When my now business partner convinced me to quit my job with a steady salary to begin our own business, I was excited, ambitious…..and didn’t know what I didn’t know.
It’s been almost four years, we’re up to about 20 employees, and are lucky to count a good number of high profile startups, venture capitalists, and Fortune 500 companies as clients.
We’ve learned some things: a lot of things. There’s no manual for starting, growing and running a business. And even if one existed, I’m certain I would have ignored it.
The only lessons I learn well are the ones I learn the hard way. Here are 10 of the best lessons we’ve learned so far:
You will scrutinize your first employee almost as much as you did your spouse. It's a big step -- someone will now be relying on you for a salary. That person must be able to share the load, contribute thoughtful ideas, and live up to your standards. Don't ever lose sight of this.
When you are a small and growing business, every single person matters, and you cannot afford to have dead weight. If you do, take Jack Welch's advise and find out who it is and get a replacement immediately so you can stay focused on your core business.
You probably got into business because you like your product or service, not because you're good at accounting, payroll, benefits or building out new space.
Know your skills, use them to their fullest, and find other experts to help you with the rest. Don't let the administrative details distract you from your core service.
Why did you get into business in the first place? You probably have a unique point of view on how to do your particular business. Use that to your advantage.
No one will hire you because you are the 10th PR firm in town. They will hire you because you specialize in a technique or approach situations in a unique way.
Once you've established your brand, don't rest easy. You are only as good as each customer thinks you are. Treat every client or campaign is it it were your only source of income.
You will never grow the business if you are the only one who can get things done or to whom customers come for advice. Empower your employees.
Get used to the idea that no employee will ever work as hard as you do, and don't resent them for it. You own the business and at the end of the day, the buck stops with you. However, spend the time to mentor your staff. Give them the opportunity to grow and take charge.
The first time you teach them how to do it, it will definitely take longer than if you did it yourself, but by the third time, perhaps you won't be needed.
Small businesses, like startups, can innovate more quickly than large enterprise organisations, so use that to your advantage. Stay aware of industry trends, learn new best practices, and incorporate them into your offerings as fast as possible.
My business partner would always say this to me when we were overwhelmed with new business opportunities. She's right. At InkHouse, we call those good problems. Find a way to take advantage of a big pipeline.
This is what we say when we're looking at an opportunity we're not sure we can get. If you don't go for it, you won't win in.
So prepare the best proposal you can, walk into the meeting and act like you own the room, don't fuss with your clothes, and deliver that pitch like you've done it 100 times.
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