3 Biggest Lessons Learned Owning a Small Business

By Cynthia Mahugh-Dam 

In 1998, I joined SPEC Innovations as the CEO, with the vision to provide quality and innovative engineering services to clients, create a safe and pleasant working environment, and offer superior leadership and guidance. Although our vision remains the same, SPEC Innovations has evolved into something much greater. With new opportunities comes new challenges, and I have learned a lot of lessons along the way. Three of my greatest takeaways in my almost 30 years of running a business would be to work with like minded people, don’t be afraid to hire consultants, and don’t be offended when people leave.

Work with like minded people. Only partner with companies that have the same goals and ethics as your company. This is the most important lesson I have learned. You are who you surround yourself with, and you do not want to team with a company that doesn’t share the same values.

In the past, I had worked with people who cared more about the money than the work they produced. One of SPEC Innovations’ main values is the pride we have in our work, so this was a lesson to search for those that truly believe in our vision as a team-player, rather than just giving the bare minimum.

Don’t be afraid to hire consultants. Repeat after me, “You cannot do everything.” Say that sentence three more times. After trial and error, I learned how important it was to outsource and hire consultants. Find professionals that focus on areas you may have limited experience with, and they can take your business much farther. Lawyers, graphic designers, and accountants can be outsourced and allow you to focus on what you do best. Make sure to do your homework and find the right fit for you and your company.

Don’t be offended when people leave. It’s frustrating when you find and train amazing talent, and they leave. However, this is the human part of business. People have lives and dreams that sometimes don’t align with the company, and that’s out of your control. All you can do is create a company culture that makes employees want to stay.

We have made this a priority by offering competitive salaries, amazing health benefits, 401(K) with employer profit sharing, life insurance, catered lunches, maternity and paternity leave, the option to telework full-time, and much more. In an effort to give our employees the best possible work environment, our 3 year retention rate for 2019-2021 was 94%!

Running a small business is trial and error, and these lessons have helped me grow as an owner and SPEC Innovations grow as a company. These challenges have proven resiliency, and will continue to lead us into the future in this industry. Don’t be discouraged when challenges arise, because the take-aways are invaluable!

About SPEC Innovations: SPEC Innovations is a leading expert in systems engineering, since 1993. We developed Innoslate, the first web-based MBSE tool, to support the entire system or product lifecycle. Sopatra, a digital assistant that verifies your Standard Operating Procedures, ensures optimal reliability throughout the lifecycle. To learn more, visit specinnovations.com.