What We Learned In Our First Year as a PPC Agency
January tends to be a time for reflection, where we look back over the successes and failures of the previous year and figure out what we want to change, and what we want to bin off entirely. Typically this revolves around our personal lives and habits, wishing we’d spent a bit more time in the gym or eaten a few less takeaways, but it’s just as important to take stock of our professional achievements and set some targets for the year ahead to keep us on the right track. It’s so easy to get bogged down in our day-to-day tasks that we often lose our wider perspective, especially when you find your inbox overflowing and your to-do list getting longer than your arm.
Such is the case when launching a new business. There are so many things to do, so many things to think about, that it’s very easy to spend all of your time in the “engine room” rather than at the helm, where you’d be making decisions that actually affect your bottom line and creating a better experience for both your customers and your team.
We’re just about to celebrate our first year as a fully-fledged PPC agency, which gives us the chance to look back on what we did right, and what we could have done better. Some of the advice in this article will only be useful if you’re in the industry, whereas some is more universal. So if you’re about to pursue a new project, hopefully some of this hard-won wisdom will save you a few headaches.
1) Too much control is limiting
A new business is a personal thing. It gives you a chance to forge your own personal vision into a tangible, money-making entity and puts all of your theories and strategies into practice. Creating a new business with its own branding, style and ethos is very much like forging a new identity, and for many this makes it very hard to relinquish control over any part of it.
But ultimately, we have our own specialist fields and it’s impossible to have the same level of expertise in every aspect of business. We may have an idea, and the experience necessary to make that idea a reality, but does that mean we know best when it comes to the design of our website? Or what our logo should look like?
While it’s never a bad thing to have a fine attention to detail, sometimes we need to know when to step back and allow others to throw in their ideas, or take what we have and improve it. This may sound unrealistic for a new business owner (who can afford to pay a creative agency to shape a brand that doesn’t make any money yet?) but it doesn’t have to be. Listen to your audience, listen to your colleagues, listen to the experts, listen to your friends. Ask people to critique your ideas and keep an open mind, it’s the only way you’ll reach outside of your comfort zone.
2) Learn to delegate
This follows on from the last point. Most new business owners don’t have the luxury of a second pair of hands. You often find yourself posing as a managing director, creative director, web designer, coder, sales manager, customer service manager, fulfilment manager and the person who has to make all the brews. So the idea that you can hand off some of your work to a third party seems like a pipe dream, but you’d be surprised at the resources at hand if you look out for them.
How many people do you know have more skills than their professional role requires? We all know someone with a good eye for design, a good brain for coding or even just a solid bank of wisdom and experience to bounce ideas off. Look for opportunities to bring in outside knowledge and consider what you can do in return. There’s usually a decent trade-off which suits both parties and lightens your workload significantly.
3) Client selection is important
Every business is quiet in the beginning. When those first opportunities come along it can be all too tempting to take on work that doesn’t suit you, just for the sake of working. But this is a classic trap that many new businesses fall into. Always think about what return you’ll get for the investment of your most important asset, your time. Sometimes turning business down can actually be the most financially sound decision you’ll make. Always keep a level head when it comes to risk assessment and plan for every eventuality, the perfect client might not exist in reality but they should all be at least mutually beneficial. If you’re finding the relationship benefits them but not you, you’ll wish you were a bit more patient in the beginning.
4) Everyone makes mistakes, so make them quickly and learn from them
This is a universal mantra. Nobody became successful without failing along the way. Doing something wrong and learning from it is the fastest, most effective and, crucially, the most unavoidable method in getting better at anything, in work or outside of it. The number one thing that kills most businesses is the fact that the vast majority of them never start in the first place. They exist only as ideas and daydreams and things we’d “like to do one day”. The only thing stopping them from going any further is the fear of failure.
Ultimately, failure is necessary to succeed. It’s like falling off your bike. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back in the saddle and the rewards are there. The quicker you fail, the quicker you learn and the quicker you improve. So it’s actually something we should be seeking out rather than avoiding. Approach every setback, missed opportunity or bad decision as a learning opportunity and keep pedalling.