to (that is called insanity). Networking is one of the best PR and marketing activities you can do. It helps promote your product or services.

PERFECT – as much as I would like to be perfect, I am not.  No one is.  Even one of the world’s smartest men – Stephen Hawking – says even the universe is not perfect, how can we expect to be? Strive to be authentic and accountable, rather than perfect. With perfection, there is no room to grow.

MISTAKES – oh my … have I made some doozies.  Have you? I bet you have (see above if you think you haven’t).  If you have been late getting work in, said the wrong thing,  missed opportunities because you were looking the wrong way, embrace this as a lesson in business.  Mistakes are opportunities to do better next time.

Now to get through the next one… and make it to five years.