6 things we learned in our first year as a business
The first year is always the hardest. That’s one thing you’ve definitely heard before; because it’s true. You sacrifice time with family, you let your social life take a back seat and you almost certainly have trouble sleeping when every thought and feeling from the day before is swirling around in your head at 4am. But the point is - it should be this hard because the rewards of building a business are worth the ride.
It’s a never-ending rollercoaster of exhilarating ascents, unexpected turns and spiraling nose dives. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. Every day, we get validation from people who love what we do. In our first 12 months, we met some of the most fascinating people on the planet and we easily learned more than we would have in 10 years.
Here are six lessons we learned in our first 12 months.
1- Don’t try to be the best
Being popular may have been important when you were at school. In business, the opposite is true. When we started, we knew other agencies were over-priced for what they offered. Others were cheap and unprofessional. We wanted to deliver quality, without the high costs associated with it so we positioned ourselves in the middle and focused on delivering real quality at a realistic price.
2- Focus on yourself
People care about their own problems and they want you to come in and solve them. We made the mistake early on of sharing our ideas for what we could do for a company. But giving too much too soon proved detrimental. Then we started going to pitches and focused on ourselves. Our journey and the reasons we do what we do is what got people inspired and fired up about what we had to offer.
3- Put yourself out of a job
When you’ve put your own blood, sweat and tears into something, it’s hard to let others take the reins. You need to work ‘on’ your business, not ‘in’ your business. Investing time into your hiring process can help you expand, as your new employees may have skills and experiences which you do not currently possess. You need to bring in people who are smarter and more competent than you, and let them do their job.
4- Start small
Some people believe that entrepreneurs are risk-takers who are not afraid to take a gamble for the chance of a big return. But in the real world, successful entrepreneurs don't like walking blindfolded into situations they aren’t prepared for. Instead, they take controlled risks that have been well thought out. They test an idea on a small scale, then build on what works well, tweak what shows promise and discard the disasters.
5- Avoid cheap clients
If a potential client asks for huge discounts or expects you to work for free, walk away immediately. The bigger the discount, the more unrealistic the clients’ demands will be. Clients who expect discounts will never be happy with your work because you’ve shown weakness early on. These types of clients are not worth your time and frustration and will most likely be the ones giving you the run around.
6- Listen to your clients
What works now, won't necessarily work next year or five years from now. Don’t let yourself fall into the "this is the way I've always done things" rut. Keep your eyes and ears open for new things and constantly educate yourself. Are there newer or better ways to do things? Do clients needs things we’re not offering? Keep a finger on the pulse of your industry and start listening to your clients.