Best of 2014: No 10: 10 lessons I’ve learned from (nearly) 10 years of running an agency
This week we are showing you the 10 most popular posts of 2014 on State of Digital. The top 10 is based on a combination of reading numbers, shares and comments.
This is number 10, by Louis Venter, about his own experience!
Originally posted: July 9, 2014, 12:05
Quite a few friends of mine have started their own agency recently and asked for advice. This year MediaVision will be ten years old and while I am massively proud of what has been achieved I sometimes wish I knew these lessons upfront. Sometimes I wish I remembered learning them as they can constantly come around and bite you when you least expect it.
1) It always takes longer than you think
Always. Really. I promise. If you are forecasting business growth for the first time halve it and see if you still come out. It’s an important lesson. Entrepreneurs are by default optimistic and that’s fantastic but check your numbers and factor in unforeseen delays. It always happens to plan for it and then strive to beat it.
2) Some clients aren’t worth it
This one took me a while to work out. At the beginning you think all work is good work which simply isn’t the case. Some clients are great to work with and you achieve great things together. Some clients you literally have sleepless nights over to try and work out how to make them happy. It’s not worth it nor will it ever be as they are forcing you to take your eye off your business and your other great clients! Try not to get sucked in as hard as it can sometimes be. Another thing to factor in is that smaller clients take the same if not more account management than the large clients and this can seriously eat into your time and available resources. Pick wisely and be happy to turn away business if it’s not right.
3) Run it by numbers
Forecast your revenue growth and track it monthly with your accountant or finance team if you’re lucky to have one. Numbers don’t lie, if you are cruising that’s an easy conversation, if not then you need to face up to them and change to make it so. Don’t wait for next quarter or the next 6 months to act. That’s simply not quick enough.
4) You can’t do everything!
As you grow you will work out that you can’t do everything. You also can’t control everything. This is a lesson I keep learning as you take more and more on without any end in sight. You need to take the time to inspire your team; share what’s working and what needs to get better and I promise you they will surprise you. It will also help realise who are the great strategic people in the team and the ones that can take further steps when it’s time to grow. Get to know your people as they are your greatest asset their development is the company’s development. Invest your time in it.
5) Take time to relax
You can’t go at 100 miles an hour all the time. If you do you will burn out, it’s a marathon not a sprint so take the time to relax and have fun in the office. It is also the time your brain stats lining up connections and you come up with the best ideas. Plan for and take your leave! You need to be sharp and sharp isn’t achieved by working stupidly long hours again and again that’s the perfect recipe for blunt and slow. Long term that will make you hate the one thing you used to love.
6) Put time into the business, not just your clients
The closest way I can come to describing running the business is playing 8 games of chess at the same time. Everything from HR to finance needs your attention at some point and needs to be focused on. Block out time every week to work ON the business not IN the business. It’s really important to give that your attention or things will unravel quickly and you’ll have to deal with the major issues.
7) Don’t just focus on the easy stuff
If you are a great doer there will always be a call to a very safe place where you tinker on all the work you do as a business trying to iron out every little aspect before you aim to grow. This is a huge mistake as it will never be perfect from a delivery point of view. You need to focus on your entire business and not just the bits you find easy. If you find sales hard then get out there and speak to other friends in non-competing agencies for advice.
8) Don’t compare your insides to others’ outsides
One of the biggest motivators is competition. As digital marketers we are naturally competitive and this can be a very positive thing. It can however be very unhealthy if you compare other businesses outsides to your insides. Like every life every business has issues that aren’t shared by the entrepreneur but it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Compete, strive to be better but don’t spend your life comparing because that will suck your energy and limit your creativity.
9) Allow yourself to realise it will always be a work in progress
It’s never going to be finished. You will always be “getting there” and that’s because it’s a journey. It’s never going to be perfect and it’s never finished. It’s constantly evolving so embrace the change. If you don’t the rate of change will bring you down.
10) Making mistakes is allowed don’t beat yourself up about it
You will make mistakes but don’t beat yourself up about them. You made a judgement call with all the relevant information to hand that turned out to be a wrong turn. What’s important is that you’re still there and to learn from it. It’s the only way to learn in my opinion. If you don’t make mistakes you aren’t pushing hard enough for your goals.
If you own a business it would be great if you could share your biggest lessons in the comments below!