Starting a business, like many things, is easier said than done. While difficulties lie in gathering the resources to start the business, the real challenge is progressing from the start up stages to the place that the proprietors foresee when they plan the company.
As a 8-year-old agency formed between seaweed salad and toro sashimi, The Arland Group and its hard working members have worked through, and continue to face, these challenges and have learned some valuable lessons through the process. As a college student who started a business with some fellow classmates during the recent year, I also speak from my own experience.
3 Big Lessons
Number One: Know Where to Look
Without customers, a business simply cannot survive. They bring revenue to a company but, more importantly, they shape the brand and give valuable feedback. If a customer does not like something, he or she will let the company know through his or her actions, and friends will know through his or her words. As explained in a previous post, customers, for these very reasons, should receive royal treatment.
For new businesses trying to get their feet off of the ground, however, providing excellent customer service is not the problem. For them, customers are a necessity that can feel as difficult to come across as water in the desert.
Knowing where to reach potential customers is the first step to solving this problem.
In 2005 when TAG formed, the best way to reach customers was through the mail. Keith Seiz andJason Wood, two of the three founders of TAG, Keith’s wife Amanda Seiz and Jason’s mom Karen Gabriel spent all day, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., sending thousands of letters to professionals all over the country. By the end of it, the four had more paper cuts than skin left on their hands.
Times have changed since 2005, and while mail may once have been effective in expanding company reach, today this method gives a business an outdated image and does not provide great results. In the present day, social media—Facebook, Twitter, Google+—is proving itself as an effective route of reach.
This brings light to another important lesson: the lesson of diligence.
Number Two: Diligence
It is not possible to build a successful business part time.
While social media may be the desired route to reach customers, unless a business makes frequent and relevant posts, the reach will be minimal.
Two important things to remember are to give 100% time and effort into building the business and constantly look for rewarding opportunities and investments.
In the early days of The Arland Group, the team tried for 18 months to get Delmar Gardens to work with them.
“We had several meetings and lots of going back and forth with them and we just had to wait for the right time,” Seiz said.
As expressed by the one hit wonder Chumbawamba in the song “Tubthumping”, once you get knocked down, get up again.
Number Three: Landing the Customer
Judging from my own experiences, customers are hesitant to invest in a company’s product if they do not have a portfolio of previous work to reference.
In the case of the business I started with some fellow classmates, the team and I soon realized that in order to gain a client base, we needed to make sacrifices by further cutting our prices and accepting other forms of payment.
Yes, I did say that. We accepted service exchanges, such as advertising space on a client’s website in exchange for our company’s product.
In essence, we had to swallow our pride and sell ourselves short just to simply build our portfolio, which gave us the groundwork to move forward.
No magic formula exists for building a successful business, but apart from the hard work and an understanding of the industry the business operates in, making sacrifices is inevitable and essential. When starting and building a business, generally speaking, nothing goes to plan. When the opportunity for feedback arises, I have learned to take it in, understand it and build from it.