Learning from your mistakes


When we sent out a press release to local journalists, telling them that I’m writing a book about how to survive ten years in business, one of them asked me to send her details of some of the lessons I’ve learnt in those ten years.

I looked through the material I’ve already written for the book and pulled out some key lessons I’ve learnt:

  • Let go of clients if they’re not ideal. I had a client who wanted to send email newsletters to people he hadn’t met at networking events. I advised against it and he went ahead and did it anyway, doing damage to his business reputation. He was paying for my advice and didn’t take it, so I decided I couldn’t work with him anymore and let him go. This gave me room to take on more ideal clients who value my expertise.
  • Always be positive and generous in business. When you go to a networking meeting and you’re not feeling 100% or business is a bit slow, look for the positive aspects to talk about. No one wants to hear you complain about business. Offer as much help as you can to people you meet, without trying to sell to them and they will come back to you when they are ready to pay for your advice and expertise.
  • Keep going! I go networking all round the Thames Valley – in Reading, Newbury, Bracknell and High Wycombe – and often meet the same people in different places. The more times you meet someone, the more they will get to know about what you do. It’s also important to use the same message and branding, so that no matter where people meet you, they recognise you and your business.

 And here are some of the bigger mistakes I’ve made:

  • Letting go of the finances. When my business was about 4 years old, I used a virtual PA who also did my bookkeeping. I thought this was a great thing because I didn’t really like doing the numbers. Then I had a VAT inspection and it turned out that the books had been doing incorrectly for about a year. It took time to sort out and I had extra VAT to pay, which I thought I’d already paid. After that, I took on a proper bookkeeper who sends me monthly management figures that I can use and understand. They help me keep track of the finances and help me make decisions about the business.
  • Working too hard. In 2007 I got quite ill because I was working very hard and trying to do everything.  By the end of the year I wanted to sell my business and give it all up. I’m glad I didn’t! Now I can recognise when things start going downhill and I take time out to look after myself and recharge my batteries. Riding my horse over the Berkshire Downs is one of my favourite ways of doing this!
  • Don’t do something if it’s someone else’s idea. I was encouraged to organise a large business event at an expensive venue, because they thought it would work and thought I could pull it off. It didn’t work and cost me a lot of money. Now I follow through ideas that are mine or that really inspire me to give them my all.

We all make mistakes along the way and I think that’s OK and only human. Just remember to learn from your mistakes and do what needs to be done, to make sure you don’t do them again.


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