What are the paradigm shifts that happen throughout your first year of starting up your small business? We tracked our first year as a business and have followed thousands of others on this journey. We hope that knowing about this journey early on will help you on yours. The main paradigm shifts are:
- The Fake Start
- Small Business Realities
- Getting to the Second Ring
- Unlearning (Re-learning)
- Asking for Help
- Think Bigger
- Do Bigger
You’ll also hear about the milestones you can expect to reach in your first few years.
The Fake Start paradigm shift occurs when you first jump into the idea of starting your own business. You’ll hear it broken down into four weeks. Get ready to do some serious talking and planning! You’re putting your business together during this first month and making sure that everyone around you knows it.
You’re making a paradigm shift to Small Business Realities thinking when you start to realize that small business is different than every other type of business. The approximately four weeks that you spend doing this sort of thinking are about testing things out and learning the rules of small business (“”Cash is King” and “Personal Brand is Small Business Brand”, for example.) You’ll concentrate on getting some cash into your business, assess how long you can wait for cash to start coming in if it’s not right away and determine what prices you’ll need to charge in the future to keep your business running.
In Week 8, at the tail end of the Small Business Realities paradigm shift, you may still be only selling to friends and family; that’s okay. But prepare for a paradigm shift during Weeks 9 to 12 as you think about Getting to the 2nd Ring: Can you can sell to strangers? Your focus will be on finding new ways to sell, assessing who you know outside of the circle of friends and family that could be potential customers, learning about networking, and getting business cards to carry so that you can have them handy to give out to people.
At Week 13, four months into your small business journey, the Unlearning (Relearning) paradigm shift begins. This is a time to go over your progress so far and tweak your plans and processes for the future to include what you’ve learned. Maybe you need to do more definitive goal-setting. Maybe you need to examine your revenue streams and determine whether they’re all working optimally for you. Maybe your marketing plan needs some changes. Maybe you need to consider a potential referral partner who take on work that people who want you to do that’s not a service you offer. This paradigm shift is about asking, “Is this real? Did what I try during the first 3 months work, or do I have to change things up?”
In Month 5 you’re going to start adding people to your team, shifting your small business paradigm from one where you work alone to one where Asking for Help is healthy and encouraged. Finding someone to talk to about your business (not family or a significant other – they’re sick of hearing about your business by now), who can offer a second opinion about issues you face and help you keep your energy up, will keep you from waking up at night with business concerns stuck in your head. Mentors are ideal for this.
Cash-O-La! Weeks 22-25 are about shifting paradigms around money – learning why “cash is king”, why reducing costs is important, how you may be able to benefit from bartering, and how attention to all of these things ups your profit margin.
Weeks 26-28 are called the Breath(ish) paradigm shift because at this point you’ve been going full-speed for six months and you need to slow down and make sure that you’re taking care of yourself as well as well as your business.
Put a self-care plan in place if you don’t have one, to avoid burn-out, because… You’re back at in Weeks 29-33, when you’re shifting your business paradigm to Think Bigger! You’re looking for an elephant. Not literally, of course, but an elephant of a new client that brings in a lot of money with consistency (or a current client to whom you can sell more services.) Reconnect with contacts you made when you launched and let them know that you’re still around and offering services and welcoming referrals. Consider making your business your full-time job if you haven’t already and give some thought as to how you’ll structure Accounts Receivable when the time comes.
The Graduate paradigm shift rolls around at Week 34, when you might feel to need to move on from your mentor – you’re having some success, you’re feeling confident, and you’d like to go at it alone. Take a couple of weeks to consider your decision, trying to stay humble and realistic as you evaluate where you are with your business and whether you can keep up the momentum on your own. At the end of Week 37, make the decision about whether to graduate from your mentor.
From Week 38-41 the business paradigm shifts to Do Bigger – you’ve thought about how you’d like to make your business grow, now what structure do you need to put in place to make it happen? You’ll think about action plans, scalability and processes, re-investment, and whether you need employees or partners.
In the Sustain paradigm shift, the last of the paradigm shifts for your first year, the focus first on strengthening your business through its customer service and its branding, and then on you – is this making you happy? Do you want to continue? Hopefully you do! Congratulate yourself for making it through your first year…you did it!
View What to Expect When You Are Starting to learn about the Small Business Solver modules that are the most useful for small businesses in each paradigm shift.