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Five Business Lessons I've Learned In My Furniture Refinishing Business

What is UP my friends and fellow busybees. I hope you are all doing great, I have had.. Honestly, such a great week. I turned 30 on Monday so a pretty big milestone birthday, and I’ve just been feeling the love so so much. My amazing husband surprised me by flying my bestie since birth out from BC to stay the week with us and visit and come to my birthday party that he also organized with all of our friends and I’m just so content with where life is right now and my heart is just so full and I think it’s so important to verbalize these things when they are happening to keep the positivity up. This time of year is usually a bummer because it’s cold and dark and blehh here in Canada and I’m just so thankful for how the month has been going, and we have a busy end of the month as well that I’m totally looking forward to. So if your start of year hasn’t been going quite as well, let me shine some sunshine your way and I hope you feel those good vibes and things turn around for you, my friend!

So if you’ve been listening to the podcast for any amount of time, you know that I came from the world of social work and had virtually no experience in business when I first started MelDidItHerself. I didn’t grow up with any entrepreneurs around me, and funny enough, I had no intentions of being an entrepreneur or being self-employed when I first started my MelDidItHerself account… I just wanted a separate place to post about the DIY projects I was doing around the house and didn’t want to annoy my friends and family with incessant posting on my personal page. But at some point I blinked and now I find myself a full-time self-employed business owner. And honestly, I love it! But again, I had no idea what I was doing initially, so if you are currently feeling that way and feel like being in business would never be an option for you, I want you to stop those limiting beliefs right here, right now. You can do it, absolutely, but not with that attitude!

So I have now had a business technically for a little over 2 years, but I really got serious about it and looked at it like a business I wanted to grow less than a year ago. Before that I was treating it more like a hobby than a business, but I was still doing my tax declarations and all of that fun stuff on top of it. So in this last year, but really the last 6 months that I’ve been doing this full-time, I have learned a TON. And the way you learn is by trying things out, seeing if they work and if they fail, just seeing that as an opportunity to try something new and tweak it until it works. So I highly recommend adopting that outlook if you don’t currently have it in your own business– focus on growth and adapting versus focusing on your failure and things that aren’t working. Again, that’s the pessimistic outlook that won’t keep you working and excited and motivated long-term to see this thing through.

So for today’s episode I compiled 5 things that I have come to realize, or lessons learned, throughout my time so far in business. Maybe as time goes on and I learn more and more I can eventually make this a series that I periodically do on the podcast, but when I sat down to plan out today’s episode there were five things that immediately came to my head, so I figured that’s a great place to start.

The first business lesson I learned was to not do things willy nilly. Which unfortunately, is in my nature to instinctively do. If I decide I’m going to do something, better believe I go hard and giv’er because if I have decided that it’s something that is worth my time then I don’t want to wait too long and lose any momentum or motivation I had for the thing. WELL, as it turns out, in business and particularly in launching things within your business, it turns out that this may not be the best approach. While I will be sure to never lose my excitement and ability to actually execute on the ideas that I have (because I know that this is one of the biggest hurdles some people out there face which is that paralysis by analysis and over-planning without actually starting), moving forward I am trying to be more intentional with planning these things out.

Planning things out in advance and giving myself ample time to accommodate for any last minute, unavoidable things that could pop up and steal my time away from me seems to be the way to go. Over the last month and a half I have been making more of an effort to do so, and ultimately it has been keeping me more consistent, on track and focused on the outcome that I am aiming to achieve. The biggest difference that I have found is when I sit down and plan out where I’m headed, I can then work backwards and write out what I will need to do to get myself there, and then from that I can break it down into quarterly, monthly, weekly and then daily goals and outputs that are written (in INK, I might add– daring, I know), into my agenda so that I absolutely know what I need to get accomplished. I do think it was good for me to experiment earlier on in my self-employment days in the first few months to just let things go and work on things more willy nilly and haphazardly just to see how that went and if it would be successful for me, but especially during these more dreary months when my energy is lower and the days are shorter, I know that the more organized, written-out approach will ultimately be what yields me more results going forward, at least for this next chapter I’m currently on.

The second lesson I have learned in business is that it is critical to make time for learning and self-development. And I very intentionally use the word “make” time, because as someone with multiple interests and never-ending ideas and a To Do list a mile long in my head, I could easily find myself spending all day every day either working or being “off”. Which is great, because I’m able to do that work-life balance pretty nicely– however, that means that my brain is literally on and at max capacity or virtually turned off.. Not so ideal.

So one thing I did early on was set either monthly or quarterly goals for myself as it relates to learning new skills or information, or connecting with new people and audiences, or doing other things that relate to my self-development. That way, I’m picking one period of time and going hard learning about it–some topics or items require more or less time than others so it might only be a couple sessions of intentional time I set aside or it might be something I spend the month or quarter researching and consuming content about and learning about. This allows me to hone in one topic or concept and seek out multiple sources to learn about that thing– I might sign up for an online course, read a bunch of articles, watch videos, sign up for newsletters from people in that industry or discussing that topic, or seek out podcasts on the topic.

Whatever it may be and however complex or simple it seemingly is, I basically deep dive into it until things start to sound repetitive or I find that I’m getting too into the weeds on the topic and it’s no longer helpful for the purpose I initially sought it out– so for example, one thing that I did was spent a month learning about podcasting and hosting a podcast. I read articles, listened to podcasts talking about podcasting (#Inception), bought books that talked about starting a podcast, and read Reddit threads in the podcasting world. Those resources combined all helped me to launch and grow this podcast so that I wasn’t going into it completely blind and I had some idea of the different elements at play and things that I should be aware of. When I noticed things getting too into the weeds in terms of technicalities with audio editing or information on sponsorship strategies (AKA things that were useful but not relevant to me at the time), I just bookmarked those resources for later on when I would need them and could revisit them after having gotten the basics learned and down pat. It kept me in check and focused on the path towards the goal I had, which was to launch the podcast. Highly recommend this approach if you find you’re a multi-interest entrepreneur that can easily go down rabbit holes that seem relevant but ultimately aren’t serving you and your current goals and might be stealing time away from you in your day.

Paired with that learning and self-development is accessing resources that are a one-stop shop with multiple educational workshops and activities in one, like digital courses or workshops. These tools can help you to learn a lot in a short amount of time so you can then step back into your business once they’re done with a wide array of knowledge that you picked up– and as an added bonus, they’re usually amazing networking opportunities and somewhere you can connect with like-minded people who are on a similar path as you. That’s key because the world of entrepreneurship can get lonely if you aren’t intentional with creating and fostering those relationships.

Which leads me to today’s sponsor, which is one I am very excited to announce. As an aside, I do want you to know that any sponsor that I accept on the podcast is one that I have vetted and truly believe will be a benefit to you. And I do feel like I know what you know, like and trust because as much as we all like to think we are unique and dealing with things nobody else can understand, ultimately we all share very similar experiences and feelings and so I just want you to know that any sponsor that you hear about was sought out by me to bring value to my busy bees that join me here every week.

So I am very excited to announce this week’s sponsor, Haven Conference! You may have heard of it before or even attended previous years but it’s back, revamped and better than ever. Haven is the leading conference for creators in the DIY, home and lifestyle industries. This year's Haven will once again be hosted in Atlanta, Georgia July 27th-29th, 2023. This year, Haven is excited to introduce both advanced and beginner learning tracks with keynotes from LiketoKnowIt and the famed designer, Dabito. If you're ready to join me and take your creator business to the next level, get $100 off your ticket today using coupon code BUSYBEE.

For those who can attend, this is a great opportunity to not only learn a ton about the business of being a digital creator, but also a great opportunity to network with other creators in the furniture refinishing and related fields so you can hear from people with different perspectives and approaches, create some new relationships AND connect with brands you love and hear directly from them. And don’t forget, this is something that is a work expense so invest in yourself and your business, and grab your ticket today using code BUSYBEE, all one word, and I will be sure to link it in the description of this episode as well, and I’ll see you there!

The third lesson I’ve learned in business is to pay attention to the numbers and use them as a reference point to guide the decisions I make. And I say “guide” because I don’t want analytics and numbers to be the ‘be all end all’ because I do have some other filters that I go through when making decisions like is this something that I enjoy doing, do I have the time to take it on, does it make sense with where I’m heading with other projects, and if it’s something that I will be bringing to you guys, is it something that I have heard there is a want or need for? So I’ll take that all into consideration, but especially if I haven’t really heard much from my followers and clients about what they want or need in relation to that thing, I will always turn to the numbers because they sometimes speak louder. So that could look a few different ways: what items or services have been selling? What posts have been performing best? When posts performed well, what was the makeup of those posts? What time did I post? What format were they in? What length was the content? Things like this can be great to analyze to give me a clearer picture so that I can take the patterns in and assess them and decide what my next move will be. I think it’s important to include this and not strictly make decisions with our own head and our own heart because then we can be guiding our decisions with our emotions and as emotional beings… humans aren’t the best at that, to say the least.

The fourth lesson in business that I want to share isn’t one that I had to learn the hard way– thankfully– but it’s one that has proven to be effective time and time again and that is to be kind, courteous, communicative, and act like a human. Like a real person doing their best to run a real business. People buy from people because people relate to people and people want to support people. It really is just as easy as that.

As a business owner running a service-based business, the only thing I can do is try my best to treat every client of mine with kindness and clarity, whether that be someone I’m selling a piece to or someone I’m working on a custom project with or someone I’m collaborating with or someone I’m coaching or someone that buys one of my digital offerings. I treat them the way I would like to be treated and do my best to offer the best experience possible. And if I were to ever make a mistake or, I don’t know, take too long to reply because life got in the way or something– I wouldn’t try and blame someone else or make excuses or shift responsibility from myself, I would apologize and try to make things right. People are human and people know that, and I wholeheartedly believe that when you approach the business relationships you engage in with trust, respect and humility that, for the most part, that will be reciprocated back to you. And if not… well, you tried your best!

The fifth and final lesson for today that I have learned in business is one that is so important, so if you’re multitasking and zoning out, come back to me and listen up! It is to do things out of your comfort zone. It’s hard, it sucks, none of us want to do it, but just do it. Push past any imposter syndrome, any cringey-ness, any intimidation or nervousness or anxiety or whatever it is that holds you back and gives you an excuse to say “actually, I better not”. Figure out what it is that holds you back and then say fuck it and do it anyway. I can’t emphasize it enough that this is the only way you will get more comfortable with it, learn and grow. And it is likely the way that you will end up getting the opportunities that you really want– because you never know until you ask.

And guess what? The absolute worst thing is that someone could say no or ignore you, and whatever, at least then you know (though if you don’t hear anything at first, I recommend following up once or twice before giving up completely). And you know what? The best case scenario is that thing that you really wanted, that thing that seemed out of reach and you thought “that could never be me”, they could say yes to that thing and you can achieve things that you used to dream about. You have to believe in yourself and that you’re capable of achieving it, and then you need to push yourself past that comfort zone and past that resistance and just go for it, and I promise you that the more often you do this, the easier it will become and ultimately, the more you will achieve those things you set out to do and as a result, the more fulfilled you will feel, personally and in your business.

And something you may not know about me… I love little motivational messages. They literally always get me fired up, and I keep a running list of ones that are especially catchy or speak to me in the Notes app on my phone. So I’m going to end every podcast episode with one of those that I have noted down over the years, in hopes that you leave our time here each week feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to take on whatever comes your way that week.

So this week’s Mel’s motivational message is: Ready, fire, aim... not ready, aim, fire.

Alright, that’s it for now, I appreciate your time, and I’ll catch you guys next week!

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