Confessions of a Business Owner Without an MBA

It's so easy to look at the pretty websites and polished blog posts of the small business owners around us and assume they have it all figured out. If you've been following along with my posts thinking the same about me, well…I'm about to burst your bubble.

The truth is, I feel like a fraud at least once a day. Usually more like six.

Photo credit: YTW Photography

Photo credit: YTW Photography

Let me share just a few of my stunning non-qualifications for running a business:

  1. I have zero formal business training.

  2. I have always been allergic to sales.

  3. I have a couple of tiny people in my house who constantly steer me off-track.

  4. I'm not a big risk-taker.

  5. I never even wanted to be a business owner in the first place!

There are so many reasons why I shouldn't be cut out for this. And yet here I am.

My Imperfect Story (So Far)

A year ago, when I first got started, the list of things that needed to be figured out about how to run a business was never-ending. Yet I knew I had a valuable (and somewhat unusual) skill set for synthesizing and optimizing the way things worked and that I could use that skill set to help business owners who didn’t have a process-nerd like me on their team. And I knew that if I could do that kind of work day-in and day-out it would be my dream job. So I kept going.

The problem was, because I didn't have all of the things figured out, I was afraid to talk about my business. What if someone realized that I had no idea what the hell I was doing? Would the word get out? Would I be reported to the Better Business Bureau? No thanks.

So instead, I threw myself into the handful of projects I had. I’d figure out how to market my business once I “figured it all out.” Life was good when I was working with my clients because helping them brought me joy and gave me some much-needed confidence. You see, doing the actual work is my comfort zone, because it's the part I know so well. My default is to live in that "doing" space…to be the craftswoman.

But as I later found out, one also needs to handle a couple more things to make a business work: Minor topics like actually talking to people about your business and managing cash-flow. No big deal.

So about six months in, I realized something had to change. I began investing heavily in learning the parts I didn't know and getting support to prioritize my actions in those areas. For me, that meant hiring a business coach, joining a mastermind group, and using articles and online videos to teach myself how to do all the technical aspects of content marketing.

I’m still a work in progress, but little-by-little, inch-by-inch, I'm figuring out all the businessy pieces as I go along. Miraculously, I've so far managed to stretch to juuuust the right amount of knowledge to get me through to the next level. That’s all you really need to know, you know...enough to get you to the next thing. And while that feeling of not being an expert used to be terrifying (Because my happy place is being an expert). I'm starting to settle in with my new normal of being constantly unsure and moving forward anyway. I'm learning to trust myself to figure the rest out later.

And so, for me, the best part of building my business has been the way it's building my own resilience and ability to leap in the face of uncertainty. I look back at who I was a mere year ago and I can't believe how much I've learned and changed. (And how much I’ve enjoyed this messy process.)

Why Am I Telling You All of This?

I share all of this not to tell the story of a woman who's figured everything out about how to run her own business...because I haven’t. My hope is that by reading about how clueless I am was, you’ll feel a bit less alone in this world of small business owners who seem to have it all figured out. The more I share my own vulnerabilities, the more I realize that it’s not just me. Just about everyone who is trying to figure out how to run a business feels this way. But since we don’t often talk about it, it’s easy to assume we’re the dum-dum in the room.

So I’m committing to being more transparent with my own journey. Of course, I want to share the things I DO have expertise help people level up in their own businesses. But I also think it’s just as helpful to share some of what I don’t know and to invite others into my journey as I grow. For the record, I’m not suggesting that everyone lay to bare every little business-related insecurity and mess they have...that’s what coaches and mastermind groups are brilliant for. But I do believe it’s time for the “culture” of business-to-business marketing to shift to one that’s more focused on connecting and keeping it real.

So here’s my challenge to you: What’s something in your business that you’re NOT an expert in? How can you share a bit of that with your own audience? Maybe you can even share your journey to tackle it?

Think of it as an experiment in vulnerability. What’s the worst that could happen?

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