What 10 years in business has taught me

This month I’m celebrating 10 years in business (www.GandHPrinting.com).
It was my initiative because I had the know-how, but the truth is that it happened out of desperation. I found myself in an intersection where I had to choose between moving to a cheaper city—where the family could survive with one income—or taking my chances by opening my own business. When I decided for the later option, I was in charge of the large-format digital printing department of a local photo lab, and had recently given birth to my second child.
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I remember feeling like Neo (the main character from the film The Matrix) when he was unplugged and able to see reality outside the matrix. It was very scary. I had to stop breast-feeding because my milk dried from the stress.
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I needed $30,000 to start the business and no one was willing to lend us money because of our lack of experience and credentials. But we were able to cash out from refinancing our house.
We started small and were conservative about expanding. That’s what saved us from the financial crisis in 2008.
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Owning a business taught me valuable skills and opportunities for personal growth, but I have to admit that it’s not for everybody. To me, owning a business requires:
1. Necessity—either financial or to prove yourself—so failing is not an option.
2. Creativity to overcome obstacles and solve problems. Nothing is out of the question.
3. Being at peace with uncertainty. I used faith and endless working hours on this one.
4. Focus on giving value instead of pleasing your customers.
5. Become an expert in taxes and money management.
6. Understand that you are the image of the business, but the business doesn’t own you. You’re entitled to make any necessary changes to improve your lifestyle.
7. Don’t take your customers’ feedback personally.
8. Never overpromise (which is related to number 4)
9. Avoid surprises. Customers are happy when they receive what they expect.
10. Act with integrity—do what you say and say what you do.
11. Take responsibility for everything that happens in the business. Never give excuses. Even if the UPS driver crashes the truck with your goods in it—and you can’t meet your deadline because of that—you still take responsibility and offer a compensation to your customer.

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