People often ask me, “How did Bright Planning start?”

Bright Planning, my consultancy, was born in that moment when daydreaming inspiration meets dire necessity. I had wanted to start my own agency for a while, but I was comfortable in my position as a marketing director for a copywriting agency at the time.

Then one morning, out of nowhere, the agency president informed me they were restructuring and I was terminated effective immediately.

I was locked out of my computer, none of the clients or writers in the agency knew what was happening, and I got served one final paycheck.

(I later discovered they were having cash flow issues and therefore had to cut one of their higher salaries…mine).

I had no clients to start my own thing…just a handful of references and a short window.

As a single mother in a town with very limited job prospects, no way to easily move to another city, and a mortgage due, I had a very short runway to either find a new job or start this dream I had held in my mind for over a year. I knew the rough business structure, the pitch, the process of how I could build my business…so I started pounding the pavement and making contacts.

While I picked up little freelance projects (copywriting, web design, anything to put food on the table), I spread the word that I was offering one signature service: a quarterly custom-tailored marketing plan. A few small business owners hired me to write up these “blueprints” as I called them at the time, and from there came a handful of referrals from a job well done and the results they had with their blueprint, and then word of mouth spread.

Within three months, I had enough business to declare an official opening of my consultancy and went head first into building it to what it is today.

Three pieces of advice I would give to anyone thinking of starting a small business:

1. In order to scale successfully, you have to understand your cash flow.

Facebook likes, website visitors, news coverage of your venture don’t directly equal survival. Cash flow equals survival.

From day one, make sure you have your financial system set up or get an accountant or business consultant to do it for you. It will save you so much time, energy, and prevent stress.

2. Speaking of, don’t be a slave to time.

Delegate tasks to contractors, hire employees, train paid interns…whatever you need to do to make sure you keep a work-life balance. When first starting my business, I worked 60-80 hours a week but I always made sure I sat down to dinner with my son every night and fully focused on him.

The best part of having your own business is that you’re not on someone else’s clock, you’re on your own…so use that time wisely.

3. For any type of sales launch, event, or new service roll-out, start planning your marketing campaign 8 weeks in advance.

There’s nothing worse than scrambling at the last minute to get the word out about your business. Take your time and strategically build your marketing, communications, and sales funnel piece by piece. This ensures you make the best decisions that will serve your company’s brand in the long run.

And take notes of what works and what doesn’t, and apply those to your next marketing campaign.