Hip Hip Hooray! – We’ve launched our design agency, L+R. Since it’s the season for reflection, I took some time to look back on the biggest startup lessons I’ve learned while growing our company. At this point, I have ten compelling observations I’ve made in co-growing L+R.
1. I work with great people.
This goes for our employees, contractors, clients (both current and prospective), contacts, and everything in-between. We’re only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. Over time, their collective actions define who we are. This is why we have a very clear criteria about what kinds of clients we choose to work with. It’s also why we take hiring very seriously and make sure we go to the right networking events.
We have high standards for ourselves, the team-at-large, and our clients. It’s the most effective and enjoyable way to get things done right and to grow our startup company in the right direction with the right people.
2. Every part of our startup carries the same weight.
The graphic designer in me used to think that the deliverable mattered most and everything else was less important. Since then, I’ve learned to wear many different hats. I now know how critically integrated all parts of a business are when growing a startup company. We’ve decided to get serious by buying business suits and working on our pitch. We have an attorney, a copywriter, and a banker.
Our marketing strategy is fully equipped with press releases, twitter protocols, and email lists. We’ve learned how to communicate and are networking aggressively. We keep close check on our bankroll with automated systems to make sure we don’t go bankrupt and to make smart, well-informed investments.
We’ve built a brand that is positioned against our competition while leveraging relationships with those we want to work with. Every piece of the pie needs to fit together to make a whole.
3. The devil’s in the details.
I’ll be the first to admit we’ve made a lot of mistakes, with probably more to come. It’s a necessary part in the process of growing a startup company. It’s too easy to get lazy or sloppy and push things out quickly because of misaligned priorities or a lack of attention to the finer things.
There’s a saying my father used to say, “Fourth quarter, high knees.” Putting in the extra effort to get it done right the first time and avoid mistakes has always shown to pay off well.
4. In the public eye, dress to impress.
If you start a company, you need a suit and nice shoes. Ditch the backpack and get a haircut. No one has ever faulted anyone for overdressing and the same rings true within our company. When behind closed doors, we typically wear jeans, t-shirts, and slouch in our chairs. All that matters is how well we execute, that we do it on time, and that we keep our clients happy.
If a client hires us, that means they’re trusting us not only with the future of their company, but also with their livelihoods and a lot of cash. If we look and feel professional, the client rests easier and the project goes smoother. For us, everything we do is in the interest of our clients.
5. Let it all grow organically.
Ever since I’ve been interested in starting my own business, I’ve always been plagued by the idea of growing it from zero to one hundred in the snap of a finger. Scale and clout mattered more to me than meaning and stability. But I’ve seen the light and this is no longer the case.
“Scale and clout mattered more to me than meaning and stability. But I’ve seen the light and this is no longer the case.”
Growing a startup company is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of the process without forcing it. This method guarantees that our bases are covered, we’re enjoying the ride, and we’re not overloading ourselves with a new growth strategy.
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