Six things no one told me about the first two years in business
People often ask me what I would have done differently now that Chello has just turned two. And when I think about it, there’s nothing I would change, but I do wish I could go back and assure my slightly naive self that I would learn a great deal of things, which is most important really. Instead, here is a letter from me now, to me two years ago.
Look at you starting your own business; so excited, energetic, probably a little too nervous and less fashionable, blissfully unaware of what’s ahead of you. And now here you are, smug at your desk, eating a dark chocolate mint Lindt ball and responding to emails at the same time. Two years in business has flown hasn’t it? Look what we’ve achieved, we certainly eat less half-price sushi handrolls for dinner, we probably sleep a little more and have a little more time for wine and bad jokes, don’t we?
There’s so many things we’ve learnt in the last two years co-founding and running Chello. And while there’s always plenty more to learn (you’re just so damn curious aren’t you), here’s a few things I wished you’d known from the start.
Time waits for no one
I know everyone says time flies when you’re having fun, but actually no, time flies when you’re knee deep in 10 projects at once and your ‘new business is growing so fast you can barely spare a moment to grab a latte’. In fact, when you’re busy and taking on new clients with high expectations, time actually gets on a jet plane and flies to a whole new time zone, because time doesn’t care about you or that you have no time to do your hair or that you’re now a whole day behind.
Knowing this, you should be smart with your time. Make plans knowing that a year or two will fly. Rent that bigger space because you know you’ll grow into it. Create long-term infrastructure, get employees to write down their processes, use technology to your advantage and to streamline the business. Also, remember that moving offices really, really sucks.
Please, be less awkward
Lindsay, I know this is a hard one for you because you are relentless in your pursuits to be awkward and random at inappropriate times. Like remember that one time you were late for a meeting and jumped in the back of an Uber and started taking off your shoes and massaging your toes only to look up and find an absolutely terrified old lady staring back at you. Remember how that actually wasn’t an Uber? Yeah that was awkward.
Anyway, the point of the story is, your status as a founder is bound to be awkward at first. It will take you a long time to get used to being introduced to your team’s friends and partners as “this is my boss”. Try working on being less awkward, take life it as it comes, don’t overthink it.
Your team is your greatest asset
This is an obvious one, you’ve worked in teams before, you get it right? Maybe you don’t, here it is anyway.
Your team is your most valuable asset, look after your team, and they will look after your business. You knew this was important at the start, but I don’t think you realised how important, they’re the glue when you can’t be everywhere at once. People will move on. You'll get better at dealing with resignations and you won’t take it as personally, not everyone has the same passion for your business as you do. Remember, fire fast and hire slow.
Stay on the same page as your business partner
You’ve been lucky enough to start a business with someone that you can easily communicate with, someone you can text at 7am on a Saturday morning after a moment of inspiration, or 11pm later that evening about a crazy conversation. Not everyone has that and that relationship drives your business forward and keeps you innovative. Do what you can to stay on the same page with your business partner. Even though you hate mornings, make time for the morning catch ups, everyone can feel it when you’re not on the same page. Also, have bucket loads of grace for each other, you’re both learning at a rapid pace.
It’s not about the awards
Sure Lindsay, you’ve won a few awards, and that’s great, you really appreciate the support from both friends and the industry, but there will be something far more important to you than public accolades.
One of your proudest moments will be the impressed email from a client regarding a project you had nothing to do with (when you start to realise the business is bigger than its founders!) and the sound of glee from a new employee when they talk about their new role and your company, unaware you were in earshot.
There will be swearing, and lots of it
You'll be saying a lot of yeses and figuring it out later. These will be the best opportunities. You have to back yourself in these moments, no one will back you more than you’ll have to back yourself. This may mean lots of tough times, lots of second guessing and questioning yourself. Most of all, you will be dropping curse words like nobody’s business. That’s ok, just try not to do it in company.
Look Lindsay, I could go on, because we all know how much I love a chat, right? But at the end of the day, you will forever be in a state of learning, always putting yourself in a room with people who are smarter and more experienced than you, because that is the way both you and your business can best evolve. So good for you, now one last very important lesson, step away from the Lindt balls, you’ve had five already and it’s only 10am.