sly : marketing

My biggest challenge as a business owner

mirror hand

It’s still dark outside. You’re still sleeping. I’m sure you are. I’m the only human awake. It’s me and my cat. He’s staring at me while I’m looking at myself in the mirror.

I am a business owner. But. Am I any different?

I think not. Even though I have to focus on different things. And that’s my biggest challenge.

It’s 4 am, and I have been looking at myself in the mirror for 30 minutes. I am trying to look at myself as a business owner and at the way I do business. It’s not just about marketing anymore. I’m a business owner, and I need to have a closer focus at the turnover, the costs of running my business, and the income.

I have never been good with numbers. Well, it’s not that I haven’t been good (and that I can’t learn), it’s more that I haven’t been interested, and not focused enough. Now I’m thinking that I need to be.

Business is all about numbers. If I’m not making a profit, I won’t have a business anymore. That’s the brutal truth.

I shouldn’t invest

I love to test new things. I used to test new wordpress plugins every week. I used to sign up for several new services every month. I tested new social media managers in order to find the social media manager I really want. And, I read books every single day. I’ve only been a business owner for the past 40 days or so, but my focus is already different.

I want LiveFyre, but…

I have been watching the improvements at Jack’s blog and after he installed LiveFyre for his comments, I was so impressed by it. To me, LiveFyre seems to be close to perfect, and it’s free. And with their latest update, I’m not sure if I can keep myself from not installing it and testing it on my blog. But, there’s a big but. If I install LiveFyre, I will spend my time with things that might not be relevant for my business. That’s time I should spend on my clients instead of making “minor” adjustments on things that are not making me money. And, since I have already invested money in buying CommentLuv (and I really love that plugin), this investment would more or less be a waste of money.

A few months ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about installing LiveFyre.

I want to switch hosting, but…

I used to have major issues with my webhost. But, I stayed with them for years. Finally, I took action and switched to HostGator. It’s been great, but for the past few months I have experienced some issues, and the downtime is not something I’m proud of. As a business owner, I don’t want to think about the technical server issues. I just want to focus on what’s important for my business, and the things that makes me smile.

I have been reading rave reviews about Synthesis, the web hosting from Copyblogger. They are a wordpress host and includes support for the Genesis framework (and that’s what I’m using). It seems like the perfect host for me (it’s more expensive, but I don’t need to be focusing on all the wrong things if I have a reliable host).

But, as a business owner, I am asking questions. How much time will I use on the switch? Is it worth the extra cost? I used to just do it, and take action, just because I had a feeling that this was going to be something better.

I should invest

The image in the mirror is telling me something. I am looking at a man that used to be me.

I have always been asking questions, but the questions have been different. I have always been playing it fairly safe when it comes to investing money, but not this safe. The questions I am asking are more detailed, and instead of being creative, and testing, I am focusing on playing it safe (because I’m a business owner).

The reason I should invest is that I always keep improving my skills, and one of the most important reasons why my clients hire me, is that I am testing and learning and keeping myself updated on what’s happening.

If I am playing it safe, I’ll be just another boring business owner.

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47 responses to “My biggest challenge as a business owner”

  1. Brain says:

    Business owner must have to manage all business and try to get effective output. It is important for business owner to handle all employees and clients. Other things are invest time, money and effective ideas.

  2. Ashvini says:

    Hi Jens,

    Hostgator has been giving you really bad times ? I think it is a good idea to let them know your feelings about it. It is often painful for these companies to see customers go.
    I agree with the learning part. I am also learning something new everyday which makes a lot of sense to small business like ours.

    • Hi Ashvini,

      I have been thinking about writing them a fairly long email about the issue. But, right now, I’m thinking that I just want to switch. I’m not good at confronting companies with issues. I just want to fix it, without having to deal with the time it takes to solve it, and to go back and forth with someone about why I am not happy.

      The thing is that I have been chatting with support almost daily for the past week, and they can’t seem to help me with the issue, other than restart my server or apache, and it solves the problem right then, but the problem will return the day after.

      – we need to keep learning, and testing new things. I want to be teaching my clients new things every time we meet πŸ™‚

  3. Ready for some brutally honest advice Jens?

    One thing I’ll tell you is, invest on something you can see a return on.

    If you hosting sucks and is causing excessive downtime then yes, you should change as that is costing you something you can’t measure – you have no idea if your ideal client was trying to access your site or not. Change.

    Commenting systems? Really? This is not something I’d waste your time looking into. Do you blog for comments? Or to build awareness – the two aren’t necessarily connected at all. I ditched everything from Disqus, to Livefyre, to CommentLuv and well, my comments increased over time – due to my CONTENT value.

    I know this isn’t your business blog – although I am sure it will eventually convert for you – in that case you need to stop playing with tools – they are time consuming, they leave returning visitors a bit confused as to why things keep changing – if something isn’t broken don’t fix it. Your business is not a laboratory rabbit to run multiple tests on.

    The biggest asset you have right now is YOU. Invest in getting your message out there, invest in the right mentors, training etc to get you where you want to be. The secret in not in tools – it’s in YOU.

    • I was hoping that you would comment on this one Ameena. And your advice is one of the reasons why I wrote this post.

      I need a hard kick in the butt to understand what business is all about πŸ™‚

      It doesn’t help to look in the mirror and see a change, what helps is when someone tells you straight what I should be focusing on.

      Thanks a lot.

  4. John Falchetto says:

    Hi Jens,

    Great to read your thoughts as a business owner.

    As someone works and grows his business in this online space in the past two years, I think there is always the temptation that the grass is greener over there.

    Or that the new shinny tool will help you convert more leads into clients.

    When it boils down to it it’s never the tools which make the difference. Someone can give me a formular 1 car tomorrow and I won’t win any races with it.

    You are right, as business owners our biggest tool is our mindset and we have to work on improving it every single day.

    That’s our biggest challenge πŸ™‚

    • That’s brilliant advice John.

      Talking about mindset, I had a very interesting experience today.

      As a business owner, I have been doing what my clients wanted me to do. I have been sort of waiting for them to contact me and tell me what to do. And for one business, not much happened. I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I’m a fairly shy person, and I have only been a business owner for 40 days or so. But, I thought a lot about this one client, and I ended up talking to my client and telling him exactly what I wanted to do for them (instead of waiting any longer).

      He smiled at me, and told me to just do it.

      It was all about the mindset. I was confident and I told him exactly what I should do for them, and it wasn’t about the tools, that’s for sure πŸ™‚

      Thanks a lot for all your advice John.

    • Keith says:

      I may not win any races, but I bet I could pick up a few chicks in that F1 πŸ˜‰

  5. Ralph says:

    Jens, brilliant advice. I think you have an intelligent and mature approach here that should be adopted by more of us. Speaking of that, I am off to do the things that are important to me and my growth. Thanks, man.

  6. Nice to read more about your thoughts Jens!

    Though I’m not from the marketing or business niche, but yes there’s a lot in common when it comes to commenting and hosting systems. I would agree with Ameena there that what really doesn’t work and is causing you worry, should ideally be changed.

    Hostgator is something that I also use, though haven’t had any problem so far, except on 1-2 occasions when their customer care people helped to resolve the issue. And yes, I agree that may be now LiveFyre is catching up with it’s changes as I noticed at Jack’s blog, but as we have paid for CommentLuv, it really doesn’t matter.

    I guess when you write god content, no matter which commenting system you use, people would find ways to come over – isn’t it?

    I think it’s all about you and how you deal with situations and things and hold your stand. And I think while you learn, you are doing a great job , so carry on πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

    • I have had a very interesting 40 days of my business, and the questions I have been asking myself are very different from the ones I have been answering before I started my business. And now, it’s not so much about the tools, it’s more about why do I need to switch. It’s like what both you and Ameena (and John) said, we need to switch focus away from the tools, or whatever is causing us to think about things that are not related to our business.

      What I have been struggling with is to find a way to stop thinking about the minor issues. I have been thinking about switching to a different host, because if I switch, I’ll stop thinking about the issue and start thinking about the important stuff. But I don’t think that doing the switch will help that much, because it’s really all about me πŸ™‚

      Thank you so much for the kind words.

  7. Born27 says:

    Businessmen should always be hands-on in their business. They should know all the transactions and operation of his business. He doesn’t have to rely on his people alone.
    Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts about handling business.

  8. Keith says:

    I agree completely with what John and Ameena are saying, as an entrepreneur myself, and a biz owner, you have to focus on the most important parts. Nobody cares about the Comment Luv plugin (comment links are pretty worthless for SEO, I can see “some” value in showing the latest article from someone, especially if they write good titles).

    I do believe in using the tools that I need for my biz, and don’t mind paying for them (I pay $199 per month for an SEOmoz membership), but I remain focused on providing great services, exceptional communication, and having happy clients. Referrals has become my best friend….

    Don’t think too much about the petty shit…. just make it happen!

    • Hey Keith,

      It’s hard to explain exactly what the transition feels like, when I have been working at a public University for the past 10 years, and now running my own business. It’s completely different, and the mindset is more or less the complete opposite.

      I am challenging myself to try to think different, and not to be focused on the minor things, things that won’t help my clients or help me earn money. And that’s exactly why I am also trying to find the real value in services like hosting. But I have a tendency to spend too many hours on things that doesn’t really matter πŸ™‚

  9. Mark Sanders says:

    I am very much the same. Sometimes I think of stuff that only concerns my business. I admit that I am always into change, I am also constantly thinking and making things new for my blog. I admire you Sir for being innovative.

    Mark Sanders
    Webmasters@tie wraps

    • It’s hard to stay focused on what’s important when it comes to your business. But, as long as we hustle, I don’t think that it will be that hard to do πŸ™‚

  10. Carolyn says:

    Amen to what Ameena and John said. You know that Mac software you use to keep focused on your writing? Try to mimic that for growing your business. What should have your attention? Block everything else out. Don’t get distracted by shiny new toys.

    • That’s a great advice. The only problem is that I love shiny new toys, but at least I know what my problem is, and when I understand the problem, it’s so much easier to work hard to find a solution. Well, I actually know the solution to… I just need to keep myself focused πŸ™‚

  11. Jack says:

    Hi Jens,

    I think you and I have a similar mindset about many things and that we both like to tinker. There is nothing wrong with that if you have the time and resources to do so.

    Now is the time where you figure out the difference between need and want. You need reliable hosting. That is not a question. The issue is where do you find it at a price that works for you.

    Livefyre has done an excellent job of increasing engagement at my blog. However I am not selling anything so I can’t talk about conversion rates.

    Sure, I am starting to build a list but I am still not at the point where I can say that LF is a part of the reason why my business has grown.

    What I can say is that my traffic is growing and that I have received many requests from readers to help them with their blogs. I have also been approached about more freelance work.

    I attribute the freelance work requests to my content. They like what they see and are interested in finding out what it would take to hire me.

    The other requests have pushed me into writing a post about why I am happy to help a friend but I don’t work for free.

    Much of the value/utility of a tool lies in the skill of the person who is using it. I think you are on the right track and that good things are coming for you.

    • Hi Jack,

      I can relate to close to everything you write. I have a tendency to keep focusing on the small bits and pieces, but that’s also because I really enjoy doing it.

      But, as a business owner I need to spend my time on my business, and that’s what I have been hustling with lately.

      One of my biggest issues that I have been struggling with, is one that I’ll address in a later post, but that’s writing a blog in english and having a Norwegian business. If my business was English (and international) I would probably have a lot more use for my blog, but I’m more or less targeting the wrong crowd with the blog. On the other hand, I haven’t finished my business strategy just yet, so I might end up targeting the right crowd in the end πŸ™‚

      I have learned so much from you, and I am sure that I’ll continue to learn a lot as well. I’m still on the fence with the hosting and LF, but I am in no hurry. I just need to take the right decision.

  12. Carol Lynn says:

    There is always a dilemma when you are a business owner, I can definitely relate. I think no matter how long you are or how good you get at it, you will always be asking those questions. I think that asking those questions is a sign that you are a GOOD business owner. You are calculating risks and rewards and choosing things that make the most sense for you and your business.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t try new things, even if they take extra time or extra money (assuming you have some of both to spare). And there will ALWAYS be that feeling “I could be doing something else with my time…” You have to ignore that voice because it will always be true. When you’re sleeping, you COULD be writing, instead, right? But you aren’t going to give up sleeping!

    It’s just a matter of choosing HOW you want to spend your time and money. Sometimes it’ll be a good choice, sometimes not. But that’s part of learning, too. If you’re on the fence about a decision, just weigh the pros and cons. What are the reasons for doing something? Don’t be always worried about wasting your time and money, you are probably going to do that once in a while! I would be more worried about sitting still and being too afraid to do ANYTHING or change anything.

    Like I said, I can relate. I have to weigh a million decisions and I don’t like them all, yet that’s our job so we have to keep going!

    • That’s an awesome comment, and I especially like what you said about me being a good business owner πŸ™‚

      To me, the questions are very important, but I am not sure how detailed they should be. I am thinking that I should focus on a more higher level when it comes to my business, and not every tiny detail. But, I am very new to this. I am doing my best to get a better mindset and to weigh the pros and cons – and the most important part is that I am learning a lot every single day.

      Thank you so much for the awesome comment Carol.

  13. Terry Conti says:

    Hi Jens,

    After reading your post you got me looking in the mirror and looking up, down, left and right and what I see is to put the what if, maybe, it could, the may nots out of my mind.

    I’ve been looking into this mirror so long that I know who I am and I also know what business means. The word business is always risk. Life is always risk. You can get run over crossing the street.

    Therefore no matter what happens now that I’m a business owner I know I made my plans, educated guesses, rejoiced about them, cried about them, learned from them and life goes on.

    I look in the mirror and I know who I am. Good post Jens, thanks for the insight.

    Terry Conti

    • Hey Terry,

      It’s awesome that you’ve been looking in the mirror as well. It seems that you’ve been answers, not just new questions, like I have been getting πŸ™‚

      I am aware of the risks, and the risks is what is exciting about business. I guess I just need to keep looking in the mirror and see what I’ll find πŸ™‚

      Thanks a lot Terry.

  14. Denise says:

    For me, the biggest challenge as a business owner is to decide whether to invest or not to invest on certain things. You need to consider everything aside from money to be used. But at the end, you need to make a decision that could make the difference of your business present situation.

    • Hey Denise,

      That’s what I’ve been struggling with as well. Too many times I have been thinking about investing in things that probably won’t do anything for my business, other than make me feel good.

      For instance, I’m thinking about investing in a new computer, although my old was is good enough. Every time I’m thinking about the investment I’m thinking that a new computer will help me become more productive, but it probably won’t πŸ™‚

      • Denise says:

        LOL But you know what, there are times that getting new gadgets for yourself can give you some motivation to start new things. At times, I’m treating myself that way. I find it effective anyway.

  15. Ruth Zive says:

    Jens, there is no question that you have to spend money to make money, but I agree with Ameena – you want to target those investments so that they are allocated towards things that actually bring a tangible return. You’re not blogging for comments? You are in a similar position to me – your business is primarily OFFLINE. I’ve invested in an invoicing program; I invested in an office; I’m not starting to invest in quality copywriters to whom I can outsource some of my work. These are all things that actually help to drive my business.

    One more thing…you mentioned in a post that you are waiting for your clients to contact you and tell you what to do. The most important investment that you can make is in TIME! Time spent soliciting new business. Every day. You have to hustle and cold call and sell yourself at the beginning in particular!

    Keep me posted Jens. Great post.

    • Hi Ruth,

      What you’re saying makes a lot of sense to me . My primary business is offline, and I keep investing in things that won’t help my business.

      I have been thinking about investing in an office too. But I am actually not sure what type of office I need. What did you look for in your office? I have been thinking a lot about location, but I’m not sure if location is something I should be focusing on, since I probably won’t get many client meetings in my office, on the other hand, who knows what the future brings? πŸ™‚

      • Ruth Zive says:

        Jens, I don’t expect to meet clients often in my office – usually they want me to come to them, so location wasn’t a huge factor. However, on the rare occasion that the client is coming to me, I now feel much more comfortable. In the last year, I have had more meetings at Starbucks than I care to count.

        But the main reason for moving into an office was that my business has become entirely full time. And I needed a professional space that was quiet and conducive to long stretches of writing. I was finding, increasingly, that there were too many distractions at home; my children returned home from school midday, or they were sick, or had a day off – and then I was losing critical time that I needed to work. Not to mention the dog barking every time a squirrel passed through our back yard, or the thousands of ways that I was able to avoid working.

        My office is quiet and I am finding that I am much more productive there than I was at home. So far, it’s been a good move.

        • That’s exactly the same reason why I want an office. I’ll be moving to an office in August, at least that’s my plan – by the way, I’ll be a dad again in August πŸ™‚

  16. Mark Harai says:

    30 minutes!

    Geesh, I can’t seem to get past 60 seconds without getting distracted!

    As far as tinkering and investing in the tools of the trade – it’s all good stuff. As a social media marketing consultant, a working understanding of all the tools being peddled out there will help you advise your clients on the best solution for their needs as there’s not a ‘one solution fits all’ out there.

    However, there’s only one thing a business owner will spend money on – – and continue to send money deep wide and continuously; that’s RESULTS. Business owners love to invest money in people and things that make them money.

    As you progress and get some more experience & confidence under your belt, you’ll get more comfortable telling people (clients) what to do. That of course will be the direct result of your real world experience and knowing what needs to be done to make a business more profits.

    If you’re waiting for a business owner to call you and tell you what to do – there will be very little to no improvement over what he’s been doing and it will limit the value and knowledge you bring to the table.

    Just my two cents Jens – keep on keeping on sir πŸ˜‰

    • Hey Mark,

      I finally contacted the business owner and told him what I would like to do for him. I’m still waiting for his call, but I have a very good feeling πŸ™‚

      Thanks a lot for your support Mark.

  17. Adrienne says:

    Hey Jens,

    I totally agree with Ameena on this one.

    I’ve always been the kind of person that says, “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.” I mean seriously, most people are always trying to find the next big thing or trying things out because they’re cool. You now are a business owner so you have to do what’s best for your bottom line.

    If it’s building blogs and you need to know the best things then I would say test these different systems out. Knowing this would benefit your clients. If not, stick with what works and concentrate on that bottom dollar.

    I guess in the end, you have to do what’s right for you Jens. But if your hosting service continues to be an issue and you need a reliable one, that is something I’d change. No ifs ands or buts about that.

    Best of luck Jens!


    • Hey Adrienne,

      I have always been the opposite, and I keep fixing things that aren’t broken, or I keep looking for details just to make up a story about it being broken just so I can switch or buy something new. I know that I shouldn’t, but that’s what I’ve been doing. As a business owner, I need to switch focus and understand how to spend my time and do what’s important for my business.

      I’m hustling every single day, and the mindset and how to spend my time, that’s my two biggest issues at the moment.

  18. Thomas says:

    Good Morning Jens,

    I think, was open to new is a good way for business.

    “I have been thinking that it’s hard to keep growing when my head is stuck in the sand”
    these words are the one and only truth!!!!!!

    When you have your own business, you must work hard, need creativity and inspirations. Look at the search results and analyze good sites.

    Best wishes for you and your business from


    • Hey Thomas,

      That’s what I’ve been thinking too. Business is not just about following the advice from others. We need to grow and be leaders, and in order to do that, we need to experience things first. And when we test and sometimes fail, we get experience we can share with others, and the same happens when we experience success (but both failure and success is important).

  19. Pubudu says:

    Even I’m having the same issue. I felt the value of the every penny when I started to hire a VA to my do work. Usually I stay awake and thinking what to do next and how to go for the next target and so on.Its all about commitment and hard work.

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