Life has taught me many lessons throughout my 28 years on this Earth. People close to me have taught me different things over those years too, but I have truly learnt the most important lessons from running my own company. Lessons not only about “how not to be a shitty business woman”, but important lessons about myself as a human being.
Starting You&Me Design at the ripe old age of 22 with Meg was one of the most naïve and spur-of-the-moment decisions we have ever made. And believe me, we’ve made some pretty reckless decisions in our lives (most of them involving tequila!) Luckily for us, 6 years down the line, we’ve got this business woman role down! Sort of.
But to this day, we still get asked the same question, “How would you have done things differently, if you could do it all over again?”, and we still answer it in the same way.
We wouldn’t have done it at all.
If we knew what it took to get to where we are today, we would never have signed up for this. That naïve and spur-of-the-moment decision saved our asses. We didn’t know what it would take to run a successful company, and quite possibly wouldn’t have had the balls to do it, if we did.
We’ve made many mistakes, and have learnt many hard lessons. And some of these could’ve been avoided if we’d known a thing or two before we dived in head first. We’ve often fantasised about getting handed a rule book, that we could follow step by step, on how to run your own company. But, that would have been too easy. And we all know, life ain’t easy.
Because of this lack of knowledge, I want to share a few things that we’ve learnt along the way. Maybe one day a green, tequila-drinking entrepreneur will stumble across this and get the answers to questions they never knew they had.
10 Things That We’ve Learnt About Starting Your Own Company:
Always Have A Goal
Having a goal and working towards something is important. No matter how small the goal, or how ridiculous, having something to focus on is key. Everything you do going forward is aimed at achieving your set out goal.
One thing to remember is that your goals will always change. If they don’t change, you are not growing. If Meg and I were still trying to work towards the goal we had 6 years ago, we would never be where we are today. Making just enough money to be able to go on the jol every weekend was where our bar was set in 2012. Today, our goals are much bigger and much harder to achieve. And our livers are very grateful for that.
Adapt, Or Die
Whatever it is that you set out to do when you start, your company is never going to be what you do forever. You need to be able, and willing, to adapt to your market. Trends change. The needs of your clients will change. And you need to be able to change with them to survive.
When our first client asked us if we handled social media accounts, we said, “Yes!” That was a big lie. We didn’t have the first clue about running a brand’s social media page. We had Facebook accounts – that counted right? After many months of teaching ourselves, trial and error and countless online courses, social media management is one of our biggest departments today. We adapted.
Age Matters In The Eyes Of Other People
You’re too young to know what you’re doing. You’re too young to be running your own business. You’re too young to understand the business world. You’re too young to be successful. We’ve heard it all.
As much as people like to claim that they don’t believe your age affects your ability to do what you do successfully, they’re lying. Do you know what we say to those people who believe that, “Screw you!” We’re young enough to learn new skills and adapt. We’re young enough to change our way of doing things. We’re young enough to start new trends. We’re young enough to change the understanding of the “business world” as you know it. And we’re young enough to party our faces off and still make it to work the next day.
Whenever someone doubts you because of your age (and it will happen) it should only make your hungrier and want to prove the haters wrong. So, go an get ‘em, tiger! While you’re still young enough.
Never making any mistakes when running your company will most likely mean that you’re not learning anything. You will inevitably hire the wrong person, invest time in the wrong type of client and you will definitely people please your way through projects. You will make mistakes on charging the incorrect amount for a job, and possibly overextend yourself on your overheads. It’s never about the type of mistake made, it’s about what you do about it afterwards that counts.
We treasure every single mistake we’ve made. Because by the time you’ve dusted yourself off, and picked yourself up, you will have learnt so many lessons. Once you’ve gone through the “Geez, that was shit. Let’s not do that again!” phase, you will do everything in your power not to let it happen again. And you will be stronger, and wiser because of that.
Other People Are Important
If you don’t figure this out early, you will be sorry. Other people are integral to the success of your company. Your clients bring in the money, so treat them right and make sure they are satisfied. Your staff make the cogs turn, without them you’re a one man show. Making sure your staff enjoy their job, and have room for growth is very important. Your suppliers make your job that much easier. When you find trustworthy suppliers, hold onto them with both hands. You will be grateful when they pull through for you on that “last minute job”.
YOU are important.
One of the lessons we’ve learnt the hard way is that you do not depend on your company, your company depends on you and this is one of the biggest risks of “being the company”.
Looking after your own well-being should always be on the top of your list. Force yourself to take a break. Make sure that you have a hobby outside of what you do on a daily basis. Talk about other things besides work. And enjoy the little things in life.
Celebrate The Small Victories
Victories are victories, no matter the size. Celebrate all of them!
Always remember the reason you started your company. You did it for the love of what you do. Don’t ever let that fade. Having fun at work doesn’t mean you’re not working. Whether it’s making sure everyone joins in for a drink after work on a Friday, Uno challenges or having a Mexican fiesta with a Spiderman pinata, keep the fun alive.
Hire for passion, not for skill
There is almost nothing on this Earth that you cannot learn from Google. And that is why you always need to hire for passion. Skills can be taught. What is the point of hiring a person for their 5 degrees, if they hate what they do?
Get the RIGHT help
Whenever I think of a small business owner, I always imagine a dishevelled looking octopus. Weird, but true. You are the client service, the finance department, the admin department and your very own tea lady. As business owners, we need to be able to do everything and every job when we start our companies.
But one of the most valued lessons is to get the RIGHT help when you need it. I don’t mean staff in this sense, I’m talking about outside help. Some skills and areas will become a little too specialised for your knowledge. Spend time finding the right kinds of people that fill those shoes: people you can trust and people who give the same level of service to you that you give your clients. Never underestimate the value of a good accountant, tax practitioner and business coach.
These are not the kinds of lessons that you will find in Forbes magazine, but these are straight from the heart. If we knew a tenth of what we know now, we’d be lying on a beach in the Bahamas sipping on our cocktails. But we’re still enjoying being able to grow and learn about ourselves and company, while throwing back a tequila or two.
Written by Jenna Kerr