It is sometimes difficult to believe that it’s been two years since I started ME Consulting – a move that came more out of necessity after parting ways to PlanetEye, an online travel startup.
In many respects, it has been a huge education, as well as a tremendously exciting and satisfying personal and professional adventure. Althought I had worked for three start-ups (Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye), there is really nothing like starting and running your own company. When there is no one else to support the business, you can either sink or swim.
In 2009, ME Consulting was all about survival and experimentation. You have to remember the economic downturn was alive and well. so it probably wasn’t the best time to go into business for yourself. My biggest focus was getting enough business to operate for another month. Every new client meant another brick within the foundation, which meant there was no lack of motivation.
As 2010 rolled around, ME Consulting was a going concern. Rather than thinking about surviving, I started to focus on growing the business and doing a better job of telling the world what I do and why they should care. At the same time, the learning curve stayed front and centre. Here are the biggest things I learned in 2010.
1. Life gets a lot easier and more fun with the right partners and people. My partnership with Seth Singer (aka Think 33) has been a win-win professionally and personally. By having Seth as a partner, we’ve been able to expand into a digital agency that offers social media strategy and tactics, Web site development and design, content creation and video production. Basically, we’ve become a one-stop shop – something that wasn’t possible without our partnership.
2. Sell, sell and then sell some more. As much as it’s great having clients, the reality is you can never rest on your laurels, and stop selling. Clients come and clients go, which means the hunt for new business never ceases. It can take a lot of energy and time to be prospecting but it’s a necessary evil to keep a business thriving.
3. Don’t take on business you can’t do. It seems like a simple proposition but it can be difficult to turn down business, particularly if your company isn’t running at full capacity. It is a lesson I learned the hard way after accepting a marketing gig that didn’t seem like a natural fit but the dollars were difficult to turn down. After spending a month scrambling to do the work, I had to concede it wasn’t in my wheelhouse – a decision that frustrated the client, who had entered into the project in good faith.
4. Referrals are good (and the right thing to do). In some ways, this lesson is closely linked to #3. If there is a situation that’s not a good fit, the best move is referring someone to another person or company who can meet their needs. This has three benefits: it avoids you taking on work you can’t do, it helps the other party, and it scores point with the company getting the referral. One of my biggest and most interesting clients happened because I made a referral with no expectations other than doing the right thing.
5. It’s smart to invest in your business. As much as we’re living in a lean and mean environment, there are many benefits to investments that make your business operate more efficiently and effectively. It could be buying office equipment, computer hardware or online services. It could be hiring people to do work that would consume too much of your time. The key is spending where it makes the more sense and you get the biggest return.
6. Make sure your books and finances are well organized. The biggest mistake I made in 2009 was not spending enough time on my finances. It meant having to spend several weeks reviewing receipts, back-dating transactions and categorizing spending to get my books properly organized. While I didn’t perfect my finances in 2010, I was a lot better organized. Next year, maybe the shoebox full of receipts will disappear!
What were the biggest lessons you learned in 2010?