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Here's 5 Ways to Get Your Business to Thrive

First Fridays - Whitney Warne

February 27, 2018

I’ve got to be honest, when people say they are starting a business my immediate response is to hug them and wish them fortitude because holy moly, they are going to need it. Actually, starting a business is simple. You just fill out the paperwork and start saying your business name out loud. Keeping a business going, building a reputation and a brand, growing a team and a legacy, creating enough profit to not only live on but live your dreams on; that stuff is hard. Ivory House Photography is just two years into its life cycle and I have so much to learn, but here are a few of the lessons I’ve collected along the way.

1. Balance is a myth.

There is a lot of talk out there about finding a healthy balance between your personal life and your business. I’m here to tell you, if you started a small business looking for balance, then you started down the wrong road. I’m seeking work/life integration. I am obsessed with my business. I wake up before the sun with ideas on how I can improve client experience, push my goals forward and continue innovating. I send emails and write blog posts on airplanes. I bite off more than I can chew, and then learn how to chew more efficiently. I sometimes have to say no to social engagements because my business needs my time more. There are days I spend simply problem solving, instead of getting any actual work done.

While I don’t have balance, I do have priorities. I am my priority. Ensuring my financial and emotional health are at the top of my list, and I work super hard to create a life and a business that can afford me all the pleasures and luxuries I want in life. But that means really early mornings and late nights. The upside? I plan and go on vacation whenever I please. Fun lunches and happy hours are a part of the job description. And the best part? I get to do what I love every single day.

2. Add more value.

This lesson is huge and you can read more about it in this life changing book, The Go Giver. The basic premise is that you are not just selling a product, you are selling an experience and the best way to grow a referral-based business (which we all are) is to make your customers exceedingly happy. So, go the extra mile, write that thank you letter, and add in the freebie at the beginning of the process with no strings attached. Throw a cherry on top of your beautiful pie. Do the small thing that sets you apart from your competition. Do it consistently and your clients will be the biggest marketing engine you could ever have imagined.

3. Hire people you trust and then let them do their job.

I started as a one woman show, handling (or not handling) everything in my tiny business. But as my business grew, so did my responsibilities. Suddenly, there were more tasks then I ever dreamed possible. I had to be a social media maven, master marketer, accountant, public speaker, networker, production specialist, administrative assistant and studio cleaner. Slowly but surely, I’ve hired people to take over most of these tasks. It has not been easy. Every time I’ve brought a new person on, I’ve watched my personal paycheck take an initial dip, only to rebound and double with each investment. It’s amazing what trusting others can do to help grow your business. 

4. Be a sponge.

I listen to an average of one new audiobook a week. I set aside 10 hours weekly for coffee meetings, luncheons and informational seminars. I talk to other small business owners about their challenges. I consult experts in fields where I feel I’m lacking. I ask questions constantly. There is no shame in not knowing everything. In fact, knowing less puts you in the position of being the mentee, a privileged position I cherish. I love sitting down with brilliant brains and exchanging thought provoking ideas — but mostly, I love listening. I hear all the options, opinions and pathways and then I get to create my own informed destiny. So, ask questions. Show up. Do things that scare you in crowds of people you don’t know. You won’t regret it and I can almost guarantee you’ll learn something.

5. Take yourself seriously.

Early in the process, define what success feels like and looks like for you. Is it an income goal, recognition, freedom to travel, a bright and vibrant community of supporters? What is it that you want to achieve? Make decisions, even the small ones, with your goals in mind. You built the ship and now launch it. Even when you have tons of crew and people waiting for you at the other end of the ocean, it’s still up to you to make the tough calls and guide the ship through rough waters.

Hear the stories of other small business and startup business owners in the community in The Partnership’s Small Business Resources Hub or sign up for the Small Business Resources newsletter to stay connected for information about upcoming events, other resources and the latest announcements in the small business community in Greater Des Moines (DSM).

Whitney Warne

Whitney Warne, owner of Ivory House Photography, specializes in creating a comfortable environment where her clients feel confident and empowered in front of the camera. In addition to a Bachelor's and a Master's Degree in photography she also has 10 years of both shooting and studio management experience. Whitney returned to Des Moines in 2016 to open Ivory House Photography. Along with her four-legged sidekick Winston, and a studio filled with natural light, she greets clients, friends and family with warmth and an open heart.