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Looking back: Lessons from our first four years.

Four years is a lifetime for some! But if we are talking business journeys and it feel like a lifetime or life sentence, youíve probably chosen the wrong business. Weíve all heard the statistics, many businesses donít last more than 3 years and if a business reaches a 5 year milestone - its doing well!

Well, during October 2016, my little business will tick over 4 years in business. A milestone I am very proud of. Many close to me have heard me state before that I have learnt so much since commencing this journey, but upon reflection Ė what have I really learnt. What lessons would I share with others starting out?

1. Itís not who you know, but who knows you. I canít recall who I first heard make this statement, but when you think about it, it really is true. Itís one thing to say you know the leader of this network or the CEO of that business, but does it really mean anything if they donít know you? However, if someone knows you, your reputation is a lot stronger. Youíre more likely to receive referrals, new introductions and connections Ė all potentially helping your business growth.
The value is in being known. Remember the statement; People do business with people they know, like and trust. Itís hard to start the partnership process if you are unknown!
How do you become known? Get active; network Ė both online and in real life; become involved in activities that you are passionate about Ė not everything needs to be about business; and of course some good PR!

Related: Should you really accept that LinkedIn connection request?

2. Give without expecting anything in return. By being generous with your knowledge, and sometimes time, with the goal of adding value to others, you will receive back in return. What I mean here, is if you can help someone on their journey, perhaps with an introduction, piece of advice or something else of value to them, you will receive the same in return without asking when the opportunity presents itself. Pay it forward and feel good about your contribution to someone elseís journey. You can also choose to pay it forward by supporting a charity, organisation or volunteer group. 

Related: Join us, and change a life with Kiva

3. Never stop learning. This point probably doesnít need too much explaining, but whatever industry you are in, whatever stage your business is in; lessons on growth remain important. Learning can be in many different forms; Networking (yes, networking is more than just meeting people), reading (articles, books or papers), get a mentor or join a mentorship group, seminars/conferences (in real life or online), listening (podcasts, talking books) or even formal education (classes, diplomas, certificates). You get the picture, whatever method you prefer keep expanding your mind and your skillset.

Related: What you can learn from watching Shark Tank.

4. Celebrate Successes. This is something that comes easier for some than others, and the style of celebration is a personal choice. Iíve celebrated each year in business, but not with a big party, giveaway or anything extravagant. Instead, I thank those who have helped me in the past year. For other milestones and achievements, I like to share the news, I send a newsletter, post a tweet, update my LinkedIn profile. Others may take the day off, buy something special, or throw a party. Whatever your preferred method, make sure you take a moment to recognise what you done, soak up what achievement feels like and give yourself the credit you deserve.

5. Know your numbers. Iím a firm believer in planning; you canít get from A to B without knowing how. Each year, at the anniversary of my business launch date, I plan the next year. I breakdown what I want the yearís success to look like into bite size pieces. I set my KPIs based on my years goals, then each month track my performance against these goals. At any time during the year, I know how I am progressing again my targets Ė with both growth indicators and business expenditure. If necessary, I make adjustments to ensure I remain on track.

Related: What can a Virtual Assistant do within 12 months?

6. Learn when to say Yes and when to say No. This might sound ambiguous, and honestly, saying yes and saying no, could have each been their own points in this article. Learning to say Yes to somethings you may not usually will open doors to new experiences. I recall when I was first asked to speak publicly. My initial reaction was No, but then I thought about the topic, the event and decided my fear of public speaking needed to be overcome. I met new people, shared my journey and accepted other invitations to speak, inadvertently becoming more well known. (I still have people saying to me when I first meet them ďI saw you speak at X eventĒ).
Saying No, will help you define what is important to you. Saying No to clients that donít fit your ideal client model, will ensure you stay true to why you love your business. Saying No to new projects or extra time at work will help you be present for your loved ones.
Learning to say Yes or No at the right times takes courage, but you will see the rewards.

7. Know your ideal client. As mentioned in the paragraph above, when you know your ideal client your less likely to work with anyone and everyone. Instead, knowing your ideal client will help you attract the right people. When you work with your ideal client, work doesnít seem like work! Spend some time really defining who you like to work with and why, then spend more time learning about them Ė where do they hangout, what do they like, what problems do they have. Some people even name their ideal client, and have an image that is associated with them.

So, looking back, am I happy with my business journey so far? Absolutely. I have learnt from my mistakes, how to do things better, watched my business grow and made some wonderful friends that grew from connections. These insights help me make better decisions and I believe in turn a better business.

To my clients, thank you for trusting EVA with your business. To my connections, thank you for the support, introductions and lessons. To my family and friends, thank you for supporting my dream and believing in me.

Now onto planning for next year! If you enjoyed this post, sign up to our mailing list.

By Sam Spence, Founder & Principal Executive Assistant, Executive Virtual Associate.

Date posted: 2016-10-02 | posted by: SamSpence

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Congratulations on your 4th birthday. I hope cake is involved. I like your first point, it is also not just who knows you, also what they know you for.
Date: 2016-11-05 | comment by: Nicole

Congrats on your 4 years. I love the way you celebrate successes (point 4), I am going to adopt that myself. I love that never stop learning is one of your lessons, and thank for so generously sharing just some of your first hand learnings with us.
Date: 2016-11-05 | comment by: Grace

Congrats on 4 years!! You are such an inspiration to me. I really appreciate all the time and patience you have taken teaching me so many things.
Date: 2016-11-05 | comment by: Sarah

Congratulations on four years Sam!! Great advice.
Date: 2016-11-06 | comment by: Hannah

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