My startup, Kamber
, is nearly eight months old, and it would be an understatement to say I’ve learned a few things during that period. Some have been difficult lessons; others have been pleasant surprises.
Overall, the business is a lot further ahead than I had anticipated based on the key indicators: clients, revenue, headcount, and some less tangible stuff.
Here’s my account of my experiences thus far:
1. Getting past the initial doubt is the biggest battle.
The first 10 days of operation was dedicated to coming up with a name and brand identity for the business that ticked all the boxes (URL availability, business name availability, etc.), but it was painful.
Eventually we settled on something, but feeling like you were failing at the very first hurdle (for 10 long days) was quite deflating. However, once the breakthrough happened, it provided a shot of confidence, too. It made me feel like I could navigate anything that came afterward.
2. Don’t wish the first six months away.
About six weeks into this thing, I said to a friend it would be so much easier if I could just hit a fast-forward button, reach the six-month mark, and get the foundation stuff under my belt.
As my friend so perfectly pointed out, I’d miss some really cool things, too, such as the sign going up outside the office, the first client contract, the first check coming in, and so forth.
It didn’t afford me much solace at the time, but looking back, skipping that period would have been a mistake.
3. Strip back your marketing strategy, and strip it back again.
In some situations, funding enables you to worry less about revenue while you’re establishing the brand. In most cases revenue enables growth, but how do you generate it if no one knows who you are or what you do?
This makes marketing a difficult balancing act. Our inclination is to do as much as we can in as many places as we can, and as a startup that is a very powerful urge.
Stifle that urge.
Once you’ve developed the first cut of your marketing strategy, strip it back. Review, tweak, and strip it back again. Keeping it simple is one of the world’s oldest pieces of advice, but I found it has been a terrific beacon.
4. Think about what your offer will look like in three years.
We live and operate in an era categorized by rapid change. I feel like I’ve got a good idea of what our offer will look like in three years, and that influences every decision that is made.
I don’t think there is any magic formula to this, and it takes a degree of belief to think in that way all the time, but it has really helped me make decisions with more conviction.
In short, I’ve learned pretty quickly to let the future influence decisions as much as the immediate priorities do. Even if those decisions don’t turn out to be the right ones, at least you have a criterion in place to be more decisive.
5. Just say no.
I reached out to my friend Mat Singley just before I made the jump and asked him whether he had any advice. His big thing was having the confidence and common sense to say no to things.
Over time you might be able to add service layers to your offer, but to begin with, do the things you are good at doing. Closely linked to this is saying no to clients if they’re not right for you, even if they present a commercial opportunity.
I still struggle with this one but am getting better at it, and I can’t advocate it enough.
6. Know exactly what you are selling, and use feedback to your advantage.
This seems obvious, but I often visit websites where I have no idea what I’m being asked to buy.
Though the blog is the heartbeat of our website, it is the product and services pages which enable people to make an educated decision about potentially working with us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed those pages or how many times I’ve wanted to bang my head against my desk because people still weren’t sure what we did.
Feedback has been important. It reminds me who my audience is and what I must deliver.
7. Question everything, and confront the uncomfortable answers.
This is something I learned early on, even before going live.
What is genuinely different about this business versus the competitor set?
- Is that contract/agreement really suitable?
- Why are you going to that event, really?
- Do you really need to develop that new tool?
Being small is great, and it enables you to adapt quicker than big organizations, but your resources are limited, and that puts a premium on your time and energy.
Asking yourself questions along the way and being honest with yourself (even if you don’t like the answers) helps tremendously.
8. Step back, and turn it off.
I’m an over-thinker, which is a recipe for sleepless nights.
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The best way I’ve found to deal with this has been to do things that disconnect you from the business and its sector. I’ve made doing things on my weekend a priority recently and have found I am a lot more productive during business hours.
Adam Vincenzini is a PR Daily contributor and the managing partner of Kamber, a specialist content marketing and social media agency based in Australia. Follow Kamber on Twitter @KamberCo.
A version of this story first appeared on the author's blog.