You’ll find no shortage of tips online about what it takes to succeed in business. Much of what’s out there is sound guidance, but not everything you see or hear will put you on the path to success. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to determine what is the product of genuine entrepreneurial wisdom and what is pure bunk.
That means you need to be cautious and judicious when choosing the advice you follow. To help you steer clear of the myths that abound, below are some of the misconceptions I’ve run across in starting my own business and through the course of helping other entrepreneurs build their brands.
You should handle everything yourself in the beginning.
Even in the early stages of business ownership, reconsider trying to tackle every aspect of starting and running the company yourself. You could end up doing more harm than good if you take on tasks that require the help of a professional (bookkeepers, accountants, tax advisors, lawyers, SEO specialists, etc.).
Aside from the potential issues that can arise from undertaking work that you don’t fully understand, trying to strong-arm business growth isn’t sustainable. When I started my business in 2010, I thought I could tough it out and handle everything, but I quickly learned that’s the fast track to burnout and missed opportunities.
You have limited hours every day—you should spend them on activities that use your expertise and skills to their fullest so that you’re getting the most benefit from your most important asset, YOU.
You can be “hands-off” when you outsource tasks.
Even when you delegate responsibilities to a trusted services provider, you will need to stay involved. Depending on the complexity and significance of what you’ve outsourced, you may still have to dedicate internal resources to the cause.
Social media is an excellent example. Business owners who outsource their social media strategy and management don’t always realize that for maximal outcomes, they (or qualified and trained individuals within their organizations) must be actively involved in the process. Yes, delegating tasks to an outside source can dramatically diminish the time and effort required internally, but it doesn’t outright replace the need for you to monitor and manage your brand online.
It’s easy to build a brand online.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. It requires time, hard work, and consistency to build trust with prospective customers, rank higher in Google searches, and gain a following for your brand.
Some tips for helping you get you there include:
~ Have a good website to serve as your business’s online hub (ideally, one with an Open-source CMS that’s feature-rich and offers the opportunity to take advantage of integrations, such as those for SEO and social media).
~ Blog consistently to demonstrate your expertise and improve your website’s online authority with Google.
~ Explore content syndication opportunities to expand the reach of your blog posts.
~ Do outreach to respected industry websites to secure guest blogging opportunities (to increase brand awareness and establish yourself—the face of your business—as a knowledgeable and trusted professional).
~ Choose your social media channels wisely—and be active on them, providing content that builds rapport and loyalty with your audience.
I’ve personally used this formula, and it has enabled me to expand my audience, dramatically increase my website’s search rankings, and generate top-of-mind awareness among my connections.
Your personal brand won’t really affect your business all that much.
Like it or not, you and your business will be perceived by many people as one in the same. So how you conduct yourself and what you say—online and offline—will reflect on your brand.
Some real-life examples of this include:
~ Martha Stewart, whose company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, suffered and never recovered after she was found guilty in 2004 of charges related to insider trading.
~ Former Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick, when dashcam footage of his argument with an UberBlack driver went public online in 2017.
It’s especially important to be aware of the impact of your personal brand on social media. Just because you can say virtually anything you want in your social media posts or when commenting on others’ updates doesn’t mean you should. Your online commentary on politics, religion, social issues, or other hot-button topics has the potential to either deepen or disintegrate people’s trust in your brand.
Success builds upon itself.
It doesn’t always work that way! Growth isn’t always linear, In fact, sales and profitability can fluctuate— sometimes dramatically—from one year to the next.
Even mega-companies like Apple see profits go up and down from year to year.
After I finished my first year in business with mild success, I falsely assumed that each year would get easier and better—guaranteed. That wasn't the case; some years were challenging as I implemented changes and faced new obstacles.
As your business takes on new opportunities, hires people, expands operations, faces new competitors, and confronts new industry challenges, you might experience some back and forth in how well it’s doing. Your finances and brand reputation may soar one year, struggle the next, and then make strides again after that. Expect to encounter ebb and flow.
The Real Deal
Building a revered brand and profitable business requires not only a viable business plan, exceptional product or service, and capital, it also demands a degree of common sense. As you read, watch, or hear guidance from others, consider it with healthy skepticism rather than assuming it’s going put your brand on a trajectory of success.
Parts of this post were also published in PR Daily.