If you have no corporate or business background, it’s easy to feel like you’re missing out on some valuable experience. I get it! I’ve been a nurse for 10 years, and business stuff was definitely not part of my skillset when I decided to start blogging.
Does this mean we have no entrepreneurial skills at all?
No, it’s quite the opposite my friend! Whatever your background, you can translate some of your experience into valuable business insights.
When I started reflecting on my experience as a nurse and how I could apply it to my business, I realized that I’ve actually learned some important business lessons along the way.
Business is not all about advertising, or being featured in Forbes, or doing important stuff while wearing a suit and drinking a latte. A huge part of being an entrepreneur is about connecting with people, taking risks, getting out of our comfort zones, learning from failure and building our self-confidence.
what being a nurse taught me about business
At first glance, there’s seemingly very little common ground between nursing and entrepreneurship. It’s when I dug a little deeper that I understood how we can take what we’ve learned through just about every life experience or career path and use it to become a better entrepreneur.
1. use your customer’s language
I learned this lesson pretty early on – use words that your customer understands! They hammered this into our skulls in college, but nothing beats the actual experience of talking about “lower extremity edema” and receiving that confused, puzzled look. Worse, your customer is often embarrassed to tell you they don’t know what you’re talking about!
By switching this wording to “swelling in your legs”, it paints a much clearer picture for the customer. They can answer the question accurately without having to ask for clarification, and the conversation flows more smoothly.
In business, it can be tempting to use industry jargon and acronyms with the expectation that our audience will understand. Not only is this far from the truth, but it can also result in lost customers and opportunities. The online business world is packed with big words that, in reality, mean nothing to your audience.
Move the needle? Low-hanging fruit? Incentivize? Your readers will hit the back button on their browser faster than you can say “leverage”.
Instead, when you use a simple, conversational tone with your target audience, they’ll easily relate to you. Use their words. For example, mothers often refer to themselves and each other as “moms” or “mommies”. Chances are, this audience would relate better to something like “Weekly Planner for Busy Moms” rather than “Weekly Planner for Busy Mothers”.
2. confidence comes from doing it
As I learned how to do stuff as a nurse, I messed up. Here’s an embarrassing tidbit: for the first year or two of my career, I tried to dodge every opportunity to draw blood. Why? Because, well, I lacked confidence and I was afraid to hurt someone. Crazy, right?
After a couple of years, I was thrown into a role that gave me no choice – I just had to do it. I had to draw blood. I had to learn how to manage and motivate a team. I had to learn to voice my concerns and stand by what I thought was right.
Fast forward another few years, and I’d say I’m actually quite confident in my role as a nurse, and I love it. It didn’t happen overnight, but the mindset shift I had to go through in order to shed my fear and learn to be confident despite the self-doubt has been extremely valuable.
My advice to you: whatever you’re about to do, just do it. That’s how you learn and grow your confidence, and there’s really no way around this!
You’re going to mess up, and it’s ok. You might embarrass yourself during your first live video. You might send out an email with “dhsjasahk” as a subject line. Maybe your first launch won’t go smoothly at all and you’ll have to figure out a plan B.
This is all ok.
Give yourself permission to make mistakes and to learn from them, because nothing will hold you back like the fear of failure.
3. you don’t have to know everything
For a long time, I had this crazy idea that my clients expected me to know everything. I would get really stressed out about it. I mean, what would they think of a nurse who doesn’t know every single medication in the world or have all the answers regarding a certain rare medical condition?
You’ll always have customers asking you questions that fall outside your field of expertise or your core knowledge base. Over time, I found that the best way to deal with this is by simply being honest about it.
As it turns out, being honest when you don’t know something actually increases your clients’ trust in you! I know it sounds crazy if you have perfectionist tendencies like me, but hear me out.
When you admit that you don’t know the answer to a difficult question, your customers will usually appreciate that you’re not feeding them an answer just for the sake of appearing knowledgeable, and they’ll see you as more trustworthy.
Be honest and say “I don’t know, but I can find out for you.” or “I don’t know, but let’s find out together!”
While it’s important to be knowledgeable and confident, you can’t possibly know everything, and no one expects you to, so take that load off of yourself.
4. building relationships is essential
A surprisingly central part of my job as a home care nurse is to build relationships with the people I serve. By building these relationships, they are more likely to trust me, follow my advice and get results.
As a business owner, you also need to create relationships with your clients. This is how they come to know you, like you and trust you.
When done well, this know-like-trust factor creates powerful relationships.
Establish yourself as a resource in your chosen niche. Provide your audience with relevant and valuable content. Engage with them through email and social media. Answer their questions.
It’s how you build a community of loyal fans that will come to trust you enough to follow your advice and happily invest in your products once they start seeing the amazing results they’re getting!
5. consistency leads to better outcomes
My patients often express their frustration and dissatisfaction when they’ve had a different visiting nurse every time.
“There’s no consistency! I feel all over the place and everyone does things differently so I’m not sure who I should listen to,” is what I hear the most.
This is very revealing of the importance of consistency when trying to achieve a certain goal or outcome. After all, consistency feels safe – we know what to expect when things are consistent.
Consistency allows us to create habits and focus on getting results rather than having to reorient ourselves every time we try to pick up from where we left off.
As you start building your audience, you’ll notice that they crave consistency. The more consistent you are with your brand, your messaging and your content creation, the more your audience will trust you and achieve the results they want.
Taking consistent action will lead to better outcomes for you and your customers. Just like you can’t get good results from doing physical therapy exercises once a week, you can’t achieve your goals if you’re not showing up consistently for your business!
6. task management skills will save your sanity
We all know about time management, but we usually forget that time management is largely about task management.
When I worked in a hospital setting, I’d often have to ask myself: “Is this really a good use of my time?”
If it could be done by an LPN or nursing assistant, chances are the answer to the above question was “no”. At first, I tried to do everything myself and ended up overwhelmed, staying well beyond the end of my shift to finish my charting and other RN-specific tasks.
I’d also feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things I had to do each day, often all at once. The only way to stay sane is to make a list of your most important tasks, cross them out when they’re done and work on the less urgent tasks when you have time.
This removes the stress of working on a certain task while worrying about other more pressing tasks you still need to tackle. My go-to prioritization method was simply asking myself, “Am I putting anyone in danger if I do this task later?”
Similarly, in your business you’ll likely want to prioritize tasks that generate revenue. If you ask yourself, “Will this help me generate revenue?”, then you’ll find it much easier to figure out what you should be working on.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your business, look at what you’re doing every day and try to:
- Automate what can be automated
- Delegate tasks that don’t require your unique skillset to a virtual assistant of freelancer, if you can afford it
- Prioritize the most important tasks
- Batch your tasks to save time
Batching simply refers to doing all similar tasks at once to reduce the time wasted when switching tasks, and it can be an incredible time-saving tool.
For example, when I work I usually make all my phone calls at once. I find a parking spot, make myself comfortable in my car, get my notetaking apps ready and get all my phone calls to hospitals, labs and doctors’ offices done.
You can batch your content creation, your social media plan, your email sequences, your image creation… and once you get into the flow, you can get a lot more done in the same amount of time!
7. there’s always more to learn
Every time I renew my RN license, I have to prove that I’ve spent some time keeping my knowledge up to date. Why is this important enough to be an actual requirement by the state? Quite simply, because no one wants to be treated by a nurse who hasn’t learned anything new since the 1990’s!
For most of us, being a business owner comes with a steep learning curve. At the beginning, we spend most of our time researching and learning. Eventually, we start creating content, offering our services and developing new products.
Even once we’re pretty comfortable with the processes involved in running a business, it’s crucial that we keep learning new things. This can mean reading blogs, listening to podcasts, subscribing to online business magazines, taking a new course, hiring a coach, or anything else that allows us to expand our skills and knowledge.
Think about it: your competitors are definitely keeping up with new trends, new tools and new technologies, and they’re definitely spending time bettering their social media, advertising and content creation skills.
You can even set yourself apart from the competition by adding new things to your skillset. If you’re a graphic designer and you take a course on web design, you’ll instantly increase the value of your services!
so, what’s your secret sauce?
We all have unique backgrounds, and it’s actually a wonderful thing! Your past experiences, your lifelong career, the odd jobs you had as a teenager or college student, they all bring a different perspective to your business.
This different perspective is what makes you unique in the business world. You’ll approach problems differently. You’ll use different metaphors to explain things. You’ll understand things in ways that no one else does.
Or, like me, your experience will teach you invaluable lessons that you can apply to your business, making you strong and uniquely suited to overcome the challenges you’ll inevitably face along the way.