After 7 years in business, we like to think that we’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Seven things, to be specific. As we celebrate rounding the corner on our 7th year we are sharing our top 7 Business Tips that we have learned to be valuable. It is our hope that business owners everywhere can take these tips and transform their business into something that works for them, not something they work for.
Mabble Media – Year 1
1. A Good Company Culture Unifies Passionate People
Creating a strong company culture is non-negotiable when it comes to building a strong business. It is #1 on the list of things you’ll regret forgetting. While creating an inspiring work environment and defining what makes you unique may seem like things to worry about later on, we would argue that the earlier you can pinpoint what makes your business special the sooner potential customers and employees will be able to pinpoint it as well.
When it comes to company culture, giving employees ownership is a great way to end up with something worth owning.
Some quick tips for building culture:
- To ensure your culture is authentic, let your staff take the reins in guiding company culture in meaningful ways. Provide opportunities for them to speak into decision making, and collect and act on their feedback.
- Define what makes you different from your competitors for staff and customers. How can you communicate those things even better?
- Support your employees—ask them how to best do it.
- What does it look like to find pleasure, pursue passion, and have purpose in your company?
- Hire people who ADD to your culture and perspective, not people who FIT your culture and perspective.
Mabble Media – Year 2
2. Clients Who Are Bought In Over Projects You Might Cash In
While the projects that request your “talents for trade” in order to join a potentially viral project, good cause, or help improve your portfolio may seem like a great way to get your name out and increase sales, trust us when we say that clients that don’t pay almost never produce projects that do.
The tried and true method of increasing sales is investing in clients that are willing to invest in you.
A long term relationship that starts small and grows overtime is more valuable than any trade opportunity that promises big rewards on the backend. We recommend picking one client annually to support by donating your services, and turning down all other trade or pro-bono work. Instead, focus on pursuing small retainers with loyal customers that can grow overtime.
Mabble Media – Year 3
3. Systems Grant Freedom
I’m sure everyone has the same thought when starting a business: “I can’t wait to create the contracts, spreadsheets, and internal systems that are imperative to our success!” Just kidding. Everyone wants to do the thing they’re passionate about—the thing they set out to do when they started in the first place. So it’s no wonder that things like a well written contract or the internal systems that effectively run a business are the first things to get ignored.
Taking the time to create systems that produce effective work-life balance, support efficient workflows, and ultimately protect the staff allows for creativity to flow more freely.
Putting up guardrails lets the staff confidently explore the possibilities within them, leading to a more fun and productive work environment. The greatest reward regarding systems is their longevity. A good system, while continually adapting as the business grows, should last a while. If you do the hard things first, you can focus on the fun things more often.
Mabble Media – Year 4
4. Don’t Delegate Yourself Into Drudgery
Running a business can cause some business owners to stop doing the fun things involved in their job! Too quickly, entrepreneurs experience burn out in their own company because they give up the more interesting tasks to employees so they can focus on company operations. While that’s certainly a worthy use of time, you’ll quickly find yourself living your dream job and hating every minute of it.
The fire inside of you starts to dim when you delegate all of the fun away.
Keep a piece of the pie for yourself, and, when you’re feeling uninspired, take a bite. Did you open up a bar? Get behind the bar once a month and bartend for a locals only night. Did you start a cabinet installation company? Make a big deal about “The Reveal” with your clients, and be there to see their smiling faces. Whatever reminds you of why you got started, that’s the thing you should try to never stop.
Mabble Media – Year 5
5. Awareness, Not Awards
When we entered our industry, one thing was made very clear to us: awards are a thing here. While getting awards can be fun, we have not found this to be fruitful. Instead, we found the potential clients who would come through our doors based purely on the awards were not a great fit for us, and the staff energy and buy-in they were supposed to bring was fleeting and weirdly competitive. After a few years, we decided it wasn’t for us and learned:
It’s okay to decide for yourself how your company measures success.
So instead of focusing on how well we did against our industry peers over the last year, we see what we did in partnership with our community, or how we supported our values or staff. The money we once spent on submission fees (yes, it costs money to win awards) we now spend on diversity and ADA training, educational resources, pro-bono work, and community efforts. In our experience, that has created more things that we can be proud of, as well as connecting us with clients who have a purpose we can believe in.
Mabble Media – Year 6
6. Partner with Clients
Set up your working relationships early on to be peer-to-peer. You are not a tool to be hired, wielded, and then tossed aside. Instead you are a resource, a trusted expert, and have just as much agency and say in the relationship and direction of the project as the customer does. When the stars don’t align and working together isn’t in your best interest, don’t be afraid to say so and part ways.
It’s better to upset someone because you AREN’T working together and it COULD have gone well than because you ARE working together and it ISN’T going well.
(read that a few times)
Trust your gut and advocate for your staff. Remember that you are in control of who you work with and how the relationship operates, so set realistic expectations and healthy boundaries early on and watch as both your staff and your clients benefit.
Mabble Media – Year 7
7. Invest in Yourself When Success Hits
There is almost nothing as exciting as starting a business and watching it grow and become successful. Almost nothing. What could be more exciting? Doing the same thing, a second time. We’ve seen this happen with companies who have newly found success (Mabble being no exception), where at the first sign of profit they want to take some of that money and attention and invest it in something else, something new. After all they are a business building machine—what can stop them? Most of the time, literally one bad month could.
Reinvest in your company one thousand times before investing in anything else.
If after your business blossoms you get approached to spend time/money on another venture, say no, and instead reinvest it back into what you’re already building. While a machine actively in motion seems like it would have no reason to stop, all it takes is a bump in the road *cough global pandemic cough* to slow things down and make you wish you had allocated those finances differently.