Monday September 18th marked the start of my sixth year in business so I thought I would share some of the things that I’ve learnt during the first five years.
Hang on in there:
After the initial surge of work from a mix of people I knew and my previous company my ‘order book’ came to a grinding halt. In the second quarter of my business existence (Jan-Mar 2013) turnover was a big fat £0! It would have been very easy to jack it all in at that point. On May 1st 2013 my first regular client came on board (still with me) and I was up and running.
Get Known :
If you operate in the business to business sector as I do then networking, speaking, sharing advice and expertise (through email marketing, social media and getting published) are all great ways to get known and to meet people.
What do you do: It is the question most asked when you go networking. It took me a long time to work out what I ought to be saying. Think of it as a ‘Twitter Pitch’ – i.e describe what you do in 140 characters or 15-20 words.
Linked In: I was on Linked In 5 years ago but had no idea how to use it. I’ve listened to and read articles by Linked In experts and it has transformed the way I use and benefit from it.
Keep Learning: After a 29 year B to B career, most of which was in management I thought I knew everything. How wrong I was! In the last 2 years I’ve read more business books and articles , sat in on more webinars and listened to more podcasts than ever before. You need to constantly keep learning.
Staying ahead of your Customers: You can add value to your customer relationship simply by being aware of and on top of the latest trends and developments both in business in general and your customer’s particular sector. It requires a lot of time but its well worth it.
Mix and work with like minded people: Easy to say this, not so easy to make happen. I’ve been very lucky that all the businesses I work with are on an upward growth curve. Life is very exciting when that is happening.
Enjoy what you are doing: It does rub off. I love what I do and I suspect people enjoy working with me.
Be fluid with your offering: The services I listed on my very first business card have since been improved, expanded or dropped. None of them are the same as they were back then. I have learnt to adapt my offering to suit customers needs and market trends.
Be relentless with your own marketing: I remember listening to someone who said that as a start-up business you need to spend 20% of your time marketing your business. I took that onboard and still today aim to keep that up through writing articles such as this, networking, speaking, Linked In, attending events, and coming up soon my own podcast!!
Don’t try and do everything: I had the good fortune a few years ago to spend some time at the Ashridge Business School. I remember three pieces of top advice:
Get Real : about the market and business you are in
Get Connected : with those who can make a difference – contacts, customers, etc…
Get Help : you can’t do it all on your own.
‘Get Help’ I implemented from day one by engaging an accountant and a web designer. I’ve since added an email marketing company and I seek advice wherever and from whomever I can get it.
It is about People:
Ultimately the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that regardless of the digital age that we live in people still buy from people. I have little doubt that most of the people who have engaged my services have done so because there exists between us a good ‘people connection’.
Don’t forget to say thank you:
A simple ‘thank you for your business – it is much appreciated’ can be a really powerful way of maintaining customers and growing their spend.
So a very big thank you to the numerous people who have given me the opportunity to work with them over the last 5 years. Your business is very much appreciated.
And now its time to crack on with the next 5 years……..