08 Mar 7 Things I Learned in 7 Years (The Story of a Mississippi Business)
Seven years ago I gave it up. The search for the perfect job, the interviewing, the resume writing–the job I wanted wasn’t out there, so I created it. April marks the seventh anniversary of Momentum Consulting. It’s been a fun and at times wild ride these last seven years. Marketing and advertising was starting to shift as I started a company aimed at helping other small businesses, particularly Mississippi businesses, grow through marketing and advertising.
We’ve shifted our company from traditional advertising to primarily social media, online and inbound marketing because we’ve found a niche with inbound marketing in Mississippi and other rural states. While we’ve learned a lot about advertising and marketing in those areas, I’ve also learned a lot about business in general.
1. Don’t trust nobody.
Okay, I don’t really mean that, but it is catchy (even if it is grammatically incorrect). What I do mean is, be careful who you allow into your bookkeeping. I hired a firm to manage a few bookkeeping tasks and discovered in December they stopped reconciling my bank statement in July. I didn’t take the time to look back over their work, and it cost me a lot of time cleaning it up. Luckily, it didn’t cost me the amount of money other businesses have lost because a trusted employee embezzled. I’ve watched that happen multiple times. It’s not pretty. When it comes to your finances, keep your eye on your own books even if you have someone more qualified doing the actual numbers
2. Maybe trust a few people.
I understand writing, advertising, media, and even negotiating pricing. I do not understand everything that goes into business like hiring folks, contracts, accounting, insurance, and utilities. I’ve identified a group of people with specialties in these areas who can guide me as I make decisions. Yes, I pay them for their work, but having it done right and not paying fines is worth a little cost on the front end.
3. Hiring is as much art as science.
I’ve been through the hiring process four times since I hired my first assistant. Each time I was able to more clearly identify the skills I needed in a new hire and the personality. My last hire, and a fantastic fit for the company, came after an interview, a test project and a lunch with me and my husband. My husband said it’s weird for a interviewee to have lunch with boss and her husband. What I know is no one is more interested in seeing this company succeed and me be happy than my husband. He sees things in people I don’t always see. This process allowed me to know the person I hired had the skills and personality to work well in my company. When there’s only a couple of you in the office, it really does matter if you like each other.
4. Value your services and your time.
As a fairly young and female business owner, I initially found people really wanted something for nothing. I still offer an initial consultation for no charge because I want people to get to know me and the company without the fear of paying for something they don’t understand. However, I have had to draw the line when people continue to ask for advice or services and aren’t willing to pay for my time. Usually a response like, “I charge $XX per hour for those services,” helps separate the serious clients from the freebies.
5. Don’t be afraid to say good-bye.
The first time I fired a client I waited too long. Most of us do. No one wants to have that conversation. With that particular client, our initial work together went well, but it became obvious near the one year mark that we were no longer a good fit. Part of business is the turnover of clients. My company is fortunate to have had some of the same clients for many years. However, not every business is a fit for our company. We are not a fit for every company. We are happier creating content for companies who value our work and are interested in seeing us succeed on their behalf. Our clients who prescribe to our marketing philosophy are happier with our work as well. With few exceptions, I’ve expected every contract non-renewal I’ve experienced, and it has allowed us to grow each time.
6. Go with your gut.
As the business grew, I knew the only way to keep up was to add staff. The truth about adding staff is your profit takes a momentary dip until you fully utilize their abilities and add more work. It’s a scary place to stand on the precipice of great growth but know you’ll have to spend a little money to get there. Do the research. Know your strategy. Then, jump.
7. Take a day off.
As an inbound marketing agency, my work lives online which means I could work every waking minute of the day. However, I also have two children and a husband I adore. While I am available if needed during the hours our physical building is closed, I guard the hours I have with my family. I’ve also learned some lessons about the effect of stress on your body. I’m still working on learning this lesson, but I have set a schedule for paid holidays and vacation days for myself and my employees. Our work is fun, but we need a little time recharge. I’m always more creative in the first few weeks after some time off.
Now you know what I’ve learned over the last seven years. Owning a business isn’t for the faint of heart. When everyone else goes home, you still have to think about payroll and your reputation and where you want to go next. What about you? What have you learned about running a small business?
Remember where I said I offer the first consultation at no charge? You can take advantage of that now.