I’ve made mistakes. I’m not ashamed. In fact, mistakes are good things. Just so long as you learn from them. I can honestly say that I have learned more from my biggest failures than I have from my greatest successes. In fact, my successes are a direct result of my previous failures. I was fortunate enough to start a business at a very young age. It made it possible for me to make mistakes and take on more risk because I honestly didn’t have much to lose. My biggest mistakes during that first venture were a direct result of me trying to do so much myself. I was too young to realize what my true strengths were. I didn’t have great council and my peers were either just getting out of school or still in school, so my network was limited. It wasn’t until Greg and I started FIFTEEN that I had a network of the best legal council, accountants and business professionals to help guide my strategies. These people are essential to any business and are just as important as your internal staff.
I quickly realized how important one talented resource could be to a company. I also found out that a talented resource still needs motivation, support, satisfaction and constant inspiration. Employees are the only thing you sell in a service business like advertising so they better be the best, because if they aren’t, you can bet your company won’t see its full potential. I consider myself lucky to have had the honor of working with the most talented people I’ve been able to identify. If nothing else, I do feel like identifying the potential for greatness in others, and allowing them the freedom to realize that potential, is one of my strongest skills. There isn’t a day that goes by where I am not impressed by the skill and passion of our team.
Now on to one of my weaker areas: saying, “No.” This was a tough lesson to learn. When you are starting out, the urge to accept any and every project that comes along is almost undeniable. And it makes sense. You’re in need of money and someone is showing up offering you said money. The reality is that not every project that comes along is a good fit. You need to learn when to respectfully decline a project that you know isn’t going to get you closer to your long-term goal(s). If you get the sense that a client is going to be extremely difficult, and won’t respect what you do, then odds are you will go way over on hours, wind up with a project you aren’t proud of, and the client will never refer you to anyone anyways. So save yourself the time, energy and headache. Spend your time more wisely, and work towards a client that respects your services and allows you to do your best work. Then you end up with a happy client who will tell everyone how great you are, which in turn makes finding the next job become much easier.
Our success is directly related to the wonderful clients we have had the honor of working with. These are relationships that are based on trust and mutual respect. We also bring a very high level of empathy to our relationships because we know the true value of our service and are always looking to creatively maximize every budget. Keep in mind that we have a number of other companies that puts us in the role of the client. So we understand where they are coming from with strategy and we want to make sure that their dollar is spent as wisely as possible.
Another big caveat that took some time to fully understand is not to panic. Nothing in business moves so fast that you don’t have choices. This is hard when you are starting out, having never faced that type of a situation. Not unlike the first time you have your heart broken. You can become very emotionally attached to your company which can lead to you making emotional decisions. It’s not a good place to make decisions from. As you spend more time in business you will find that nothing is worth getting upset over and this will allow you to see all your options before immediately reacting to situations. When growing a company you need to think in decades but deal with the situation of the day. It’s tricky, but with time it does become easier.
When I was in school I was never the valedictorian or the best athlete. But I was the most improved. I hope that I can achieve the same accolade in business. Right now I’m optimistic about the future of our companies. But what I’m most encouraged by is the fact that I get to work with exceptional and passionate people, because at the end of the day, people are what it’s all about.