Ten years ago, when we first started The Scout Guide, we were fairly new to the publishing world. We’d held jobs in sales and photography, but still had much to learn about printing and production—let alone creating a franchise. Probably the best professional training we’d had was owning our own businesses prior to launching TSG, which had prepared us for the many hats we’d find ourselves wearing, especially during those early days. We sought out experts to help guide us with the nuts and bolts, but what we didn’t realize was that by creating a company around working with small business owners, we were surrounding ourselves with some of the best sources of inspiration and business advice we could ask for—people who had taken a risk, followed their passions, built relationships, adapted to changes, and made a strong impact on their communities all while managing and growing their own businesses. Recently, as we approached our ten-year milestone, we thought back to some of the lessons we’ve learned from working with small business owners over the past decade—including our very own franchisees, who have been key to our growth and success. Here are ten highlights that have helped guide us along the way.
It’s about collaboration, not competition. Based on what we’ve learned over the years working with small business owners, it’s hard to overstate the importance of showing up and supporting one another, and few people seem to understand this better—or set a better example—than the small business community. Attending, promoting, and participating in each other’s events; referring clients; spreading the word about other people’s businesses; and working together isn’t just good for business, it keeps you inspired and connected.
There’s nothing more interesting than authenticity. Small business owners have dedicated their lives to their craft. Their expertise and experiences are invaluable, their stories and perspectives are unique, and their offerings are curated and cultivated by them and often them alone. Take it from us—there is truly endless inspiration to be found in getting to know the small business owners in our communities. Plus, they are really entertaining and lovely people.
It’s worth the risk. Deciding to strike out on your own is scary. However, after speaking with many small business owners over the years, the vast majority seem to believe that taking the leap was absolutely the right decision. The reasons may vary, from having the ability to forge your own path, to going at your own pace, to taking a more personal approach to your business, but consensus is that you’ll find rewards in unexpected places. We’ve certainly found that to be the case.
Being open to evolving is essential. If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that we all need to be able to adapt. Small business owners appear to be especially good at this. Maybe it’s because they’re especially attuned to their clients’ needs, or conditioned to be able to learn new things and make changes quickly, but whether it’s starting an e-commerce site or embracing social media or coming up with an entirely new business offering or even model, small business owners are excellent at thinking outside of the box and answering the call when it comes to meeting their customers’ needs.
Wearing a lot of hats goes with the territory. Whether they’re a one-man show or have a team, small business owners are usually involved in every aspect of the business. Floral designers often double as their own social media managers, boutique owners frequently are responsible for business operations…when you think about what it entails to run a business, especially in an age when everyone is expected to have a beautiful and constantly updated Instagram feed, it’s a pretty amazing juggling act.
A rising tide lifts all boats. When one person or business succeeds, gains recognition, or develops a following, everyone around them benefits. We’ve found the small business community to be deeply interconnected and for the most part, eager to help those coming up in the ranks. It’s this beautiful reciprocity that makes the work so rewarding.
Owning a business is a labor of love. The whole notion of working 9 to 5 goes out the window for small business owners. But you 100% get back what you give. And at the end of the day, doing what makes you happy, being able to provide jobs for your employees, and feeling like you make a difference to your clients and community make the toil and long hours pay off in spades. There’s no greater satisfaction than that.
You have to put yourself out there. We’ve learned this from both the business owners who advertise with The Scout Guide and our editors/owners. If you’re going to survive—let alone thrive—you can’t stand on the sidelines. Believing your endeavor will succeed isn’t enough. Every day you have to make connections, negotiate with vendors, and stay in touch with customers.
It’s not about vanity. Launching your own business is not a glamorous project. While on the outside, your name and headshot might be on your website and Instagram feed, in reality, there is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that goes into the work. Usually at the beginning (and even years later), you’re working on your own, with the tasks involving everything from manual labor to all-nighters staring at a computer screen. But in the end, the effort is worth it.
You never arrive. It’s incorrect to assume that a small business owner will reach a moment when their mission is complete. Often, once they reach the point when their business is a success, they have to keep adapting to stay relevant, or see a need or opportunity that they feel compelled to take on. We’ve found that it’s just not in a small business owner’s personality type to coast when there’s a customer to serve or community to engage.