Being in business is certainly a learning process. It's even more so when you are starting a business which virtually no one else is operating - a personal concierge business! At least, this was the situation in my case when I started Lifestyle Elements in Australia over 13 years ago. Thankfully, there are many more of us around - including myself - who have learnt and can share with those of you who are just starting out.
As in all ventures, there are things you wish you could have done differently, even though you know everything has happened for you to learn and grow.
Today I want to share with you 5 things I wish I had known when I started, in case they help you as you dive into the adventure that is starting your own personal concierge business.
1. Learnt how to write and stick to a budget
I have to say, I've certainly not nailed this and it is still something I want to focus on. Thankfully, I do have my husband in the business to look after this now, but he did have to dig me out of a reasonably large hole when he came into the business 7 years after I started it. I think a lot of things would have been better had I focused on budgeting and finance from the start, when the numbers were smaller and I could learn to adjust things as I went. If you are able to get some training or do some research online, I highly recommend it!
2. Focused on getting regular bookings
I have certainly noticed that the times my business has grown faster has been when I have booked more regular jobs. This might be weekly grocery shopping or dry cleaning, fortnightly ironing pick up or dog walking, and even monthly housekeeping. When I have these regular bookings in my diary it (a) makes me feel less stressed and (b) seems to build and attract more business. It's also a much easier way to explain to people what you do and how your clients use you. The consistent work makes a huge difference to your income, and if you can find a way to secure these regular bookings you will notice a real change in your business.
3. Spent more time thinking about my ideal client
At the start, as many of us do, I found I spent a lot of time searching for clients in all the wrong places. Or, in reality, I spent my time trying to service a much too broad a range of clients which meant I wasn't getting very far. From international students to not-for-profit committees, from divorced husbands to corporate clients, I tried to find clients here, there and everywhere, instead of working on narrowing my focus. I wasted too many years chopping and changing and this diluted my marketing message, as well as my confidence. If you can start your business with the aim of identifying your ideal client, even if it takes you a few years to refine, then you will be communicating much more clearly, and truly speaking to the clients who are going to use your services.
4. Tested things more
In the beginning I didn't really know what was working for me. I didn't know what articles in my newsletters people were actually reading. I didn't know if people resonated more with testimonials or case studies on my website. I didn't know if people liked receiving a hard copy brochure or an email PDF. I did things without evaluating them, formally or informally. I didn't ask enough questions and didn't seek enough feedback. The times when I have delved into my statistics, or specifically asked for feedback, whether in an email, via a survey, an in-person interview, or clarifying a passing comment, have been the times when I have received real and oftentimes unexpected information which has made a big difference to the way I do things in my business. At one point in my business I didn't communicate enough because I thought I was pestering my clients. It turns out, I was actually frustrating my clients because they were constantly wondering if I was working on their task. It wasn't until I asked for feedback that one of my clients actually took the time to let me know this.
5. Given myself a break
For many years I felt that I had to do certain things or achieve certain things to be a 'real' business. I didn't think I was a 'real' business until I earned a certain amount, or had an office, or had staff. However, over the last few years, with the boon of online and home-based businesses, it is abundantly clear that a 'real' business can come in all different shapes and sizes. We need to create a business that works for us. If that means only working from 10-3pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, then that's what it is. If that means slowing down dramatically when you are on maternity leave, then so be it. If your ideal business employs ten staff or no staff, it has to be what suits you and your business. This can also change at different points in your business. One thing I have learnt for myself, and through following other's examples, is not everything has to be about growth. No, you don't want to stagnate, or end up with no clients. However, there are times when you need to reduce your number of staff so you can regroup, or ensure you have enough time to take your children to soccer games or dance class. In a few years, when your life changes, you can choose whether to ramp up again or not. You don't have to keep up with the Jones's and emulate what you see other people doing. Bottom line - you are creating this business and therefore you have to create what works for you.
So, I've shared my top 5 - how about you? Is there anything you wish you'd done differently? Or is there anything you are worried you've done wrong? Please share below!