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Three M's that I Must Master to Run a Small Business

When I first started Halo, I had about as much idea of running a business as a goldfish has about running a marathon. But I’m nothing if not curious and eager to learn, so I jumped into the task with my usual gusto.


I knew that running a jewellery business wouldn’t involve just making jewellery, but the books I’d read hadn't prepared me for the reality of it, nor for how much fun it would be. As time went by, I realised that there were a thousand things that I could do, but needed to pick and choose what I spent my energy on. In the first year I wasted a fair bit of time on things that didn’t really benefit the business. So I slowly started figuring out the things that I absolutely had to do. These were summed up beautifully in a podcast that I listened to about the three M’s that any small business owner must master to make it thrive. This post is my take on the three M’s.


NOWHERE TO HIDE: MAKING IN ACTION

Making. This is the most obvious thing that has to be mastered. To start a business in anything, and be able to look people in the eye, you need to produce a decent product. And especially because I’m a small business, I have nowhere to hide. Every mistake is mine and reflects on me. It reflects on my skill. It reflects on my attention to detail. It reflects on my processes. And while there is no finish line in terms of learning how to make jewellery, there is definitely a starting line, below which you can’t even consider turning it into a business.


And I know I’ve said ‘making’, because that’s what I do. But this principle applies to service based businesses too. Their product is their service, be it a training course, a haircut, a blog or anything else – just because you can’t hold it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. In essence, you need to be good at what your business is about.


Marketing. This is the second big M, and one I think will take years for me to master. I could have the best product or service in the world, but if nobody knows about it and remembers it, my business will fail. So anyone who runs a small business needs to master marketing. I think I can say with utter confidence that a mediocre product which is marketed well will do better than a wonderful product marketed poorly. That’s how important marketing is.


Marketing is all about storytelling. Why? Because in an age where consumers are bombarded with information about the latest products dozens of times a day, it will be the stories that they remember. It's stories that make us feel something. Maya Angelou said "people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget the way you made them feel". She couldn't have been more right.


Do you remember all the Kings and Queens of England in chronological order? No? Neither do I. Those are facts. But I'll bet you remember the what Henry VIII did to Anne Boleyn. That's a story. It makes us feel something; it evokes an emotion; it makes us take sides. They say that people are 22 times more likely to remember a story than facts.


So for Halo, I need to be able to tell my story well. Having always been a minuscule part of a large organisation's story that wasn't mine to tell in the first place, I'd never had to tell the story of my own business. It's all still new to me, and coming from a world of numbers, where things are quite black and white, storytelling, with all its shades of many colours is an art form that I'm a novice at. But what this means is that I'm learning something totally new. I get to do something I've never done - what fun!


Myself. I saved what I think is the trickiest M for last. When I say ‘Myself’ I’m actually talking about my mindset. Our minds are an absolute minefield of positive and negative thoughts, and the results we achieve are related to those thoughts.


I know what you’re thinking – that I’m heading into the land of ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’ Not at all. I might dream of becoming the next Dalai Lama but that’s not going to happen, and I know that. So hear me out.


I’d often heard about how our thoughts influence outcomes, but never truly believed it, because I’d never connected all the dots between our thoughts and the results of our actions. Then one day, when I was listening to a talk by a neural psychologist, I stumbled upon what she referred to as the STEBDAR model. I’m sure there are a zillion variations of it out there, but here’s what the STEBDAR model says:


Situations are factual, and mostly neutral. But our

Thoughts about a situation create our

Emotions. Emotions when repeated over and over again become our

Beliefs. Our beliefs influence our

Decisions. Our decisions determine our

Actions. Our actions give us our

Results.


Here’s an example that's relevant to what we're all living through right now. Look at the table below,. The Situation is a factual statement, and exactly the same in both the columns. Now read down the pink column to the end, and then read down the green column to see the STEBDAR model in action.

Situation

Inflation is higher than it has been in a long time, and basic necessities are costing more

Inflation is higher than it has been in a long time, and basic necessities are costing more

Thoughts

I'm sure most people are going to cut down on discretionary spend

Well Christmas is coming anyway, so people will be doing something, even if it's not as much as last year. And maybe those who spent more in the past will now start looking at my products as a less expensive option.

Emotions

Oh no! Nobody is going to be buying jewellery this Christmas

What an interesting thought! I might even get some new eyes on my products.

Beliefs

It's going to be a terrible year for the business

I must just do all the right things for the business and things should be okay. It may not be a great year but I can make the best of it.

Decisions

I''m not going to bother to release my new range. It's a lot of effort for nothing. There's no point in putting too much effort into the business this year.

I'm definitely going to get my new range into as many good gift guides as possible.

Actions

I stop working on my new range, and don't put much effort into marketing my current products either

I launch my new range and contact some bloggers and magazines to get featured in their gift guides.

Result

I get virtually no Christmas orders

My products are in gift guides,, and I start getting some orders too. Most importantly, I get some data on what works and what doesn't, so I know what needs to change for the future.

Can you see how the exact same situation might lead to different results based purely on what's going on in my head? I rest my case.


All three Ms play an important role in every business. But personally I think the last one is the one we really need to master. For a start, it’s the only one that nobody can outsource. Our minds are entirely our own. So much depends on the words we use when we are talking to ourselves, and about ourselves.


More and more often I'm introducing myself as a jewellery designer without making any reference to what I did in the past. That tiny difference is a huge leap for me. It means I'm slowly but surely letting go of a part of my identity that I had held for three decades. But I have very many such leaps to take before I achieve the mindset I’m striving for.


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