Starting a business is easy, staying in business is difficult. Hard work and personal sacrifice are no substitute for having a purpose in what you do. Your purpose has to be the gas. You need the right mix of passion and confidence and, obviously, that has to be built around providing something that the market wants or needs. So here's 10 key things that we think helped us make it to 20.
The Customer is Always Almost Right
As a motto, the customer is always right originated at a 20th century department store. It has little bearing on an early 21st century digital communication shop, other than it hints at our respect for clients and their projects. We've learned that in the ambiguous world of advertising and design, nobody is wholly right. Instead everybody is a little right. It's our job to make it all as right as possible, under harsh budget and time constraints, in a way that makes the customer feel they are right. Even though we may have been righter.
Build Strong Teams
Strong teams take time to build but they accomplish more. When they work in harmony, teams are very effective. Weak teams on the other hand are absolutely counter productive. If you have a weak team, you should cull it. Nothing will ruin your business faster than a weak team. Or weak coffee.
Create Simple Systems
Admittedly, we have sucked at this. That said, having worked within a myriad of complex systems for years, we can say simple systems are something extremely worthwhile to pursue and the goal of simplicity should be put at the start of any undertaking.
Relationships make things happen. They help bring in work. They help get work done. They are the glue. Most business relationships are complex and change over time. They take work to maintain. Tending to good relationships is worth it.
Identify & Avoid Distractions
Distractions come in many forms. They can range from a yappy team member to a seductive social media site, to a poorly organized office. They pull your energy and your focus and contribute to lost time, just like an injury or the appearance of a long lost relative. It's important to learn how to weed them out or manage them.
Evolve or Die
Did you know seals are dogs that grew flippers to live? That's probably evolution! If seals didn't grow flippers, they'd just be drowned dogs. Drowning is not desirable, in real life or in business. Learning to change with your environment is critical to business success. It's not enough to just see the wave coming, you have understand how to survive the wave. (Like a seal. Not a dog.)
Eat & Sleep in Moderation
Remember those lazy weekends where you could plan to sleep in? Yeah, well we don’t because we’ve been running a creative business for twenty fricking years! By all accounts sleeping is important, but do you really need eight hours? From experience we can say, no. No you don’t. So you can cut that back. You’ll adjust and after a while you’ll hardly notice what a dead husk of a person you are. The same goes for food. Eating a lot of it is bad for your body plus it takes a lot of time. Eat less, sleep less, get more done. Simple as that.
Trust Your Gut
Most experienced business people have intuition, or they wouldn't be experienced business people — they’d be hobos. Whatever intuition is, you need it and you need to respect it when it starts to give you 'the feelings'. Ignoring those feelings is often at your determent. Visceral instinct doesn't make for a successful business but it sure helps manage one.
Give Credit Where It's Due
Our business, like most businesses, is time starved. There never seems to be enough time to deal with the next thing. One thing that we try and do is say thank you or point out when somebody has done a good job. Saying thank you is easy to do and it’s helpful. Acknowledging good work helps identify what ‘good work’ is and sets up a framework so it can happen again.
Be Strong Like Water
You need to be strong to run a business. Not particularly burly strong — but you need strength — more like water. Water is relentless. It wears down rocks. It makes waves that can take out an entire coastline. That’s the kind of strength you need in business. You need fluid strength. Business is not a sprint as much as a marathon. You need to harness and limit your energy so you can stay sharp and keep going.