Like most small businesses, our company has spent the last six years with its share of ups and downs. We have grown from two goofy guys to what is now a company of 10 fabulous individuals and multiple contract employees, in addition to those two goofy guys. We first began working out of our homes, then opened our first office in downtown Bowling Green and have since moved twice – both times within a two-block block radius. We recently expanded to Louisville, Ky. with our second CrowdSouth location.
Going into business for yourself usually happens either via a franchise or predetermined business model – the former typically with support from a larger organization with resources to encourage growth. Starting with an idea alone can pose a greater challenge because it means, regardless of its originality, more work. This stuff doesn’t come with a handbook. There are positives and negatives on both entrepreneurial paths.
Entrepreneurialism bears amazing experiences and lessons. Here are five things we have learned on our business path over the past few years.
Become Familiar With Your Financials
We first used a tax professional for our business, which was perfect for us. However, as the client list grew in addition to our employee headcount, we needed a team available to us for more regular advice. We now work with a local CPA firm and can’t imagine life without them. More than anything, they have humored our questions and provided much needed guidance in our oft-changing climate. Even more exciting is the education we’ve received by way of the firm’s challenging us in encouraging basic knowledge and use of balance sheets, P&Ls, and more. We are still learning, but understanding your company’s financials is a responsibility you have as a business owner.
Find Someone Who Has Been There Before
We have recently begun a mentor-style relationship with a local business person – someone in a different industry with 25 years of experience in steady business growth of their own.
In seeking and developing a local mentorship with someone we admire and respect, we’ve been gifted with an invaluable resource for successfully growing a business. A two-hour lunch can result in our implementing a procedure or program that will positively change the way we do business, that we wouldn’t have known to do otherwise. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what a mentor relationship can offer.
Team Member Dynamics Are Important
Much of my own personal development throughout my business journey has resulted from a growing understanding of team member dynamics. Don’t make the mistake of believing office environment issues will all work themselves out naturally! Jason and I call our early period the “can’t we all just be cool” years. Spoiler alert: we all always can’t! (That goes for myself and Jason, as well.) Not everyone gets along perfectly all of the time.
A clear understanding of not only long-term company goals, but also the type of workplace environment we want to foster helps keep the entire team in mind when hiring. These days we do our best to hire individuals we think add to our team at both levels. We’ve also learned to be quicker in addressing issues when they arise. While we all just want to “be cool” and abide by unspoken norms, saying when things aren’t cool is always better in the long run.
Industry Peer Groups Have Value
Over the past 12 months we have met with five other agencies around the country for a monthly virtual meeting. Some call this a peer group, or mastermind. Our peer companies are all about our size in revenue and years established. We’re able to trade ideas and discuss what is working for us and what isn’t. What began as an invaluable resource grew into an event we frequented less and less. Therefore, like so many things small businesses tend to implement, we’ve grown to view this meeting as something we could benefit from just as much on a less regular basis. At the recommendation of our business mentor, we moved to meet with our peer group once every six months off site, which offers the chance to get out of town and return revitalized with new ideas and a fresh perspective, ready to set new goals we strive to achieve within the next half-year. A monthly follow-up email with our group keeps us in line to report on our goal status when it’s time to reconvene. A peer group is the perfect tool for business owners to get a look at industry health and learn what non-competitors in other markets are doing.
Even A Marketing Agency Must Market
We spent the first five years of business not marketing our services. Our clients came to us via word of mouth referrals or walkins off the street. But we want to grow and thrive, which means we need more clients. If only we knew someone who could help us market ourselves…
So, we spent the second half of 2019 diving into how to sell our services locally and beyond Bowling Green. Much data points to a marketing budget of 3-6% of revenue as ideal, depending on the industry. And that percentage is fluid based on your business plan and whether you hope to achieve growth or remain static in the upcoming year, but it is a start. We’ve discovered our marketing goal for 2020 is to, well, set a marketing goal, as we know we want to grow CrowdSouth in the next few years.
As for our next six years, I am hopeful this list will change as we learn more about how to grow our company. We encourage our current and potential business partners to always reach out to us. We love to talk to people about their businesses and what we can learn from each other!
By Chad Webb
Chad Webb is one of CrowdSouth’s owning Partners and brings years of managing multi-million dollar marketing budgets to your business. He also has a year round dress code of jeans and short sleeve plaid shirts (and seasonal flip flops, of course).