When you work in marketing you can’t help but celebrate milestones, at least that’s my excuse anyway! I figure, when you’re a business owner life can seem to evolve daily, so I’m taking this opportunity, one-year in, to reflect on all that’s going on…and try to figure out what I make of it all!
Collective Comms recently celebrated one year in business and I guess the early years will prove to be the ones that I look back on…even if only to laugh! So here goes, a frank reflection of one year in business and a look back at all that I’ve learned so far.
I’ll no doubt (hopefully!) look back on this in 5, 10, 20 years’ time and think “if only you knew what would happen next”, but that’s OK. We’re all doing a little learning on the job, right?
What’s the strategy exactly?
Looking back at my first full day of sitting at the dining room table calling Collective Comms my day job, I had such clarity. Until I left my previous job to set up on my own, I’d spent every spare evening and weekend developing a brand, creating marketing tools and writing my business plan. I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. And that worked really well…for about 3 months!
Soon the work began to roll in and amidst much excitement and slight panic (in equal measure), the strategy became a bit of a distant memory! For the months that followed I had to learn to ‘just go with it’, but that approach inevitably had a shelf life.
I now block out time every month for business strategy; to remind myself of my objectives, think about the projects I want to be working on and focus myself away from the chaos of client work. I find this time really helps to fire up my ambition and get excited again about the opportunities ahead.
As I sat down to write this blog I thought back to the one I wrote one month in, explaining what Collective Comms is all about and how I got here. I seemed to have blinked and all of a suddenly it’s a year later!
The biggest learning that I’m trying to take from this is to worry less. Being a business owner for the first time is a real shift in mentality, at least I’ve found it to be. You can sit and worry where the next project is coming from and whether the business is sustainable, but before you know it a successful year has flown by and that worrying achieved nothing at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not sat here thinking “right I’ve done a year the next 20 should be a breeze!”, I’m very much still in the worrying phase, but actively trying to snap myself out of it and enjoy the experience as best I can.
What I have found to help though is to surround myself with positive people; colleagues, fellow start-ups, mentors, friends, family. All those people who remind you why you’re doing this and that all is going to be ok, but more importantly to keep you excited about the opportunities ahead.
Also, finding ways to ignite your passion always helps to gain a little perspective and drive. Whether it’s a conference or an event, reading a book or over a coffee with someone inspirational. For me it’s an environment where I can release my inner geek…anyone want to talk algorithms?!
Remember to celebrate!
For me this has been my driver. Again, I totally blame the industry I work in! Having worked in agencies that pop open the champers for every client win, I needed to take the time to do this…for my own sanity if nothing else. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a pat on the back and enjoying that feeling of success for a moment.
I recently met with a blogger (She Can. She Did) who celebrates female founders and I really enjoyed the experience of talking about that past year with a complete stranger, it was a much-needed moment of reflection. At first, I felt very out of my depth and totally out of place next to the amazing women she has interviewed, but eventually I just thought “how cool is this” and enjoyed the opportunity to share my own experience in business so far.
Work/life balance is vital
Someone recently said to me “if the business isn’t giving you perks then what’s the point” and they were right. There’s a reason you’re working for yourself, so you must make it work for you.
There are going to be times when you don’t clock off until you’re literally crawling in to bed and weekends become another week day, I know because I’m just coming out the other side of one of these phases and I’m sure I didn’t have these bags under my eyes before I started! So, when you have slightly quieter times enjoy clocking off early on a Friday, or an extended lunch break every once and a while, because you’ve earned it.
I’m trying not to panic if things aren’t looking quite so busy but to instead celebrate having lots of exciting projects in the pipeline – all of the seemingly quiet periods that I’ve worried about so far have always ended up just as busy as the last so I’m using that knowledge to help me sleep at night!
Going from working in a big company to being on your own, it’s easy to forget the ways of working in a team. Even though it may be just you for a while, I’ve found that a lot of the ways of working that I learned in previous agencies is still just as relevant to me now.
The biggest turning point for me was seeing the value in building a network of people, both in and out of the industry, to work alongside and to act as mentors. Finding people to challenge your strategy, hold you accountable for your growth plan, to bounce ideas of and brainstorm together and even to pitch alongside. This really helps to be on top of your game and competitive against some of the bigger teams out there. For me at least, this was crucial and I soon realised that sitting at the dining room table on my own was not going to build my reputation or confidence.
I’d love to hear from some fellow start-ups, it would be great to share experiences so please do get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org