A start-up story: Part 2

LAST year I posted some of my thoughts after a few months in business - the things people didn’t tell me that turned out to be just as important as the supposed bigger, more obvious things. Since then it’s been an incredible 20 months at FortyTwo - ‘one for the books’, a ‘rollercoaster of emotions’, and something ‘I wish I’d done years ago’ - you know the script.

I’ve learnt so much over the past year and a half. I’ve been fortunate to know people willing to advise me and challenge my ideas - something I am thankful for and I wanted to celebrate with this post.

In the spirit of this, I’m going to share some of the things I’ve learned, been told and in one way or another or just picked up along the way. Each entry has been important in building FortyTwo Studio and my own role within it. Hope you find it relevant and helpful, I still am.

  1. Keep your foot on the pedal

You won some new work - so what? Your P&Ls are healthy and the pipeline is good - and? Clients and the team are happy - big deal! The biggest mistake you can make is to think you've done it and sit back and admire. You always have to be in a state of looking ahead, and questioning how to make things better. Enjoy those moments of success - happy clients, new work, awards - but they are moments. Bask in their glory for that moment then move on and get back to working on the business.

  1. Fail to plan, plan to fail

A goal without a plan is fantasy. As with No 1, what you do today is a stepping stone for what you’ll do in the future. Work out where you want to be and work out each stage of how to get there - then do it.

  1. Fail often and fast

Continuing from above, get ready to change your plan - don’t get hung-up on time spent on something not working. Ditch it and move on.

  1. Teamwork

Trust your team and trust they trust you too. A good team is a gift but nothing can be more destructive than not trusting that they trust you too. Lead by example, do what you say, be open, fair and constructive. It’s pretty simple really.

  1. A happy team is a happy business

It goes like this - if you keep the team happy and fulfilled, they do better work and are eager to make the business better and keep the clients happy. If the clients are happy and the business grows, the team is happier still. Pretty simple cyclical truism. Also, see 2.

  1. Cashflow is king

What business doesn’t feel this? We all have this to bare at times. We find that the best way to keep cashflow healthy is to build good and open relationships with clients and deliver great work and service - cultivate a relationship where the client wants to, nay eager, to put your invoice to the top of the pile. Simple in essence I know, and it does takes time, but it works for us.

  1. Collaboration is key

It is vital for growth but it’s also important to be clear - you want true collaboration and not just ‘referral reach-arounds’ - this is the difficult bit. No doubt about it, if you are looking to work with a new partner, perhaps dovetailing services and knowledge in way you have not done before, it can be tough. Working out where responsibilities lie, commercial aspects and ensuring above all that the client gets the best outcome (that’s main reason after all) takes time, trust and transparency, but in this modern economy, it is essential for growth to cultivate these partnerships and make them work.

  1. Nothing worthwhile is easy

If you feel you are ‘coasting it’. Guess what? You probably are. Running a successful business is tough, trying to grow that business year to year is tougher still. Like all of life’s challenges - education, raising a family, stopping yourself eating a whole box of Jaffa Cakes - achieving success in business is difficult to sustain but important to all involved. What are you waiting for, stop reading and get on with it.

  1. Work on the business, not in the business

Something I struggle with everyday. As a former ‘do-er’ coupled with being a small company, there are times when I need to get back on the tools and help out the team (help, being a subjective word of course). Short-term help is fine at this stage of the business but my role is to look to the future, work out what we’re going to be and how we get there. The big picture (another cliché) looks bigger than ever - dealing with that has to be my day job.

  1. The cliches are true

Each and every entry in this list is a well-worn cliché and have been chosen deliberately for reason. However, they also share a common element - they are true. We dismiss much of what is deemed today as ‘business speak’ or ‘corporate bullshit’, however under the surface of an over familiar phrase, there can be real depth. It could be remiss of you to ignore it - so next time you receive a so-called clichéd piece of advice - think again, there's gold in them there hills!

This post is dedicated to the do-ers, the helpers, those who take time out of their day to challenge and the experienced dreamers who have been there, learnt things the hard-way and need to share it.

Now that’s done, I’m back to the day-job. Drop in and share your story with us or just enjoy a good cup of coffee. In the meantime though, has anyone seen the Wok-Wok menu?