What We Learned in Our First Year of Business
By Jenn Clark and Sarah Hillegas
Year one is in the books!
Earlier this month, we celebrated our first year in business.
[Insert celebration dance here.] We had many successes, some failures, but overall, it is truly amazing what we learned in our first year of business.
As we continue to diligently work on our upcoming coaching programs and updated services, we are excited to be receiving fresh projects and developing new goals for 2016.
A year ago, the thought of starting our own business seemed so daunting, difficult and unattainable that we almost didn’t push forward. But, once we received some guidance on all the legal paperwork, arguably one of the major tasks that set people back from starting sooner, we became an official Limited Liability Company in a little over a week.
Here are some of our biggest lessons from our first year:
- Communicating the “why.” We thrive on being strong and creative communicators; however, conveying how to do marketing to individuals who don’t work in this field was somewhat of a new lesson for us. We were used to doing everything on our own. Being completely self-sufficient is how we’ve always functioned. We knew what needed to be done, and we knew why it was important; but, we failed to educate a client on the importance of the tactics we were sharing. In turn, the client was expecting and hoping we would be doing everything in-house, which would have cost the business more money than the package originally chosen. And because the company was not knowledgeable of the process, they did not see its importance in the beginning.
- How we improved: We learned preferable ways to relay the information needed to fulfill successful campaigns as well as developing more detailed layouts of the entire practice for them. We thought through our conversations there was a mutual understanding; however, this is exactly why you never assume and always provide summaries and as many details as possible. Always follow-up with meeting reports to your clients. We’ve also accepted the fact that sometimes it just simply does not work out. Plans only work if they are being implemented correctly, and sometimes, even then, you can still fall short.
- Everyone can’t be your audience. Part of why things don’t work out with agencies sometimes is that what you believe may not match up with what your client believes. With one company, we learned that what they wanted was an immediate and quick R.O.I. using whatever tactic available, which, due to our beliefs that a brand and relationships need built first in order to turn around longer lasting retention, was not a good fit for us. We understand the importance of numbers, but they aren’t everything to us. We work on building profitable businesses through integrity, branding and relationships.
- How we coped: We defined our mission and our ideal client in the beginning of our journey, and we knew that taking on someone who stressed something we do not would only cause us heartache. We want people who believe in their product or service just as we believe in ours. We help our clients create an income without losing morality; thus, anyone just looking to make a quick buck without building their business is probably not a good fit for us.
- Determining our worth. We quickly realized we were not charging enough for services in the beginning. The hours spent on certain materials or content was absurd compared to the compensation we suggested. When we launched Planful, we began with two interested clients who hired us right off the bat. Being so new, we were nervous to overcharge. But, over the year, we recognized our hard work deserved more.
- How we changed: After doing some research, checking out our competition and recording the time it would take to complete a project or task, we were able to adjust our rates and successfully implement them with our clients through open and honest communication.
In our wrap-up meeting for the year, we discussed the future of the business, highlighted our successes, our failures and business capital as well as projected income and expenses. (See? We do know the importance of numbers. ;) ) We sat down and filled out our information separately and uncovered that, when we read one another’s answers to the year-end questions, we had similar responses, something we find very valuable to our company. It showed us we are on the same page with Planful, which is important for company morale.
Year one was truly wonderful. We grew stronger not only as business partners but also as friends, and we can’t wait to see what year two brings us.