What I Learned My First Year in Business

What I learned my first year in business

Mentally and physically drained

I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into and why I thought it was a good idea. Then on top of that, I decided to start another side project – little did I know it would be so successful so quick. There comes a point when you have to re-evaluate all the things happening around you and from there try to make the best decision for you. Arriving at this point a few months ago made me realize how hard it was to work a full time job while trying to start something impactful on the side.

About a year ago I began HouseofFofanah.com with the goal of trying to provide business education to creatives looking to start businesses. The idea came about because I had spent time around so many designers and creatives that were great at their art but not so great at the business side of things. It was shocking to me that in design schools they give you the tools to create but not to sell your creation.

When I launched HouseofFofanah.com for the first time it was just me. Shortly after, I brought on another person, and another, and soon it was about 6 people. It was a great time because we were getting so many viewers on our newly built platform. Each person on the team had a different background and brought a lot to the table.

This was the first virtual company I began. Well, what exactly do I mean? The idea has been around for a long time. (Thank you Buffer for the inspiration. Read this great article by them talking about why they completely ditched having an office.) A virtual company is when you don’t really have a physical location; instead all the members on your team get to work remote from the comforts of their home and the flexibility of their schedule. There are many pro’s and con’s with not having a physical location. The first is cost related; When running a business the most expensive thing you’ll most likely be paying for is space/rent. The other pro is the fact that you don’t restrict talent to a certain region and in fact can hire the very best. However, there are also cons to running a virtual business. For example, sometimes it’s better to meet in person when you’re building a company culture, especially in the beginning.

Early Challenges

Personal Challenges

It’s understood that when you’re starting a company there are many challenges and obstacles along the way. I mean we were only a few months old and naive to all the difficulties that would come about. First, I’d like to just talk about some personal challenges. I was working a full time job that had me there about 60-70 hours a week (This is not a joke, welcome to consulting life). Spending that amount of time at work I didn’t even have time for myself let along friends and family. Most times I found my back against thew all and missed birthdays (sorry guys), weddings, and other important events to my friends. With all that going on I forgot to mention I was trying to run a start-up on the side trying to manage a team of six (which would later grow to a team of 16 with our summer internship program that would bring in 10 interns).

@@The personal challenges I guess you can say were my doing. What I was trying to do wasn’t physically possible.@@

(Sometimes I get this idea in my head that I’m indestructible.) Well, I learned my lesson.

Besides my own personal challenges there were also team challenges. Instead of diving deep on this topic I just want to focus on some of the key areas we struggled in and where other start-ups tend to as well. The areas where we experienced the most difficulties were around personal development, growing too quickly and accountability and responsibility.

Let me explain..

Personal Development

One of the greatest formula to a successful company (this can be found in any company you can imagine) is the ability to develop their people. What do I mean by this? Think about all the training programs provided before your start your new job. And even before you accepted the offer you saw just how polished individuals became overtime. There were workshops, development trainings which all tied into personal development. As a new start-up there are many opportunities out there that are even free to attend. It’s always important to keep your eye out for them to send your team (and even yourself). Another thing you should think about is establishing a mentorship network and an advisory board. Both will help in terms of receiving guidance and direction but also wisdom and experience in guiding your company and providing input for your people. Lastly, think about weekly check-ups. (Yes, i know the last thing on your mind is your people, but investing in them is the greatest thing not only for them but for the company.)

Growing too quickly

Yes, this is a thing! And I see it happen all too often. This is how it usually happens:

You share your idea and others express interest. They tell you they’re willing to help in any capacity. You take on the individual because you believe you need but in reality have know defined role or on boarding processes highlighting their responsibilities and etc. (Sidetone: the more people you have does not mean the more legit your company will be; not even close)

Defining roles and Accountability

Often times the missing link between an idea and execution that mostly goes missed is having well defined roles. It’s import to make sure people know and understand what’s expected of them, as well as who is in charge. It’s absolutely critical that roles are defined as the company and team grows. Miscommunication is common in start-ups that don’t really have defined roles and when things don’t get done it’s hard to track it back to who was accountable.

What mistakes have you’ve made when starting a business or thing you’re working on improving? I’m really interested in learning more and engaging in the comments below.

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