There are many good reasons not to go into business for yourself, and seemingly only one good reason for jumping in with both feet: your work is your passion. You really have to love the process of doing whatever it is you do. For me, it’s website design. I specifically love WordPress sites. Your startup should be more than just a fashionable way to pay the rent. A lot more.
My company, Vancouver web design agency Forge and Smith, is three years old, barely a pup in the grand scheme of time, but old enough to have established itself as a reliable player in the digital field. Truth be told, the idea for Forge and Smith has been in the works for quite some time, seemingly a lifetime ago. It’s nice when a plan finally comes together.
Here are my five tips for the prospective entrepreneur that helped me and my Vancouver web design firm during the formative years. That being said, some of the road blocks I’ve encountered helped inform the list you see below.
Understand Business: Marketing and business fundamentals are key in establishing trust as a startup. Not only do you have to know what to say, but you also have to know how to say it. Miscommunication on either side of that coin will result in a loss of confidence in you and your brand. Know the lingo.
Empathy: Sure, your business is a reflection of you, but never lose sight of the client’s needs. If you’re in the B2B market (like me), you must be able to empathize from the corporate perspective, particularly when it comes to the timing of deliverables. Never lose sight that everybody’s time is precious to them.
Know When To Cut Ties: New projects are great to announce, and revenue is always a wonderful thing. However, a client that’s a bad fit for your business will eventually sour over time. Disappointed clients have the potential to become an ongoing problem with no end in sight. It takes awhile to develop the instinct to detect these potentially humbling situations. A good starting point is to never promise what you cannot deliver. Honesty is a respected trait, even if it comes at the expense of lucrative cheque.
Find the Right Mix of People: Willingly, or not, you will have to relinquish some control of your business (even those tasks within the parameters of your own comfort zone). Not only will you be relying on your team for their expertise, but also their ability to communicate back and forth with you and other members of the team. Life’s too short for butting heads and work place drama. Hire the people that share your enthusiasm for the business in the the role they fulfill.
Work Life Balance: Know it. Live it. Knowing when to put the business’s needs (temporarily) on the back burner is a crucial, and often neglected part of entrepreneurship. What are you working towards if not the betterment of your personal life? As any coupled person will tell you, marriage is a financial partnership. As such, you need to include your spouse in any major business decisions. That being said, you also need to know when to check those minor office dilemmas at the door. Kids (especially the younger ones) are Jedi masters at setting our priorities for us. Trust their instincts in this department, especially when they ask you to come out and play.
Obviously, every business holds a different set of criteria for success. One of the personal benchmarks I set out during my professional journey was the establishment of a happy office. It sounds like a simple thing, but in my own experience, happiness is an ingredient sorely lacking in the mix of many companies. I don’t just want to survive in business, I wish to enjoy every single day.