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I recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of my boutique communications firm. Although it’s no small milestone, I am so focused on building for the next 10 that I barely stopped to reflect on everything we’ve done right to make it through the first 10.
My friends and colleagues often ask how I did it and what has made my company work. I realize that like most things, it’s complicated — yet very simple at the same time. The same things that make you a successful person make you a successful business person. In honor of this important milestone, here are a few things that I’ve learned, both in life and in business.
1. Operate with integrity.
This seems simple but unfortunately, many people find it difficult. In the early days of my company, I worked with a client that was, in short, a bad guy. He was dishonest and treated everyone around him poorly. When I look back on it, I can’t believe I stayed with him for as long as I did. After the relationship ended (his business failed), I realized how foolish I was to let that relationship last as long as it did. I’ve learned to be a better judge of character and do thorough background checks on potential clients to make sure they have the same moral compass we do.
2. Value relationships.
I built my company on the strength of relationships, and I still use that strength to fuel our growth. Past colleagues and friends have partnered with us and referred us to others to grow our business over the years. I have also developed close friendships with industry professionals that have been a great source of counsel. I hold those relationships in the highest regard and I would not be anywhere without all of them.
3. Don’t get distracted by shiny objects.
There’s always something bigger and seemingly better out there. It’s hard not to feel inadequate when you don’t get a big-name client, or you don’t make a new “top 10” list in your industry. Social media, with its endless self-promotion, can make this even harder. I’ve done my best not to let these things get to me. I find it helpful to remember that even when you think the grass is greener, it probably isn’t.
4. Focus on the big picture, but pay attention to details along the way.
I have found it is often way too easy to focus on the minutia and day-to-day grind. What’s much harder is to challenge yourself to set goals and establish strategies to meet them. I often find that I’m so focused on my clients’ businesses that I forget to focus on my own company. But it’s all the little things — everyday client interactions, brainstorms with the team and new business pitches — that make or break your business. The tough part is that you need to do all of those things at the same time, and do them well.
5. Keep learning and challenging yourself.
One of the most rewarding things about having a small business is that I’m always learning. Whether I’m digging into a new client’s industry, learning a new skill or even working on budgeting (my least favorite), I am constantly exercising new muscles. It’s what keeps me engaged and wanting to do even more, and do it better.
If you’re just starting out, making it to 10 years in business may seem daunting. But if you use the advice above and focus on achieving a mix of professional wins (success for your clients) and internal wins (helping employees achieve personal growth, for example), you should be well on your way to a thriving business. I’m grateful for everyone that has played a part in our milestone moment, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.
March 5, 2019 at 07:55AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs