One of my most thoughtful friends heard me going on for weeks about this brilliant new idea I had. I was going to read self-help books and summarize them for people on a blog I wanted to entitle “Shelfhelpless.” I was stoked and I wanted it to be so perfect. I got myself a Facebook page, a Pinterest handle, a Twitter account and I was going to sit down and start plowing through books to write about. So he called my bluff. He bought me a website and reserved the domain. I had everything I needed to make Shelfhelpless a reality.
And nothing happened.
Yes, I want to improve myself - it is a driving force behind my personality. I would argue that it’s where my perfectionism comes from. But I’ve been wanting to improve my business more.
The First Business Lesson: Opportunities
I’m going to get Real and Vulnerable here for a second. I have owned a business for two years now. It’s been doing meh. Exactly meh. It hasn’t been doing poorly but it hasn’t been doing well. It wasn’t until a few months ago I realized why and it’s three fold. The first part is that I chose to open my business to help a friend. She needed a renter and I was considering opening my own space (though at the time I was planning to do so after graduation). A year later I was offered a space at another location and since I was doing moderately well I decided to split my business between the two clinics. Through these combined mistakes I learned my first big business lesson:
The opportunities that others offer you will almost always serve them better than they serve you.
This isn't a bad thing. It's how business works. Companies wouldn't last if employment opportunities benefited employees more than employers. Businesses wouldn't last if the products they offered didn't benefit them so much they made a profit. The trick is to find the appropriate balance of fairness and success.
My second realization was that I really wanted to be focusing on building my skills in my field. I’m a journeyman, not a master. I’m still at the “experimenting with what works and what doesn’t” stage (which arguably never ends, but that’s a whole different topic). My friend said it best: “I can’t learn to be a good acupuncturist and a good business woman at the same time.” She said it and in my heart I yelled, “Yes! Exactly that.” She had put into words what I had been feeling for months. I emailed my landladies and as of now I’m one month from ending it all.
Now my focus is on my practice at a massage spa and as an acupuncturist in a chiropractic clinic and I can hone how I want to develop myself as a practitioner. I’ve noticed something ironic though. Now that my business is closing down and I don’t have the responsibility of marketing and running the minutiae of the business I’m finding myself fascinated with the topic. I’m devouring podcasts, articles and newsletters. I’m spending time every day following Kathleen Shannon, Emily Thompson, Paul Jarvis, Tara Gentile and others online and gulping down their content with stars in my eyes.
This is because of my second big business lesson:
Take advantage of employment opportunities where you have the freedom to learn and grow but don’t have the responsibility of the business on your shoulders SO LONG AS they can put a check in your passion box.
It’s my responsibility at both the spa and the clinic to bring in and maintain a patient base. I have to know how to market. But I don’t have to deal with accounting, business law, taxes and all of the other minutiae I could handle with my business but have decided that I don’t want to deal with right now. Part of me learning how to deal with my patients isn’t medical at all - it’s a matter of marketing. Learning to market is part of learning to be an acupuncturist. Eventually it will be learning to balance the rest of the business stuff too.
The Third Lesson: Passion
Which brings me back to my blog idea. I really am Shelfhelpless. I’m still taking in the same amount of “change X to improve Y and see Z in your life” information, it’s just a matter of a topic change. This business is going to be a part of me whether it exists in my life as its own entity or as a practice as an employee. Improving it will improve me.
I would never have learned this had I kept putting off starting a project that required me to write - my Passion of Passions. It's said that a piece of writing says more about the author than it does about their characters or their subject matter. By sitting down and finally starting this blog I learned something about myself - I am an acupuncturist. I am a massage therapist. And I'm also a business woman. I truly have a passion for all of these things.
My hope is that I can take some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past couple years and share them - be completely open and vulnerable about my mistakes and my triumphs - so that other people can see them, and learn from them and grow from them.
Find Emily Thompason and Kathleen Shannon at http://beingboss.club/ and Paul Jarvis at The Freelancer on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/creativeclass
What lessons have you learned during your time as a practitioner?