10 Reminders For Your Successful Business

I would say ten tips or ten keys for your successful business, but c’mon—you’ve read these before anyway. In fact, I find myself writing this message mostly as a reminder to myself as we continue to grow and build our team here at Hawke Media. Whether you’re building an agency, a soon-to-be iconic brand, a marketplace, app, or software company—the challenges will be many. That being said, on to the list:

  1. Take HR seriously – As a startup, hiring and firing can sometimes be the result of an urgent and critical situation that needs addressing immediately. While it may be tempting (because you are operating a small and nimble machine) to make these decisions quickly to get the short-term benefit of lightening your workload or, in the case of firing, getting rid of someone who is dragging down the team—DON’T BE HASTY. Be diligent in your process. Thoroughly vet each candidate and check references. The same goes for firing. Are you upset or responding to a behavioral issue, a skill issue, or a character issue? Have you expressed this clearly and concisely to the member of your team with whom you’re having a challenge? Hiring new people, training them, building rapport, getting them acquainted with your team, etc., etc., etc. is far more time-consuming and potentially risky than taking someone you’ve already established a relationship with and realigning your goals. That being said, sometimes changes need to be made.
  2. The customer is not always right – and neither are you. The customer is always heard, spoken to with respect, and collaborated with, but not always right. If you run a business that provides a service based on acquired skill, this should be a no-brainer—you should know more than your client. Don’t be rude, keep their ultimate objective(s) in mind, and remind them (gently) that they hired you/contracted you/are buying from you because YOU know what you’re doing. As long as you’ve established a solid rapport with your client or customer, this should be easy enough to manage.
  3. It’s never all done – The to-do list is infinite. As a younger man, I imagined a setting in which I was “done” with all that was needed of me and blissfully soaked up the sun in my obligation-free utopia. That’s crazy talk for a number of reasons. Skill development is ongoing, there are new challenges to tackle, finishing one project only opens the door for another, etc., but you have to sleep. At some point you’ll get diminishing returns and want to be sure that you’re activity is focused in quadrant 2—this is what separates those that get the most done with their time from those that seem busy all the time with little to show for it.
  4. Culture, opportunity, and vision beat pay (for a while) – Attract great talent with your vision and the opportunity ahead. Keep in mind that it’s hard to recruit someone smarter than you, more experienced, or with multiple offers on the table without unflappable conviction of purpose. A former colleague of mine, Mark Lovas often preached being “on purpose and off self.” He runs a pretty successful company with that motto now proudly on display. Once you’ve got the budget to pay quality people for the work they’ve put in, do it and do it with a smile.
  5. Marketing/Biz Dev is everyone’s job – Evangelism is a requirement. When every employee is sold on the company vision and where the organization is headed, the sentiment is easy to notice and helps (with the hiring, of course) and also with grabbing new prospects from unexpected encounters. Business development is equally critical in customer service. Remind your clients and customers why they came and reassert your value often. It’s way cheaper to keep a customer than get a new one
  6. Feedback, reviews, management by walking around and accountability – Check out the One Minute Manager. TLDR: What did you agree on as an outcome? What was the outcome? How do you and they feel? Simple stuff. Additionally, a small note, encouraging text, or simple correction in real-time can make a huge difference in the speed at which your team learns and adjusts to your expectations and standards. Everyone likes to know where they stand—good, bad or otherwise—and it’s your job to make sure this is communicated clearly. Some find it easier to do on a regular interval while others are pretty solid with handling this on an ongoing basis. If you take the time (yours and your employees) to put something on the calendar for a review and spend time preparing so that the meeting is productive and meaningful, it has more of an impact. Ask yourself what the objectives are for this person. What are you doing to help or hinder in their development? What are their personal and professional goals? Strengths? Weaknesses? Consider this a re-interview of sorts for both you and your team member and treat it with the same rigor as a new hire—you’ll both be glad you did.
  7. Find mentors and vents – Some conversations are best had with those outside of your team. As much as you love them, you probably shouldn’t trouble your new hire with your feelings as it pertains to your new tax bracket or the egregious fees associated with workers comp. insurance. You have different problems, and you should try to maintain perspective. A leader need not be completely infallible, but you should be confident, cool, and collected more often than not. Perspective, fresh eyes, and experience in similar challenges can be incredibly relieving for entrepreneurs in the growth phase of an enterprise. Try to find at least one of each (mentor and vent), though, they can theoretically be the same person.
  8. Be excellent – Health, diet, sleep, relationships, etc. Most people I’ve worked with or had personal relationships with are excellent at a lot of things, or in need of improvement on a lot of things. Everything you do is interconnected and arguably equally critical. When you’re in the mindset of kicking ass and taking names at everything you do, you have the potential to accomplish anything you want. Avoid bargaining with yourself about being great at one area of your life in exchange for another. There’s no prize for martyrdom and “working so hard” is no excuse for packing on 20 pounds at your first equity gig. You’ll be a more polished pro and attentive friend, family member, or partner if you’re getting good sleep and getting your heart-rate up a few times a week.
  9. Plan, schedule, set goals and celebrate – especially celebrate. Planning, goal setting, and execution are all massive topics in and of themselves and worthy of separate posts, but start with something simple: Take 20 minutes each day, one day each month, one weekend each quarter and one week each year to plan your conquest. Start with broad strokes and work backward into defensible, actionable activities that support what you want to accomplish. If your goal is to sell 20 widgets by the end of the month and you’ve got 20 days to do it, you need to sell one widget a day. Good start, but how many leads/calls/clicks/etc. does that require? How many impressions, ads, etc. do you need to get to justify that given what you know about your business? What do you need to do to generate that activity? Write posts? Hand out business cards? Spend money on clicks? Where? How much? This is your plan. Plot your course in a schedule, NOT A TO-DO LIST and get the things on your calendar done. When you’ve hit a milestone or achieved a result you’ve planned out well – celebrate. Buy your team dinner and let them know why. Give yourself something nice that reminds you why you’re a badass. As a leader you’ll need to invigorate your own ambitions all the time as well, so plan meaningful celebrations that keep your eye on the prize as well.
  10. Have a brand and have a voice – Be consistent and have fun. Our team is one that is built on the idea of coming as you are, being able “to hang,” getting things done, learning, being smart, communicating clearly, transparency, and a heap of other ideals that I ramble on about ad nauseam. We show up for client pitches in jeans and tees because that’s who we are. We also talk the talk and walk the walk because that’s who we are too. I’ve seen young companies think that there is a mold they need to fold themselves into to find success—not true. The reason customers or clients responded to you in the first place was likely because you were not like everybody else they met in some way. Stay true to what you’re all about – communicate in this way and have fun. Trying to be something you’re not will get exhausting, and you’ll end up seen as a fraud anyway. If you haven’t found your voice yet, then keep practicing, keep preaching, and let it come naturally. Ask others how they perceive you and see what strikes a chord. Often this can be tough feedback, but will surely prove useful as you refine what you’re all about and how you’ll share your brilliance with the world.

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