I recently penned a first-hand account of five pitfalls for fellow CEOs to avoid when trying to achieve steady and successful growth for their business. As luck would have it, I didn’t stop making mistakes in just those areas. There were most certainly other fundamental lessons that I learned at Jacob Tyler along the way of what not to do. With that, I humbly offer five additional things to sidestep when running a company.
You know the saying in real estate: Location, Location, Location! Well, the same should go for all businesses: Brand, Brand, Brand!
Most small business owners don’t realize how important their brand is to the success of their business. If your current or potential customers don’t perceive you as the best at what you do, your business will have a difficult time growing. In addition, you will have a challenging time attracting the talent you need to build your team.
Whenever possible, dissect your brand. Constant brand reflection is needed because, let’s be honest, your competition is breaking down your brand and looking to exploit your shortfalls. Uncover ways you can improve your brand and be humble enough to take action.
In 1998, I was the creative director of a fairly large interactive agency in San Diego. I clearly remember going to an "all hands" company meeting where the president stated we would be at 180 employees within six months. That would almost triple the staff in a very short period of time. Why? Because ego got in the way of smart business decisions.
My thought at that time, "Why not have profit triple and try to maintain a reasonable staff size?"
While that’s an extreme example, some small companies tend to focus on being bigger versus being better. There is no glory in being big and sacrificing quality, thus profits. It’s important to be patient. If your business is steadily expanding and not just in spurts, then you’re meant to grow. Take your time and make sure you only bring on staff when necessary.
The old saying goes, "The cobbler’s children have no shoes." Much like the cobbler, small business owners often become so busy dealing with customers, projects, and the day-to-day minutia of running their company that they completely forget about taking care of themselves and their family, which in this case is the business.
Building your brand and business requires that you market your abilities and invest in yourself. Yes, unfortunately this requires a monetary investment and will certainly impact your profitability and cash flow. However, that’s the cost of doing business.
Successful leaders are willing to take a couple steps back in order to move many steps forward. Be smart and use your marketing dollars wisely. Make sure you track your return. Certain collateral you create for interactive or traditional marketing tactics may have a higher impact and result depending on your business. Find out what works for you and continue on that path.
I used to have a close friend that complained he couldn’t find a date. My response was, "That’s because you don’t have any women walking through your living room. You need to get out of the house!"
The same goes for business owners. We spend most of our time working and not enough time making connections with potential clients. It’s who you know that creates and builds relationships with people you don’t know. For example, when you receive an email with a resume from someone you don’t know, you may or may not pay attention. However, if your friend asks you to look at a resume because they know that individual, you’re far more likely to review.
Be a corporate partner, build connections when possible, go to events and remember that life and success begin outside of your comfort zone.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years is to trust yourself because you’re more than likely right. For example, there have been times when we’ve taken on a client and it wasn’t worth the money and our instincts told us that it would be more of a headache, but we gave it a try regardless. Those relationships didn’t work out and was just confirmation that we should have listened to our gut. It’s important to look out for red flags and when you see one, believe it. We have instincts in business and business owners let them slip because they think they might be wrong. Always stick to your instincts.
We’ve learned many lessons over the years that have shaped who we are today as a company. While making mistakes and learning from them is all part of the process, if you can avoid them, it will allow you to focus more on the company’s success and moving forward rather than having to dig themselves out of a rut.
—Les Kollegian is the CEO at Jacob Tyler, an award-winning, full-service, brand communications agency specializing in brand development, print collateral, web design, web development, product design and online marketing. Contact Les at firstname.lastname@example.org.