18 Nov Celebrating One Year In Business
Today marks our anniversary of one year in business as Example Marketing and Web Design, so please excuse this rather self-indulgent post, but I wanted to mark the occasion.
When I first started the business, I figured I’d give it six months to see how things went. I had confidence, but I was taking a leap into the unknown. I’m really pleased (and somewhat relieved!) to report that it’s been a great first year. The business has gone from one full-timer to two, we’ve enjoyed working with over 40 businesses and we’ve learnt an awful lot along the way. Some of which I thought I’d share here. So, here are the top 10 things I’ve learnt in my first year of business…
1) Running a business is hard
I didn’t think it would be easy, but there are so many things you take for granted when working for someone else that you suddenly have to do for yourself. And they can take up a lot of time. Raising invoices, for example, and fixing the printer.
2) There’s never enough time to market your own business
Our business isn’t a shining example of what we do. And by that I mean that we’ve not done half the marketing of our own business that we planned to do this year. Take this blog, for example. I had great plans to write regularly and I’ve failed miserably. We’ve been too busy marketing other peoples’ businesses (our day job). On the plus side, that’s given us a really good appreciation of why other businesses need someone like us to take care of that side of things for them! When you have a day job to do, it can be hard to find the time and energy to market your own business, but it is vital if you want to grow.
3) Competitors can be great allies
There are lots of other businesses in Norfolk who offer similar services to us. I knew that when I started and just figured we’d survive because I believe we’re good at what we do. What I didn’t expect was the great connections we’d make with those ‘competitors’. It’s actually proven invaluable to know other people who do what we do so that we can pass work their way when we’re too busy, and vice versa.
4) Pricing a project can be tricky
Pricing is the thing we’ve found most difficult to get right, and always to our detriment. We’re comfortable with our hourly rate but often need to price by project as clients need to know the total cost of a job before they can go ahead. Even with a clear proposal signed off before work starts, there’s a terrible things we’ll call ‘scope creep’ where things gradually get added, or minds get changed, and a project grows. Sometimes we can charge for that extra time, sometimes we just have to grit our teeth and get on with it. The last year has taught us a lot of valuable lessons on this front and we’re getting there now.
5) The client is not always right
Controversial, perhaps, but true. Clients sometimes come to us with a very clear idea of a logo, for example, that they’d like for their business. And it should be green and yellow and red with a bit of pink and it should have a unicorn and a tree and this diamond shape from the old logo and…. It shouldn’t. But how to tackle this? If we can’t talk someone round from their original idea with rational persuasion, we tend to create something to fit their design brief, and then something else which actually fits their business. And 9 times out of 10, they go for the latter. So the client isn’t always right in the first instance, but we work with them until everyone’s happy. And that’s why people pay us to do what we do!
6) Getting projects finished is easy, getting them signed off isn’t
That old adage of leading a horse to water but not being able to make it drink comes in to play here. We can deliver everything a client has asked for, but when there is a committee of people at the other end who need to sign something off, it can be really hard to push a project over the line. Sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, things drag on. And on. The place where we feel that most is our cash flow. We’re a small business. If we’ve spent a lot of time one month working on a large project and we can’t quite get the right person to sign it off, we have to wait to get paid. We’ve put measures in place to protect ourselves against this, but getting projects signed off (as opposed to finished) will always be a big challenge in our line of work.
7) Norfolk has loads of great business people doing great things
I’ve been astounded by the number of different businesses happening right under our noses here in Norfolk. We have met so many inspiring people in the past year who are out there doing great things. From furniture makers to reflexologists, financial advisers to jam makers, they’re an industrious lot! And we’re proud that well over 90% of our customers are here in Norfolk. If you’re a local business and you’re not already a member, get involved in www.buylocalnorfolk.org.uk
8) Giving away free advice pays
We’ve given lots of free marketing advice to business people over the past year. People ask for our help, and we’re happy to give it (to a point!) because if someone is going to consider investing in marketing, they need to understand it. And it’s paid off. A lot of those people who we initially gave a few hints and tips to have become our valued customers.
9) Working from home can make you lazy
I used to feel bad about the lack of exercise I did when I sat in an office in Norwich city centre from 8am to 6pm. But at least I had to run round to lots of meetings, walked from the car park in the morning and often had a quick dash around the shops at lunchtime. Now, I could easily sit on my backside for an entire day without going further than the kitchen to get another biscuit. When we have a lot on, it’s tempting to just keep ploughing through it. It’s not going to get done any other way and my livelihood depends on it. But health is important too so I try to do something active before I start work a few times a week at the very least. As for Gavin, he still needs to find his answer to this conundrum!
10) Running a business is brilliant!
There’s not been a day since Example was born that I’ve wished I was back in my old life, working for other people. It’s been challenging, and in many ways is getting more so as we get even busier, but that’s what you need if you’re relying on yourselves to earn a living. At least until you’ve made your first million. Being honest, I know this business isn’t going to make me rich, but it is making me happy which is worth much more. My advice to anyone considering setting up their own business? Do it! What’s the worst that can happen?