Wedding floral arrangement inspiration. The School of Styling - Tips for Small Businesses. Photo by Maria Lamb.

Kaleb Norman James is the founder of Kaleb Norman James Design, a full service event design firm that specializes in wedding planning, floral design and event decor. After experiencing his own successes and trials in starting a small business, Kaleb shares today what he has learned and his tips for other entrepreneurs!

What if I ran my own business? This thought has crossed every person’s mind at one point in time. And for good reason! Owning your own small business is a lot of fun and has quite a few perks. There is also good reason for why people let that thought pass onto the abyss of their thought life: running a small business is hard work! And if you don’t have a strategic plan for how to start your business, there are very small chances that it will be able to thrive.

Now, by no means do we hold all of the answers! We have definitely messed up many times and learned the hard way of how not to do things. But those mess-ups have allowed us to grow as a business and become stronger. And the times that we have succeeded led us to receive the confidence to keep pushing forward! There are always little reminders along the way that let you know you are going to make it. At the end of the day, if you are stressed out of your mind, hating your life and wondering whose grand idea it was to make you start this whole business venture, you’re right there with the rest of us who own their own company. But if that feeling isn’t majorly outweighed by the love of pursuing what you’re passionate about, it’s probably a red flag that you shouldn’t continue. Not to say that at the first sign of stress you should drop everything and run. But the overall experience should be fulfilling. If it isn’t life-giving, you are not the only who is experiencing that because your clients will too. This ultimately leads you to an inability to gain clients which equates to your business hitting a roadblock, which adds only more to your stress levels already bursting at the seams.

Because the world doesn’t need more stressed out people, we wanted to share with you a few helpful tips that we think are key in getting your small business up and running (and thriving!).

Tip #1: Plan

First off, come up with a plan. This sounds pretty straight-forward, but you’d be surprised how many people skip this part. This plan should consist of a few things. Number one is a mission statement. What do you want your business to be founded off of? What do you want your business to accomplish? What do you believe in and how do you want that to effect your business? This is great when confronted with hard situations and as you begin to question things such as how to deal with that customer, what to put your money towards, how to handle conflict with an employee and how to use your time. If you already have something written down as the foundation, you can use that as a lens to help get you through whatever your current circumstance is.

The next piece of your business plan should be dreaming and coming up with goals. If you neglect this part, you will end up sitting in limbo and be heading in a purposeless direction.  Make a list of these goals and how you can practically accomplish them. List them out in order of reality. Which ones are able to be accomplished now? Which ones are not able to be accomplished until the first two are done? Which ones can’t happen until 10 years from now?  Realistic expectations are SO helpful. This helps you not feel disappointed when you have yet to reach a certain level, but wish you were already in that next stage. It is also huge in battling comparison with other businesses. If you are able to see yourself in the proper timeline of reality, you won’t get caught up in chasing your tail! And what I mean by that is you will spend time accomplishing the realistic goals which ultimately lead you to your dream goals, instead of putting time, money and effort into things that don’t actually allow you to spring forward to the next stage.

Tip #2: Budget

Small business tip number two is to come up with a budget. Budgeting is powerful. It actually brings freedom to your finances. I have heard a lot of people say that they feel confined by the boundaries of a budget, but I feel quite opposite! Knowing how much money there is to spend on specific things allows me to spend my business’ money on whatever I want. Once that “bucket” from let’s say, “New Inventory” runs out, then I will be done for the month until that “bucket” gets filled again. Not only does this make me not feel guilty about buying something nor leave me with anxiety about how much money is in the bank, I can confidently make a purchase and still accomplish my goals, which brings us back to the business plan. Majority of your goals are contingent off of you making money. But in order for you to make money, you have to make or produce something. In order for you to do that, you have to spend money.  But if you are spending money left and right, you can’t cover your costs, which ultimately leads you to being unable to move forward as a business. You might be able to make it for a little bit, but you will never get to the top unless you are wise with your finances. One of my goals was to hire an accountant because I hate handling the finances. But to do so, I had to prioritize those finances to accommodate bringing in someone to do it for me. Reaching this goal was a huge win because things were handled for me professionally, giving me major peace of mind, and I also got to spend my times and efforts focusing on the part of the business that I love – the creative side. It took self-control and determination, but has majorly paid off.

Tip #3: Boundaries

The final tip is to make healthy boundaries for yourself.  If you own a small business, it is normal to work out of your home. It is actually quite smart to run it from your home because it is a simple way to cut costs of renting a space. However, when working from home, work and home blend into one. It is very important to make a distinction between the two. Whether that be you only allow yourself to work on work in your office and when you leave the room, you are “off” of work, or maybe it means turning off your mail notifications on your phone after 5.  Maybe it is choosing one day of the week and not doing anything work-related. No checking emails, no taking calls, no sitting on your phone. But you make space for yourself to get refreshed. Your business is going to thrive if you as a person are thriving. Do whatever it takes for you and your family to thrive.  You will reap the benefits in the years to come, if you choose to be disciplined in the beginning stages.

Why not start today! It is never too late. Whether you are toying with the idea of starting your own business or you are 5 years deep, sit down and think about these areas of your business.  Come up with a business plan, set goals for yourself, steward your finances well and instill healthy boundaries for work and play.  And don’t forget to reward yourself every once in awhile as your goals are accomplished. Whether it’s something small, like an afternoon happy hour with your team or a trip to the spa after completing a long event. These add incentive and drive to your workflow, as well as help you remember that you are worth taking the time to feel appreciated.

From one small business owner to another, you’ve got this!  We want to see you make it!  We would love to hear what type of business ideas you have and the dreams that you want to make a reality!  Comment below with dreams, goals or questions about what step to take next in your business.


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