By David Berry: A year ago, I started DB + Partners with the following:
- No savings/reserves to float the business while things got off the ground
- No real expertise running a business
- No clients
- An idea for a business model that was different (and hopefully different enough to stick out)
A year later, DB + Partners is humming along. The business has 11 clients, 10 of whom are in the B2C space and seven of whom have a retail component to their business.
In terms of work, the disciplines now fall in to two distinct categories. One is paid social media management with a focus on lead generation or sales conversions, the other is copywriting. (And the 'Partners' in our business name means we have experts who extend our expertise into other categories).
I'm fortunate to say that 'business is good.' DB + Partners won't be confused with a major ad agency, but then, I never intended for that. In fact, I take a direct shot at them on my website. With that said, a year in business has taught me a number of things about business. Here are five of those things.
Every day has a 'wtf am I doing?' moment. In a corporate environment, there's always a second set of eyes. Plus, numerous people smarter and more seasoned than you. So when a decision gets made, you have the comfort of knowing it was vetted along the way. Plus, there are other people managing payroll, operations, web management, invoicing and so on. When you're on your own, not so much. And, there are things you were never trained for. The sooner you get comfortable with the discomfort, the sooner you can find a way around it - or through it.
There are several advantages to being 'small time.' You work on what you want. You're faster, more agile. You don't have to go through the bullshit of hierarchy, or hold back on speaking your mind for fear of disrupting the apple cart. It's you and your rag tag crew against the world. In a world where getting shit done is the ultimate trump card, smaller is better.
You get to say what you're really thinking - and that's what your clients want. I used two curse words in the last paragraph and I feel just fine about it. Also, when I have an idea, I speak it. If I have a criticism, I speak that too. It's my name on the line and no one else's. Scary? Sure. Risky? You bet. But time and again, here's what I've learned - clients love it. And they've just about had it with the businesses/partners that care more about looking good than being good.
But, there's the weight of a major inferiority complex. Spoiler alert - there are a lot of things you don't know how to do. For example, I'm not a videographer. It's a skill I wish I had - and one I know is valuable - and it's also a prime example of why I created DB + Partners the way I did; to leverage the skills and expertise of others without claiming it as my own. I know smart, talented people. So rather than try to offer a service I'm not great at, I'd rather be upfront about it and connect you to the guys/gals I know can hit it out of the park where I can't. You don't have to know everything. But you do have to be smart, resourceful and helpful. There's value in those things, and your clients will see it - even when you're not the one doing the work.
Hard work isn't measured in time. I'd ask any ad agency (or company) why they're so damn obsessed with how many hours their people work while sitting in front of a desk inside an office. That's a working model that hasn't been 'innovative' for more than 100 years. A good business cares about results. If I'm done with my work day at 2pm and I kicked ass for my clients, guess what? I'm done for the day. If I have to work until 2am to kick ass for my clients, then guess what? That's what I'm going to do. From wherever I damn well please.
There are plenty more lessons, but I figured that's enough for today. What have you learned? And do you agree with my insights?