For the last 15 years, I’ve been on this crazy journey of owning my own business. And one of the questions I get most often since announcing the closure of that business is “What did I learn?”. It seems like every time I answer I give a different response, so I decided to give it some thought and really lay out a few of the major lessons.

I also want to add that I’m absolutely not writing this as someone who knows everything… because I don’t. These are just things I’ve learned along the way. And I’d truly love for someone to take something away from both my mistakes and my successes, so here we go!

10 lessons from a former business owner in Chicago by Corri McFadden.

1. Be Honest and Communicate

This is running a business 101. People know when you’re not being honest, so I can’t stress enough how crucial this is. If you can’t make it into the office, be up front, be clear—even when it’s difficult. Honesty and communication go further, in my opinion than any amount of money, so always keep it real with your team (and customers for that matter).

2. The Client Is Not Always Right…BUT

You’ve probably heard the famous motto that the client is always right. I’m here to say, though, that the client isn’t actually always right, it’s just easier that way. Sometimes there are people you just aren’t going to sway or make realize they’re wrong, so you have to just let it be. Your life will be easier and you’ll be able to move on from the situation faster. As hard it might be to swallow your pride, do it.

3. Always Trust Your Gut, It’s God’s Gift To You

I truly believe gut instincts are a gift. In my experience, it will always steer you in the right direction and once you learn to welcome it, life gets so much easier. Listen to it, trust it and embrace it—I guarantee you won’t regret it.

4. Work Hard To Learn To Work Smarter

When you own your own business, work never stops. It can be the phone ringing at 2 am when your store is flooding or maybe your manager doesn’t show up to open for the day. It never ends, so you have to work every day to not let it consume you. Don’t let the noise guide you, you need to guide it as to not let it take over your life. Look for every opportunity to create smarter work habits so you can maintain some sense of work/life balance.

5. Bigger Is Not Always Better

In a money-driven world, it’s hard not to feel like more isn’t better. It might feel good for a moment, but ultimately, I don’t think this is what makes you or your business a success. One thing I like to tell people whenever this subject comes up is to decide how big they want their business to be. In the beginning, you might have no idea because any steps forward are so exciting. But the further you get, listen to your gut, your team/investors and do what’s best for you, not what outsiders or society says you should do.

Tips from a former business owner in Chicago and lessons she learned along the way.

6. Surround Yourself With Those Not Like Yourself

It’s very easy to gravitate towards others that are just like you. It’s comfortable, so why not? I think it’s healthy to surround yourself with people from all walks of life and perspectives. Hire and work with those that inspire you and that you can learn something from. It’s much more valuable and interesting than more of the same.

7. Always Give An Inch But Don’t Let It Turn Into A Mile

As someone who gave 15 years to running her own business, I can safely tell you that you will get burned at some point. This can make you want to retract and not do anything good for others because they might not give you their best in return. But don’t let this control your decision making because not everyone has ill intent. Not everyone is lying or looking to only take from you. There are amazing people out there, I promise. Be empathetic and always be willing to give that inch, just be aware, cautious and don’t let it turn into a mile.

8. Insurance Should Be Your First Paid Bill Every Month

I can’t stress this enough for obvious reasons. Having insurance and always making sure it’s paid up is something that I was taught from a very young age and I’m so incredibly thankful for that. I’ve had to utilize insurance several times throughout my life, and can’t imagine how things would have been turned upside without it. So the tip is simple here—get business insurance, put it on autopay and never let it lapse.

9. Happiness Truly Is The Key To Life

I know this might sound so corny, but at the end of the day, happiness truly is the key to a life well lived. Things are just more tolerable and life is more enjoyable overall when this is your mindset. Always remind yourself this is what you’re working towards. Goals, needs and wants will evolve over time, but as long as you’re keeping happiness part of the picture I believe you’ll find success both in your business and in life.

10. It’s OK To Close Your Own Chapter

I recently announced the closure of eDrop-Off, the business I started and ran for the last 15 years. It was an amazing chapter, but after the recent flood in the store, it just made sense to close it. It was my decision and what I’ve learned from it so far is that it’s OK to be your own advocate. There’s absolutely no shame in deciding to move on and start something new. And that could mean opening a new business or living life in the slow lane for a bit—whatever feels right to you.

Corri McFadden shares business lessons she learned.

I’m not going to lie, owning a business has been an emotional roller coaster with some high highs and some low lows, but I wouldn’t change the experience of it for anything. I hope that no matter where you’re at in your business venture, you get some value out of these tips and they truly serve you on your journey.

Photos by Hallie Duesenberg