Back in January of 2004, I enrolled in coach training with the Institute of Professional Empowerment Coaching (iPEC) and went on a personal growth journey that changed me forever. It was a year-long program that challenged me in so many ways. I learned skills that I still use today. I met some lifelong friends. And it was the catapult that started my journey into business ownership.
Fast forward 15 years. Although I am not coaching anymore, I am still heavily involved in the coaching industry. I closed my coaching business and decided to start my 2nd business supporting coaches with their business management. I am an online business manager (OBM for short) and just like coaches have certification programs, so do OBMs.
At first, I hesitated about whether or not I really needed the status of “Certified OBM.” Would I really learn anything in the certification program that I didn’t already know? Maybe it was a little competition that seeped in. I want to be the “cream of the OBM crop.” Perhaps it was my love of learning that drove my decision to become certified. I became curious about what more I could learn about business.
Regardless of the reasons I chose to enroll, in October of last year I signed up to become a certified OBM. The program was not nearly as intense as my coaching certification. It was, nonetheless, yet another journey that challenged me. The program and the certification exam was a huge eye-opener for me. I not only learned things about myself, I learned even more about what it takes to be a successful business owner.
These are the lessons I want to share in hopes they can help you too.
Business Ownership Requires a Great Amount of Resiliency
Let me share the backstory for the certification exam. To pass your OBM certification, you are presented with 5-7 “pseudo” client projects that must be completed by the client’s deadline date. Hint: That usually means you have 24-48 hours to finish. These projects typically don’t have all the information you need, much like “real” life with our clients. Some of these projects were familiar, others were completely new. For me personally, these client projects had to be balanced with my “real” client projects throughout the week. In other words, I added about 20-25 additional hours to my week.
It would be fair to say that by Tuesday afternoon, I was in mini-meltdown mode. I was overwhelmed, stressed, and in desperate need for a good “cry” release. Ever feel that way as a business owner? It’s not like we can crawl into bed, give up, and close our business. Business ownership requires us to pull up our bootstraps and trudge through the crap. I wasn’t about to give up. I allowed myself the freedom to be unreasonable and emotional (in the privacy of my own home). Then I went to bed. Wednesday morning I woke up with a renewed sense of confidence, purpose, and stamina. I powered through the rest of the week and finished my exam one day ahead of schedule. As a business owner, you will build that “resiliency” muscle – and it will make you a stronger person.
Business Ownership will Require a Tribe of Supportive People
Project #3 presented a topic I knew nothing about. Time was of the essence and I needed a lifeline. Suddenly, I remembered my client Joe Schum had a lot of experience with this topic. It was 8:00 pm EST (5:00 my time) and I texted him. “Joe, can I please get 30 minutes of your time to tap your brain?” Thankfully, he was available and willing to dedicate part of his evening to help me. I reached out and he was there.
I wasn’t the only OBM struggling to get through exam week. There were several other OBMs, who took the program with me, in the same boat. They were my emotional support and I was theirs. We would bounce ideas off each other. We would whine, encourage, and celebrate each step we took. Without them, I would have felt lost and discouraged.
One thing I learned is that if you invest in relationships, you will have a lifetime of supportive people in your circle. Good people want to help. It gives us purpose. Helping others connects us to our humanity. Give as much as you receive. Connect to the “right” people and avoid the toxic ones that drag you down. You will not be able to do this business journey alone; you need people and they need you.
Business Ownership Will Push All Your Buttons and Increase Your Awareness
Another lesson I learned during my OBM certification exam is that it irritates me when I don’t have all the information I need to complete a project. I am an executor and lack of information slows me down. It’s not that I didn’t already know this about myself. It just became magnified during this process. Business ownership is a great teacher! The experiences you will go through will push every button you have, much like the children we spend 18 years raising.
I celebrate “pushed buttons.” If used properly, they cause us to dig deep into ourselves and increase our awareness. Most people want to fight or flight when their buttons are pushed. But if we run away from ourselves, or fight with the process, we miss a significant opportunity to grow. As a business owner, we are constantly faced with issues or people that push our buttons. These buttons drudge up every emotion we have – anger, sadness, fear, and everything in between. Use these buttons to your advantage. Breathe through these situations. Most of all, allow them to challenge you, increase your growth, and make you a better person.
Business Ownership Requires Hustle and a Never Ending Commitment to Learning
Never in my life have I been involved in a business that changes so rapidly. As I went through my certification process, what stood out for me is all the technology involved in running an online business. People threw around software names like people they went to high school with. Oh, have you used Airtable? My team and I love Slack. ClickUp is the best! Do you know anything that handles x, y, and z all at the same time? Ooh, I hate MailChimp. ActiveCampaign is so much better!
Running a business today will make your head spin. It’s complex, competitive, and nothing short of fast-paced. Be ready to get your hustle on. And if you don’t love learning, business ownership will exhaust you. Even after 25+ years in business operations and management, it will take me months to integrate everything I learned in my OBM certification program. But I always say the opposite of growing and learning is letting your brain wither away. That sounds pretty awful to me. So for as long as I am alive, I will embrace my love of learning. I will open my mind to each new project I encounter. I will challenge myself to learn new technology. I will hustle until my hustle is gone.
Business Ownership is ALL about Leadership
Over lunch last month, one of my clients asked me, “What have you liked most about your OBM certification program?” I replied, “The leadership aspect.” The training I found most helpful was the section on leadership. Leadership requires us to lead our business, lead our clients, lead our team, and most important, lead ourselves. Can you even have a successful business without strong leadership skills?
I don’t think it’s possible. Every morning I wake up and I have to make decisions that will impact my business in some way or another. Do I get up or sleep in because I had two hours of insomnia throughout the night? Do I answer my team’s emails or my clients’ emails first? Do I have a difficult conversation right now, or do I wait until I am in a better emotional space? Do I lose my patience when I am tired, or do I breathe through the challenging times? A hundred times a day I am faced with leading myself.
And how about leading our clients? Our clients know what they know. And they also don’t know what they don’t know. Isn’t it our responsibility to educate our clients and inform them when they could be making missteps? Wouldn’t our clients want us to be the calm in the storm when they are feeling frazzled? Shouldn’t we be a few steps ahead of our clients so they don’t have to worry about what’s next? A strong business leader knows how to lead their clients.
If you’re a solopreneur, you only need to worry about yourself. But if you have a team, they depend on you to have strong leadership. They look to you for guidance. Your team needs you to understand them, to have their back, and to embrace their humanness. They want you to challenge them, empower them, and believe in them. But you also have to know when to step back and let them fall, struggle, and figure things out on their own. You need to be a champion for their growth, a cheerleader for their success, and a cushion for them to fall on. It’s all about leadership.
Yesterday, I was sharing a cup of coffee with my spouse. I was recapping my first team meeting and sharing with her my mission, vision, and company values. She smiled and said, “My baby is a badass.” But am I really? Or am I just doing what every smart business owner has to do – lead the business? Without a mission, a vision, and values to guide us, how do we stay on track? How are we reminded of “our why” for being in business when the going gets tough? How do we communicate our goals to the team so we all head in the same direction?
During my OBM certification program and exam, I learned that leadership is EVERYTHING. If you pick one skill to develop this year, it would be that. Be the best leader you can be and the rest will fall into place.
Lori Young is a certified OBM and the founder of Amazing OBM. Her mission is to support transformation in the world. Guided by communication, excellence, relationships, collaboration, and personal growth, her team is committed to managing the day-to-day operational activities so you, the business owner, can focus and work in your genius zone.
What My OBM Certification Taught Me About Business Ownership
February 15, 2019