This coming May, YO&O has been in business for 3 years and we often wonder where that time went. Stace joined me (Tara) working as a freelancer 5 months after that, then secured a part time gig by the following April, increasing hours fortnightly over that time.
We’re going well, really well actually and I wanted to share a few things with you that I feel helped get us where we needed to be.
1. Nailing our direction
Now this goes without saying, we’d be a little hypocritical if we didn’t practice what we preached. So, first and foremost – we nailed the brand direction:
- Who we are?
- What differentiates us?
- Where we want to be
- How we want to be seen
- How we are going to get there?
I did the research – the business plan, the SWOT analysis, our gap in the market. But most importantly, I put down where I wanted YO&O to be in 10 years’ time, and as each year goes by, we etch closer and closer to that goal.
If you want to know more about a brand strategy, you should read ‘Why you need a brand strategy‘ by Anita Siek from Wordfetti.
2. Not rushing
Now, the whole planning the direction thing? That wasn’t a 1-hour session we banged out at the pub on a coaster. This was me internalising years of goals. Ask any of my old colleagues, they knew I was going to break away some day, I was just waiting for the perfect time (I just happened to nail that too, redundancy with a merger and all). Y’know, manifestation and shiz.
We knew where we were headed and how we wanted to get there so certain decisions along the way were a no-brainer. That doesn’t mean every decision was right, we’d be lying if we say we didn’t botch some things up, but that IS business ownership. Try fail, try again.
We didn’t rush into hiring because we wanted to make sure we were doing things right. Hiring with purpose and making sure that everyone who worked alongside us were aligned with our brand and its values. Hence why I hired Stace as a permanent staff member. Now that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone, all I know is that I remember being an employee and what I wanted. That thing? Security. In my opinion, giving my staff security, means they feel part of the whole brand picture, therefore, they’re more invested in it.
The point is, you really need to have a clear direction, because once you do, everything will just fall into place. If you know where you’re heading, you’ll know what is needed, who you’re targeting and how you need to get there. That will make everything else just work.
3. Being consistent
See a trend yet? Knowing where we wanted to go and how we wanted to get there helped us to develop a consistent strategy. We knew what we wanted to say, who we wanted to attract and how we were going to do it. The rest just worked.
Being consistent in literally everything, not just identity and social media. It was processes, customer service, pricing, conversations, tone of voice. These things helped us to establish trust with our audience and to showcase our authenticity as people. One of the biggest things about YO&O are our relationships. We value them immensely, yet we are very selective of who we work with and who we approach as we stand strongly by our values.
We don’t just write them down to say we have them; we live and breathe them.
4. Staying authentic
What you see is what you get with us. That will stand for anyone who joins the YO&O team. We’re raw, vulnerable and we show you the complete creative idiocy that runs through our veins. You know that brand personality, well we think ours is loud and clear. In fact we have it cemented in our guidelines ‘We’re Reese Witherspoon with a kick of Lily Allen’.
We’ve had our fair share of clients over the years, and the best ones? The ones who are likeminded and just get us. This helps to establish trust and a relationship that is almost unbreakable. We don’t like dictating clients, we want clients who come along for the ride, work together with us to build something great and to have fun doing it.
By executing this message over and over, we’ve had people contact us after 18 months of following us on socials who feel like they know us personally – music to our ears. Be yourself, always.
5. Processes and systems
One of the biggest things I did at the start was set up sound working systems and clear processes. In fact, we’ve documented them, so anyone who works in our team has a guide on how we do things from the get-go. We’re always improving our processes based on client feedback, we want to make things easy.
Did you know that “Brands that simplify consumer decision making are 115% more likely to be recommended?” That’s what Kit Yarrow states in “Decoding the new consumer mind”.
We know that when people come to us that most of the time, they aren’t familiar with the processes, so why spit out industry jargon and confuse them with crap that is just going to overwhelm them? It doesn’t make you sound smarter, just like a wanker. Pull it back, keep it simple and make the process seamless and easy. That was my mentality and each time it gets better and better.
This way of thinking is embedded throughout everything we do. Nailing these has really helped us to gain solid traction not only with our clients but internally. It just works.
6. Time tracking
Honestly, if you’re not tracking your time in your business, regardless of your industry, do it. This has been a complete game changer. In fact, I remember my old studio manager being on our cases to track time and being all ‘meh’ about it as a creative. As I business owner, I now say to them – I’M SORRY! (lol). Tracking your time states in plain sight what you’re spending the most time on. Hell, it took me over an hour to draft an email the other day, that helps me to factor in appropriate admin time in projects so that we aren’t losing out. It’s all good and well to charge an amount for the physical work you do, but what about all the management that goes alongside it. This is for any industry too, not just service based.
7. Bookkeeping and accountant
Having an ‘A grade’ financial team on your side will be a lifesaver in the long run. So many business owners claim that they can’t afford it. Though we were in the same predicament when we started. It’s a bit like this, scare yourself into knowing you have something coming up and you’ll pull out the hard yards to make sure you get that income in. Most of the time the expense isn’t that much over the course of a month. Put it this way, I was spending WAY too much time in my Xero backend (thanks to my time tracker) instead of doing what I needed to do to bring in the cash money. Once I changed this, so did my income. I also moved away from doing things I didn’t like (numbers… bleh) to the things I loved!
Also, they made sure nothing F’d up. Mate, I’m a creative, not a money person. Nothing overwhelmed me more! Removing that helped free up that creative space I needed for my clients. Plus, everything is done how it should be and they keep me in the know of everything related to the ATO and what I should and shouldn’t be doing. Better doing it right from the start then botching it up halfway and needing someone to come save you (with the clean-up fee).
8. Networking and engaging
Do you know how many people hate doing this? I get it, it’s scary stepping outside of your comfort zone, but uhh starting a business isn’t meant to be easy! Honestly, some of the best connections I have today, have been established through networking events and engaging on social media. My day to day collab circle, all online, most interstate.
The thing with this is, you need to do the work. You can’t expect people to just find your business or look you up. Just like social media, you need to actively put yourself out there to be seen and heard. Show people who you are as a person and what you represent for your brand. If you can’t do it, get someone else to! Absolutely crucial in the business growth phase. It’s scary at first but man does it pay off. And I’m talking about networking in places that you know will benefit your brand. Groups that align to your direction and big picture thinking.
At the end of the day, you don’t know who knows who and a lot of the time it’s about who you know, not what you know.
So, there they are, my top 8 things. If you’re starting out, things can seem a little daunting, but don’t worry eventually you will find your way. I think the biggest thing is people trying to grow too quickly or want things too fast. Enjoy the process and where you are in that moment and focus on using your current position to its best advantage, then when you feel yourself owning it, level up.
Regardless of where you are or how many years in, sometimes you just need a hard reset, go back to the drawing board and get it right. Ignore the ‘this dude made 6 figures in his first month’ bullshit and focus on your own direction, when you know where you’re heading, everything else flows.
If you have any questions or want to know more, click here and get in touch. Or check out the services page to see what’s on offer. Alternatively, head over and follow us on Instagram and see what’s happening with us daily!