When you’re trying to grow a business, it’s easy to be deterred or disappointed when you’re focusing on where others are in comparison to yourself. The thing is ‘time’ works differently for everyone. And, if you read our last blog post “ Can we all stop glorifying the six figure business” we speak about this exact thing.
So, to give a little insight as to how we got to where we are today, I thought I’d share 8 of what I consider to be the most important things that enabled us to grow.
Read, read and read some more. Or, if listening is your thing, do that. There are so many books, podcasts and other resources out there with valuable information that share things from money, to branding, to systems, that can give you a mountain of advice. The thing is, choose what works for you and where you want your business to go.
For instance, I read about running a design agency and the structures involved from processes, cash flow, team productivity, you get the gist. And each book or resource that I absorbed, always had something in it to take away. This helps to build your knowledge bank of ways that you can personally structure your own business, or at least navigate a direction.
In addition, I found researching the data from our local council and checking out the areas of growth that have, and are projected to happen, over the next few years. This enabled me to know what kind of industries within our direct area would be experiencing some kind of growth that we could assist in.
On top of that, I wrote a list of all the types of work I wanted to do. The point of starting my own business was to do the things I loved to do. So, I got to work, and by doing that I started with the companies I wanted to work for and worked backward. How many people worked there? How old were they? What type of interests did they have? What reputation did their current brand have? Y’know, standard brand stuff.
2. Money mindset
I knew my value, hell, I had over a decade of agency experience working with a super versatile portfolio. Though, MY brand didn’t have that recognition yet, so I had to prove that. As much as I wanted to hit the ground running with a ‘I want to earn $X’, I started out by doing work and completing projects that would inevitably attract attention. Every few months, I reassessed what I was offering and upped the cost. I strategically tracked my time, invested in a bookkeeper and managed my profit margin so that I wouldn’t be working at cost (another thing I read in that design book).
Full transparency, the price of the lowest logo in 2017, was $400, which at the time a lot of people baulked at. Now, we charge over $1,500 and no one complains. With time, comes good work, and with good work, comes good confidence. Especially as a woman (a topic for another day). Offering a lower cost, doesn’t always attract your key target. I knew this, but it was a building strategy and as time went on, my prices went up, the work got better because we had clients with good budgets, and now? We look at 20k and go, yeh cool. Where in 2017, I would’ve had a heart attack.
Don’t think that people are heavily cost driven, a lot of people, especially the right ones, will choose by the value you can provide.
I was super selective of who I wanted to associate with. I knew my stuff, and I wanted to make sure that those who I aligned with, shared the same viewpoints and mindset towards their way of work. For me, being responsive is key. As is good damn work. So really getting to work, chat and understand certain people helped me to navigate who could be a great business ally (friendship), supplier, or referrer.
Also, these new people become your business friends. And all of us at one stage or another have invested in each other both emotionally and financially.
The collaboration skew comes with that little black book that I am so proud of. I’m a bit ruthless in who I work with and am not afraid to let someone know if it hasn’t worked out. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good; it just means we weren’t the right fit. Because as we all know, not everyone can see eye-to-eye. And if the relationship doesn’t work, then what’s the point?
Another thing? I found publications that I respected to collaborate with and share my content, with a mutual outcome for everyone. Be it me providing value and receiving exposure in return.
4. Expertise and delivery
As mentioned above, I had a lot to offer, and I wasn’t the type to hold that back. The thing to knowing a lot about your industry is that you have a lot of valuable content to share. This helped to build my ‘street cred’. These were in form of speaking events, blogs, podcasts, social posts, lead magnets, emails, etc. All that I worked hard for when ‘collaborating’ and doing my ‘research’. These things didn’t just land in my lap, I proactively went out to find them.
On top of that, I have a very authentic personality. AKA I don’t talk shit, I’m honest, blunt, and love me a good bit of sarcasm. And well, people liked that. I speak to people the way I like to be spoken to, straight up, no crap. I don’t like salesy, I hate the slimy Linkedin ‘slide into ya DM’ types. Not my thing, never will be, don’t work like that. So, I work the same way in how I deliver our messaging. And guess what folks? Who woulda thunk that being yourself would attract your people!? #sarcasm
Another thing? Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Need to pick up the phone and talk to a random? Do it. Need to go to an awks networking event that will have your ideal market there? Do it. Success doesn’t come from sitting on your ass and waiting for it to fall into your lap. The more you do the things that feel ick, the easier can they become. Because think of it like this way, you could be the most amazing person at what you do, but mediocre Joe over there is going to win the client because he made the pitch. Put yourself in the game to win the prize.
Don’t have time for it? Get rid of it. This also comes down to the money mindset thing. I used to spend money I didn’t have yet because I was adamant to work hard to get it back. And guess what? It did. Now I’m talking about things like my bookkeeper, who I’ve almost had from day dot (Aimee from Business Lane for those playing at home). She took the stress of managing the money side of things I DID NOT want to do because #creative, and stopped me from F’ing things up essentially. Trying to figure our BAS on my own? Yeh, no thanks champ.
Now? I have people (sub-contractors) managing the website maintenance, helping us to manage our social community, cleaners, accountants, content creators, and employ my now TEAM OF 4 (5 including me). Even at home, I’ve got cleaners, dog walkers, dog washers, financial advisors, etc. And while some of you are probably thinking, I don’t earn enough to do that yet… guess what, you probably do.
How much is your time worth? For me, a shit tonne. So if I can allocate those other things to people, so that I buy my time back to put back into the business, done. And personally, if having a cleaner saves me 3 hours a week so that I can spend that time with my kids, HERE FOR IT. I just won’t have the other extra crap I spend money on… like Uber Eats… well mmmm… TECHNICALLY that saves time going to get lunch so, maybe something else (lol).
6. Saying no
You probably hear this a lot, and at first, it’s hard, because you get scared of thinking whether that money will come back. But the way I see it, you say no to the things that don’t fit the requirements of what you set out to do.
Like web development for instance, I could do it, I’m trained in some code, but I hate it. So I always refer to one of my people and offer the UI aspect of the site which people are more than happy to do. In doing that, it frees up my time in an area I don’t like, helps to support another business, and provides my client the proper service that they deserve. The more I said no to things that didn’t fit within what I wanted the business to be, the more it showed me what type of work I did want, and I was able to show more of that. Showing more of that, attracted more of THAT type of work. Funny that?
Repeat, repeat, repeat. The thing with a brand is that it’s all about building trust. If you keep changing the message, the look, the vibe, the language then people cant figure out who the brand is. When you stay true to everything you do from customer service, work, communication, identity, value, you establish a strong brand presence.
I like to say it’s a lot like making a new friend, the more you talk to them, the more you get to know them. If that person, kept changing the way they spoke, who they hung around, their personal style, their personality; you wouldn’t be able to grasp what type of person they were and whether you wanted to build a better relationship with them right? So think of a brand like that.
Humans are creatures of habit.
I share personal things and to my discretion. The deeper the conversation, the deeper the connection with your audience. When you can dive beyond the surface of generic messaging and focus on real-life human conversations and relatability, you establish something new – an emotional connection. People remember things that make them feel.
Now this can work 2 ways, if you start to discuss things that people disagree with, they may decide you’re not who they want to associate with. AND GUESS WHAT? That is a good thing, because the more you build reputable connections, the better the community and relationships of likeminded people will be.
Being vulnerable is scary, but the reward of the new connections you can build with complete strangers is somethin’ else. In fact, we’ve had so many referrals from people who have NEVER worked with us but love what we share on our channels, and that’s a win for me.
In the end, there is no roadmap to the right way to grow. And everyone’s version of ‘growth’ is different. While we’re now a team of 5, I personally don’t want to get much bigger than that.
Culture is a huge focus for me, and I want to make sure we keep that tight knit team and choose the type of work we want to work on, as opposed to turning into a churn and burn agency. Been there, done that, not my idea of fun.
So the key to everything is consistency, having a good mindset, and making good investments. Invest in things that will help you grow, outsourcing is part of that. If you’re time-poor, get rid of the things you don’t want to do. Assess your income, adjust your pricing to reflect your value. And lastly, trust the process and don’t get distracted by where others are in their journey.
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