Six things I have learnt in six years of having my own business

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LinkedIn has kindly informed me that we have been going for six years now. When you step out of the blanket of security of working for someone else, nothing quite prepares you for the ups and downs and the rapid learning curve ahead of you. All of which is invigorating but also never lets up. In no particular order, here are six observations:

The first year is harder than you could imagine

The first year is almost staggering around in disbelief you’ve done it. After walking out from a Mumbrella conference and listening to a group who had started their own business, you go back to your agency and make the move. However, now there is no safety net below you. And so much to learn. Setting up systems. Pulling together a team however, most importantly finding good clients. Never underestimate how hard that is. 

Be thankful for every project you get

The work is the lifeblood of your business. It showcases your business. It lets people provide a better solution to a marketing problem. It pays the bills. So, every time a new project comes in via email, phone or walking the corridors of a client’s business, always be thankful. And give it everything: from the mandatory piece of communication to the TV commercial, because to the person who briefed you they are the most important tasks they are focusing upon.

Be grateful to those that help you

When you start you will always be surprised by those that help and those that you thought would help. Even though you may have had good relationships with a lot of clients, colleagues, people in the industry, you will be constantly surprised (and forever thankful) to those that pick you. And being picked may not be today, next month, it could take four years, but when that time comes, you’ll be glad you stayed in contact, as well as thankful for the work.

Hire people better than you

As good as you may be, there are always people better than you. If you’re stretching yourself too thin, spending too long doing something that is not your core skill, then find the best person, and hire them. Then let them do what they do best. Don’t micro manage them; let them express themselves. Are we a great place to work? I don’t know, however only one person has left in six years when they were offered double their salary.

Say no more often

One of the tough things about advertising is monetising what we do and ensuring we ascribe value to it. Giving away ideas for free only devalues what we do. So, say no to pitches. Saying that everyone is creative devalues what we do. Say no to nonsensical feedback. Not providing the best service devalues what we do. So, push that extramile to get to yes. When you find yourself being asked to do more than is reasonable or no value is being ascribed to what you do, stand your ground. We let go of a client that was 10% of our revenue – they weren’t worth it. 

Be present

As much as you plan for the future, you can’t go back to the past, so the present is all we have. So be present. Be generous with your time. Hospitable to those you meet. Forgiving to those who are late. Thankful to your clients and your team. And accommodating to those that need help. Why? Because one day who knows what you may need. 

Would I do it again? Without a doubt. So a massive thank you to everyone who has ever helped us over these last 2,000 or so days.