As I write our almost last post for the year and seat in this coffee shop reflecting about how far we have come in 2015, it’s inevitable to start thinking about everything we’ve accomplished and also about everything we are curious to experiment next year.
Out of all the years we’ve been in business we have taken many different paths and detours. For some reason 2015 has been the year where we finally feel grounded in our vision and the foundation we have been building it’s starting to take shape and strength.
Have you ever sat down to write a list of everything you learned in one year?… This is what I came here to do. It sounds like a pretty cool idea but in reality it could be a little uncomfortable to steer back into all the memories. Most likely memories of mistakes you made and time wasters will bubble up to the surface as well.
Beyond the discomfort these “time waster” memories are giving us direction and showing us our path. The truth is there aren’t time wasters in life, just lessons that always come with a hidden value if we care to find it. I will share those in another post.
Today I want to share with you what seemed to work and is an energy enhancer for our business in 2015.
But before we get there. We want to wish you a very Merry Christmas filled with all the motivation to make your dreams come true. There is nothing like waking up everyday to a life you are carving with love and shaping it to be a master peace of your full potential. We wish that to you and we thank you for being here and forming part of our community. Discovering who you are was a HUGE part of our success this year. And knowing you is what makes our creative business meaningful. There is no fulfillment without sharing. And that is the most important lesson of this year.
Now, here are our 5 business lessons learned this year. We hope you can relate!
1. Investing in our business and ourselves at the same time.
Earlier this year we made the scary decision to hire Leslie to help us out with our business. This decision came from trying a different approach to investing most of our money on trade shows (Surtex) which is what we have been doing in the past. The hardest fact about this self investment was not so much about getting help, it was about paying for help before we could even pay ourselves. As small business owners (you might be familiar with this) it’s already a challenge to bring the steady large income flow regularly, so when the money is there it is tempting to pay ourselves first.
And since we are in that subject, we do believe on paying ourselves first. This is how we do it. We allocate a percentage of our income to our “pay ourselves” account. This way we are able to do both invest in our business by adding value to it (in our case that meant hiring Leslie) and by paying ourselves (investing in our business by investing in ourselves as well)
2. Outsourcing and playing business roles that make us happy.
As business owners and partners we have tried all sorts of different roles and as many as you can imagine different business systems and models. Only to discover that we failed on most of them. Mainly because our areas of expertise overlap. We are both designers and creators. It was challenging to discover neither one of us was too excited about taking on other roles within the business, besides the creative ones.
This year we made a huge discovery!! Turns out that we do have different areas of expertise within our seemingly same right side brains. To give an example, after never being able to master a good blogging method we broke down our blogging goal and looked at the small tasks involved and pointed at the ones we didn’t like to do (the ones that stopped us from making it a priority). The Aha!! moment came from noticing that what stopped us were completely different things. I loved coming up with the content and always had fun post ideas popping up in my brain. Visualizing the ideas made me excited but when I started thinking about the SEO involved, editing, all the photo cropping and watermarking and laying out I would start getting discouraged. So guess who likes to do all that? My sister!!
Why it took us so long to discover that? I don’t know but this was just one small example of many. Also, if you run a solo business consider outsourcing little small tasks that make you slow and less productive. We really can’t do it all. Before your brain goes to “I can’t afford it mode” let it sit and be open for new ways to collaborate, barter or just knock at other’s doors, start the conversation about it with someone. Just changing ways will bring new results.
3. Committing to growing slowly and saving for business purchases.
This has always being our motto. Yet this year I felt our commitment more than ever. We run a debt free business, no credit cards. Our principle is to never go into debt for the sake of growing faster. However, I got to tell you, weirdly enough the more money we make the more tempting it is to think of new things, tools, help, support, products, classes and equipment we want. Right in the high of growth is easy to just want more growth. As we are budgeting for the month our minds still visit the idea of acquiring something before the money for it has arrived. It’s a good thing we have each other to stop us from acting on that.
Instead we budget every month for those things we need. We have designated saving accounts for each category. One of my favorite business life days is when we reach our saving goal for a service or product we planned for and we get to buy it or hire the services. It’s a very fulfilling moment!!
4. Marketing starts before the product is created.
This lesson has been wanting to visit us for a while (I imagine lessons as flying entities trying to catch us). The thing is, we weren’t paying attention. I secretly wish we had learned this lesson 10 years ago, because it takes a while to master. We have yet to put in practice this magical theory. Which is why I think 2016 will be our marketing year. This year will be the one where we practice the most launches and marketing techniques. It will be the one where we start our real product offers and establish a marketing strategy for our business.
This is kind of weird (and naïve) to say. We’ve never done a marketing strategy before.
5. The importance of pitching as a business tool.
Out of all the business classes we took this year, there was one that brought us much reward. It was definitely time and money well spent! It’s called “Say Yes!” from Tiffany Han at Creative Life. Through this class we got motivated and packed with tools to start a project I’ve been thinking about for a while. The project involved requesting content from well known experts in the surface pattern design industry and in the illustration industry as well. Not only artists that have paved the way successfully but also buyers/agents that prefer to remain hidden from the public eye. The content is going to be used to make a well rounded guide for all artists (still in progress).
After pitching a huge list of experts not only did we got an amazing response but also a couple of relationships grew from our communications and we were invited to collaborate in some of their projects as well. This was so rewarding because, business relations and collaborations was something we really needed to enrich our community, to learn and as a platform to practice our core message and business model.
Phew! That was a good review. I still have other lessons learned to go over with but these are definitely our favorites ones.
Now is your turn. What are some lessons you have learned this year?