Four key lessons I've learned in four years of running a business
I was 24 when I first set up Motion 12, built on a working routine of long hours and even longer days. All I could think about, 24/7, was the work that I needed to get done and how to grow the agency. At that time, work came before my health, relationships and even family events - and my laptop came everywhere and anywhere with me.
At this point I wasn’t driving, so I was using buses and trains as my means of transport. As a result of this I would often have to sprint to make my meetings on time.
During most social interactions, I struggled to be present. Every holiday revolved around ensuring my deadlines were met and my future plans were written down somewhere. I literally had no ‘OFF’ button - it was frantic!
Whilst all the above sounded like the right mindset for creating a successful business, it just wasn’t realistic. It came as no surprise that I started to feel extremely burnt and my constant ‘grind’ mentality became more of a hindrance than a help to my life, health and business.
So in November 2019, I knew I needed to hire my first team member. Hayden was our first official M12 hire, and was (and still is!) extremely talented at what he does. Being both a frontend developer and an animator was exactly what we needed.
Despite this, I initially struggled sharing the workload and delegating tasks - it took quite some time. Whenever I spoke to new business owners they seemed to resonate with this, and it’s quite a common issue. It can be so hard to let go of that control when you’ve worked so hard to get where you are.
But I promise you… delegate your workload!
Learning to trust your team is one of the most valuable skills you can acquire as a business owner. For two simple reasons:
- You allow your team to learn new tasks and create opportunities for growth
- You can effectively prioritise tasks, and not overload your schedule
Teams are designed to work together to achieve common goals, and each individual brings a wealth of different knowledge to the table. It’s so important to build a team who can work well together, regardless of skill set or status.
So, with that in mind ‘building the right team’ is the first point on my list.
1. Build a good team, with freedom to learn
Having a well-focussed, skilled team with healthy camaraderie is an invaluable asset. It’s important to encourage your team to openly communicate with each other throughout a project, regardless of the importance of the task.
A few tips to ensure your team are aligned;
- Have weekly meetings to catch up with your team individually and as a collective
- Set up a meeting at the start of every project to discuss the project in its entirety. Once the team has a grasp of the scope, break this down into phases and further break this down into subtasks.
- Use project management software to create gantt charts that cover the whole project.
- Create a new space or project within the project management software.
- Create tickets for each phase and allocate relevant time to the ticket.
- Allocate the relevant member of your team to the ticket.
- Ensure this is updated in each team members workload and the correct dates are applied.
- Add all resources, notes and processes to the relevant ticket.
- Record all of the notes from each meeting and ensure your team have access to these notes in the cloud.
- Implement version control practices to each step of the project.
- Give the team freedom to work on the project.
- Encourage communication and transparency on timings and options
Technologies and frameworks are constantly evolving, and more are becoming readily available. Typically, each release has an improvement to its predecessor and it’s important to know how that release can benefit a project.
Allowing your team time to understand and grasp new technologies will mean, as a business, you are much more equipped to offer the best solution for your clients. This will also facilitate positive personal and professional growth for your team.
2. Trust is KEY
Trust needs to be established both externally with clients and partners, and internally amongst your team. In my experience, trust should be the number one crucial factor in any business interaction.
Trust has to be earned and shouldn’t be expected. It takes hard work, dedication and commitment. Trust strengthens the relationship between clients and agencies. Clients need to feel as though they can trust their agency and rely upon them to perform services that they simply can’t. Remember: trust can be broken in an instant, and once damaged, it can require a huge amount of effort to win back.
Don’t be worried about asking too many questions about your clients business and the industry they operate in. The more you know, the more effective you can be in solving your clients problems and concerns.
Maintaining openness and integrity with clients is hugely important. After all, your client is looking to YOU to provide them with the best solutions available - honesty is the only policy.
3. Bulletproof processes and knowledge-hubs
In the early days of setting up the business we didn’t harness the power of processes. This is probably why everything felt quite frantic and reactive. Since then, we have implemented design, development and project management processes that aim to ensure our projects and communication run smoothly and efficiently.
Internal processes and communication are paramount to ensuring the team are on the same page and keep projects flowing efficiently. Every project that is successfully completed should be meticulously analysed to understand the wins and pitfalls. We introduced a reflective meeting after each project to discuss what went well and then what didn’t and the finding were discussed before the start of the next project.
Any information, both findings and learnings, are useful. The brain consumes gigabytes of information each day, but much of this is forgotten or lost. So, we introduced a knowledge hub which acts as the brain of the business. Anything from processes, technologies, implementation & research lives in this space and allows the team to call up on it at any given moment.
If you haven’t already - start creating your knowledge hub and enable your whole team to benefit from the experiences and information you’ve built together.
4. Be you, be authentic
This one goes without saying, and seems fairly self explanatory. When you show up authentically, and weave your values into your business, you attract like-minded clients. When your personalities click, you create a space for a very healthy working relationship - but you can only do this by being authentic to yourself! Not by trying to be something you’re not.
You can nurture exceptional relationships by applying a few core principles:
- Be you: Trust yourself and your commitment to helping your clients
- Integrity: Never over-promise and under-deliver, be honest about what you can do!
- Authenticity: Don’t try to be someone you’re not, people will pick up on it
- Communication: It doesn’t take much to pick up the phone and check-in, never leave your clients in the dark during a project.
This should be the case throughout your whole practice. Your interactions, decisions, strategies should be genuine and align with the values you’ve established. Have regular check-ins with yourself and your team if something doesn’t feel right. These days, fake authenticity is easy to spot, so take a breath and just be you.