Looking back at my Year 1 lessons (What I’ve learned after 1 year in business), I realize how far we’ve come with this business but also how many more learnings are likely still ahead.
Wrapping up Year 2, our biggest celebration was that we’re still alive! But this doesn’t really tell the whole story. We actually managed to thrive in an economic downturn but it wasn’t without its challenges. So here are some of the things we did to make it past our 2nd anniversary.
1. We run a tight ship. In a downturn, I don’t know any other way of operating. We know that marketing budgets are tight so we keep our costs in check, our time efficient and pass these savings onto our clients. Our office is tiny, our needs are few and we don’t splurge on any extras (well, we did celebrate our 2nd anniversary with bubbles – prosecco though instead of champagne).
2. Growth comes in interesting ways. When we started GridStone, we knew that we had something unique. What I didn’t realize is what a great tie-in our focus was to two new areas of business. The first was tying in marketing and sales. We’ve learned if a company is struggling with marketing then they are often struggling with sales, so we partnered with another company and started providing the joint offering.
The second was a bit surprising. My business partner, Maria, had done some work in Intellectual Property at her last company. Because of this connection, we started providing technical content and background for patents with another partner and we’ve had great success. I’d never have guessed we would have gone in this direction when we started.
3. You can’t force learning. I started taking sales training this summer. I realized while I may know marketing, I’ve never had formal sales training. My goal was to “learn sales” in 6 weeks. But what I realized after the 6 weeks was that I had barely scratched the surface. So, I’ve signed up for a significantly longer program and find the more I learn about sales, the more convinced I am that marketing and sales truly need to work together in any organization.
4. Don’t assume everyone wants the “big corporate” job. I’ve had the great pleasure to work with some amazing people over the past couple of years and I’ve been surprised by how many people don’t want a big corporate job. When we needed a great graphic designer, we started with a list of the best designers that we knew. One candidate had, what could be seen as, the ideal job – benefits, security, part of a large team and more. But with a change in lifestyle, Eva Wan left her full-time role and joined our business and she tells me that it’s the best career decision she’s ever made.
5. Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs. I applied to join Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Accelerator this year (check it out here if you don’t know what it is). Through the program, we have 4 learning days a year to focus on key topics that keep entrepreneurs up at night, and we meet regularly as part of an accountability group to keep ourselves on track. My biggest gain from this group has been listening to and learning from other entrepreneurs who are going through exactly what I am going through.
6. Core values matter more than I ever could have imagined. Through all the twists and turns one takes in business, and in life, it is impossible to plan for everything that comes your way. But if the people on your team all hold the same core values, decision making becomes so much easier. We sat down and created our core values over lunch one day and these same 7 core values hold true today. They guide our decisions and we make sure we hire new team members who hold the same core values as we do.
7. Take time to think and recharge. This is a repeat lesson from Year 1 that hasn’t quite sunk in yet! I do take more time to think and recharge than I did at the beginning but Maria said to me just the other day – “We can’t keep up with you and you can’t keep up with you.” She’s right, of course. Sometimes, I can see too many possibilities and I want to explore them all. So my lesson is to truly take the time to slow down and take a break.