The media loves a good story about a successful startup company, taking a good idea and turning it into a billion dollar business. Entrepreneurs see the success of other companies and envision their idea or business concept blossoming into a success story, just like Facebook or Uber.
What the news doesn’t cover is the fact that 80% of businesses fail within 3-years after opening their doors. According to Forbes, there are over 543,000 new businesses started each month (but more employer businesses shut down than start up each month)
I can vividly remember sitting in a coffee shop on a cold February morning, drinking my morning coffee. I was meeting with a successful businessman who worked in the financial services industry. This gentleman had dealt with all kinds of business professionals and entrepreneurs, which is why I was eager for the early morning meeting.
After I had had just opened my digital marketing agency, The Media Captain, I made it my mission to get together with as many successful people as I could to learn their tips and tricks on achieving success. I was an optimistic 23-year-old who knew a great deal about digital marketing, but not a whole lot about starting a business.
“80% of businesses fail within the first couple of years,” said the financial advisor. “You know you have made a dent in the business world when you celebrate your 5-year anniversary.”
Hearing this statistic for the first time struck a chord within me. I realized that it was not going to be a cakewalk to accomplish my business goals. I wanted to move my office from my apartment to a trendy spot in downtown. I envisioned having a staff of digital gurus that could assist any client from an online perspective, regardless of the challenges associated with the project. After this coffee meeting, the cards definitely seemed to be stacked against me.
This past February, The Media Captain celebrated its 5-year anniversary. I wanted to call the financial advisor and tell him I made it to the 5-year mark! Instead, I figured it would be more beneficial to share the most important lessons I learned over the 5-year journey of owning and starting a business.
1. Always Be Learning:
When I started my agency, I was familiar with search engine optimization but was not an expert by any means. I was helping clients with their social media efforts but had yet to dabble into the SEO arena. After speaking with various business professionals, I learned how valuable it was for them to appear at the top of Google’s search engine. If a law firm could appear on page one of Google, it made a big difference to their bottom line!
After this realization, I became obsessed with SEO. I started following hundreds of industry experts on Twitter and continued to stack my bookshelf with some of the best sellers on the subject. Most importantly, I started implementing SEO on my website.
In my opinion, there is nothing better than hands on experience. It is one thing to read a book but it is another to actually try and get real-life results. By practicing various SEO methods on The Media Captain’s website, it allowed for me to continue to learn and improve in this skillet.
If I were not eager to learn a new craft, my business would not have been able to achieve continued growth each and every year. If you are willing to learn, it will give you an advantage over the competition while improving your own business.
2. Do Something Uncomfortable Every Day:
It can be tough to attend a networking event after work when you have put in a long day at the office, especially if you are trying to make time for your family. That being said, you never know who you might run into and what business opportunity it can turn into.
The easy route would be to call it quits at 5:00 PM and go home after work and crack open a beer. As an entrepreneur, you must do something uncomfortable each and every day.
Whether that is attending a networking event, making a cold call or sending a hand written note to your dream client, there should always be a sense of pro-activeness during and after office hours. This will help you grow the business.
I was able to land one of the most well-known companies in Columbus as a client by cold calling and reaching out to the owner on five separate occasions. Do you know how much it cost me to acquire this client? Only a couple of hours!
You will be pleasantly surprised by the results if you dedicate a certain amount of time to growing your business and doing something outside of your comfort zone on a daily basis.
3. Become a Weekend Warrior:
Do you know who works 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM from Monday to Friday? Every single person!
As a business owner, you need to distinguish yourself from the rest of the field. If you are serious about not only satisfying your customers but growing your business, you are going to have to volunteer extra time into the business.
Personally, I am a morning person. One of my favorite activities of the week is on Saturday and Sunday when I go to a coffee shop from 8:00 AM -11:30 AM and work on GROWING THE BUSINESS.
During the week, I am swamped with phone calls, meetings, client projects and responding to emails. The weekend is when I can take a deep breath, analyze everything that has taken place during the workweek and be proactive with my business.
4. Ask For Constructive Criticism:
I am not perfect by any means, just ask my girlfriend! That being said, there are so many entrepreneurs who believe that it is either their way or the highway. I believe this is the downfall of many businesses. They are not able to see issues presented right in front of them.
Whenever I have completed a project, I will ask the clients where I can improve or where associates on my team can get better. When you ask in a polite manner, you will be amazed by the wealth of information you receive!
An example that I like to share is from one of the first large accounts that we took on for an SEO project. Our agency works at a very fast-paced environment so we can get rolling on projects and start to deliver results.
While our client loved the pro-activeness on our part, in a company of their size, he was not used to working at the pace we were going at and he said he was a tad bit overwhelmed.
We immediately changed our course of action so we could still deliver results but not overwhelm the client with emails and updates. We have had this account for over 4-years now!
If we never asked for criticism, we would have never been able to adapt as quickly as we did.
5. Love What You Do:
I know this sounds cliche, but it is the absolute truth. My girlfriend gives me a hard time because while I’m on vacation, I enjoy reading books about digital marketing, SEO and online marketing. The fact of the matter is that I love the industry that I’m in and I enjoy reading this type of material so I can always be learning.
I think it is cool that my company can completely revamp another companies online presence by redoing their website so it is responsive across all devices. And once they have a great website in place, we can help them grow their business by generating more leads through search engine optimization and online advertising.
When you love your line of work, your business will reap the benefits. It makes coming into the office each and every day enjoyable. When you are spending 50+ hours a week at the office, loving what you do is an absolute necessity.
Starting a business and being an entrepreneur can be lonely at times. When you work so hard and don’t immediately see the light at the end of the tunnel, the early morning or late night stress sessions may not seem worth it.
My advice is to continue grinding! If you follow the five tips referenced above and continue to grind it out each week, the light at the end of the tunnel will be extremely rewarding.
Entrepreneurs tend to overestimate how much they can accomplish in a year while underestimating how much they will accomplish in five years. Business owners and entrepreneurs should give themselves a big pat on the back every Friday afternoon. You are one week closer to making it to that pivotal 5-year anniversary mark!
Jason Parks is the owner of The Media Captain, a Columbus based SEO Company and Social Marketing Agency.