10 Things We’ve Learned in 4 Years of Business
10 THINGS WE’VE LEARNED IN 4 YEARS OF BUSINESS.
Time goes very fast when you start working for yourself. The day could have double the amount of hours and still, the to-do list is generally as long as it was when you first started. We actually look back and laugh at the thoughts of our grand plans before setting up Good as Gold. The networking we’d do, the goals and targets we’d hit. When in actuality the only constant is that there is so much left to learn. As a new business owner, full of enthusiasm you can’t wait to go out and do what you love - to be a ‘real business person’ with all the glamour and coffee mornings that go with it. Unfortunately that is Instagram versus reality. As we finish up our fourth year in business and move into our fifth, we’ve allowed a little time for reflection. This is the first year we genuinely feel we’ve picked up a few nuggets that could help a couple of newbies avoid (and/or manage) some of the hard bits, things that we wish someone told us early on.
FOLLOW YOUR GUT.
‘Your Gut’, that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you just KNOW what’s being asked of you is unreasonable. Starting out, you’re eager to please and outside your comfort zone so it can be hard to know what to do when an unsound request comes your way. Some big clients will take advantage of this (shysters), some small ones too (moochers), others will be totally fine. Deciding whether or not to follow your gut is difficult, having a business partner helps. When we’re both in agreement that something is off, let’s call it a ‘hell-no feeling’, we’re usually right about it.
We use this same instinct when it comes to business decisions too. Balancing our grandiose expectations of where we want to be in business with the reality of what is right for us and our clients. If the risk is worth it, you generally should feel pretty good about it. Listen to yourself, unfortunately, it may take the first one or two shyster/moocher attacks for you to figure this all out, but you will live to fight another day.
DO YOUR RESEARCH.
It’s easy in the early days to think you know it all, particularly if you’ve been working in your respective industry for a long time before heading out on your own. You don’t always. Heading into an initial meeting with a potential client is always made better if you have done your research. If you get caught short not knowing the response to a simple question about their company or the job you’re pitching for, it’s awkward and comes across sloppy. The flip side is that, with a little background, you’ve identified other sales opportunities that can help to upsell your services to the client. Knowing a little more about them means you build a rapport and start a relationship that could go on for years to come.
IT’S OK TO SAY NO.
It’s hard to say no, especially when you’ve scrabbled out a small bit of spare time and your business partner (mostly Lauren) agrees to take on the work… It has taken us a while to figure out that it is okay to turn down a job that is not the right fit. Sometimes, “the synergy” just ain’t there and by that I mean, some people don’t have any problem wasting your time.
‘Sometimes, “the synergy” just ain’t there and by that I mean, some people don’t have any problem wasting your time.’
The beauty of working for yourself is that you get to decide who you work with. The world is full of different kinds of people and many of them are wonderful, kind and respectful, others are a pain in the arse. It is almost guaranteed that if you get frustrated with a client, it will reflect badly on your business and leave a bad taste in their mouth. Save both of yourselves the heartache, they will find someone else and you will sleep soundly at night.
BE NICE TO PEOPLE.
This is definitely not rocket science but you’d be surprised how many people still get away with being total arseholes. We’ve been lucky to work with and meet a lot of very sound people, our amazing designer Emma, sub-contractors, clients, other business owners, the list goes on. Being kind to people has always been important to us, our first purchase was the popular Anthony Burrill poster “work hard and be nice to people” for crying out loud. This gets harder and harder when people don’t pay their invoices, send you unnecessarily scathing emails or ask you to do free work (this happens more often than you’d think) but it is worth sticking to your guns. People remember your behaviour, whether it’s good or bad, and with one good turn deserving of another, we’ve found that kindness is king (as is money, pay your invoices people).
WORK/LIFE BALANCE = KING.
When you love what you do it’s easy to work all the hours under the sun. Work enjoyment is extremely important to us and if our clients are happy, we are delighted. But we work to live. If you spend every night on your phone or at the office where does the creative inspiration come from? Being in touch with the real world means gaining a wealth of inspiration and motivation for your work. Spending time with family and friends is good for you too, don’t get isolated or you will probably burn out.
GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO GROW.
Woah, the pressure we put on ourselves from the very beginning. In year one, we expected to have moved into a bigger office with legions of staff running around. Our mistake was thinking that success = growth. In our industry, servicing clients, we are the product. Without cloning ourselves, it’s difficult to scale. Had we grown too fast, we would have compromised standards, paid less attention to detail and we would have had unhappy clients on our hands. Taking baby steps has helped us figure out who we are as a business, our ethos and how we like to work - all things that have stood to us as we take on much bigger projects now. Looking back, we missed many of the smaller milestones that should have made us proud because we were too focused on the wrong things. Don’t be so hard on yourself, great things take time.
ASK FOR BUSINESS ADVICE.
Working in the B2B sector has meant that we’ve crossed paths with some very cool business people, many of which we’ve had the pleasure of working with. It is important not to underestimate the wealth of knowledge entrepreneurs have, the longer they are successful in business, the more knowledge they have! As business owners, we face many of the same challenges and most of us had to start at the bottom. Our experience is that if you are kind and respectful when asking, the majority of successful business owners are happy to impart their advice to help you out. Don’t get lost just because you’re too stubborn to ask for directions.
THE HARD SELL IS NOT FOR EVERYONE
Charismatic salespeople are great in certain roles. Those people who could buy and sell you back your own gaf using the gift of the gab and a twinkle in their eye, it’s impressive! Working for Good as Gold, it was a little more difficult to adapt to that role though. Cold calling, chasing people down, generating leads out of thin air is about as much craic as it sounds. What has suited us better has been establishing and building a network of great friends, clients and contacts who have become mini brand-ambassadors for us. Completing work both us and the client loves means really positive feedback and a wave of new potential clients through word-of-mouth. The bigger fish have started to bite and now that we have worked our way up naturally, it means we’re ready for them.
IT’S NOT A COMPETITION.
People used to be mad secretive in business, some still are. Maybe we’re just more laid back about it but having rivals in this industry seems a little childish and unnecessary. Some of our best collaborations were with creative agencies last year, who we worked together with to do the best job for the client. Know your strengths and look for opportunities to supplement your weaknesses. You can’t do it all by yourself and why would you want to? There’s plenty of work to go around, chill out.
OFFICE DOGS ARE CUTE...IN THEORY.
Howard, Walter and Noel have been solid members of Good as Gold since the start and we’ve always felt blessed to be allowed to have dogs in the studio. They provide quite a lot of comic relief throughout the day, are good for a cuddle and keep us company if you’re working solo. HOWEVER, let’s not sugar coat it. They come in and out of that dog flap constantly. They stink. The couches now stink. They (Noel in particular) bark a lot, particularly when you’re on the phone to clients. Dogs are great, office dogs should be interviewed for the position before any rash decisions are made.