01 Aug 8 Biggest lessons learnt while building our business
It’s been 2 years since I left the mad world of corporate ladders, alpha male’s, queen bee’s, unnecessary hierarchy, over-complicated processes and my fair share of office politics. “They” say not all companies have these, but you know it’s in there somewhere…
These are my reflections on some of the key lessons I learned over the last 2 years as we – myself and business partner Katie – muddled our way through life as Solopreneurs, Yourpreneurs, Entrepreneurs, Startup owners, Co-Founders – or more simply put two businesswomen with kids and a dream.
1 – Be clear on your Vision
Creating a clear vision is the first thing any entrepreneur or business owner should do. What is it that you want to achieve?
Before you get into the why and the how. Be super clear on this absolutely vital point. Without a vision, you have no idea where you will end up. With a vision, you know what you need to do – and more importantly who and what your business needs to become. Your business will pivot, you will make changes however the overriding vision will still be clear, a bit like having navigation on a ship rather than being rudderless.
I’ll let you in on a little secret… We were not always that clear on our vision, on what it was we wanted to be as a business and it took several iterations for us to get it right. Especially in the 1st year. Let’s face it, we were a bit all over the place, doing far too much, for far too little reward, and we were spread so thin it was hard to keep track and focus on our vision.
At the start of 2020, nearly 18 months later, our vision is crystal clear and it keeps us laser-focused. At Eva Connections, we want to help businesses innovate around 2 major challenges – Recruitment and Retention (Our Vision) and we want to do that by growing a community of amazing career women for companies to tap into (Our mission). This leads me nicely into my next point.
2 – Have a mission
Once you are clear on your vision – really think about how you are going to live that dream, reach that goal. How are you going to execute on the vision that you feel so truly passionate about?
We went back to the drawing board on this one a few times too and after a number of intense brainstorming sessions, a good dose of soul searching and peeling back the layers of our individual strengths and super strengths, our mission was clear.
Together we bring over 40 years of knowledge and experience in people development, team building, training, mentoring and coaching, talent acquisition and executive recruitment. Our mission is to not let these valuable skills go to waste.
3 – Stop thinking and start doing
I can not stress this enough. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re making millions of Euros already – overthinking can kill any business. I see overthinking as a form of procrastination and self-sabotage.
I like to plan things properly and add a bit of finesse to a final product before it goes “live”, but overthinking something to such an extent that you’ve forgotten why you started in the first place will kill your momentum.
Again, another great lesson learnt here because we indeed spent a good year overthinking our business – trying to be everything to everyone. It was not until the Summer of 2019 we finally decided to “niche” and focus on Career Women only who want to either:
- Excel in their current role
- Make a complete career change, or
- Re-enter the job market after being out of it for some time and are not sure how.
4 – Grow and invest in a team
One of my favourite leadership quotes is by ex-US President Harry Truman: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazingly talented people over the years. The People Operations team I built at Cloudreach was truly world-class and we had some real unsung heroes in that team.
Personally, my learning there was that you can not achieve greatness on your own, each and everyone played a vital part in us achieving our goals.
We are still a very small team at Eva Connections and for a long time, it was just Katie and I doing pretty much everything and working all the hours we could find. Then we officially hired our VA Issy, who is worth her weight in gold. Having that 3rd person to challenge some of our thinking, ideas and, more importantly, processes made a big difference to the dynamic of the team. Looking at our business today, we are surrounded by a number of wonderful women who are experts in their fields and who help us deliver on the parts of the business we lack vital skills in.
5 – Create scalable processes
Hands up, who likes a good process? Of course, this one goes without saying really, even if you are not making any money yet, there are a number of tasks in your business which are repeatable and very likely something you can turn into a nice slick process.
It’s all about taking something you do in your business more than once and creating a process for it. When you do something for the first time it is a project, when you do it for the second time it should be a process.
Creating a process can only be done after you do it once as a project – and successfully. Ideally, you do it the first time yourself so that you know all the steps but then you can outsource it to someone else or if possible, automate it (I’m a big fan of automation). Once you have a process you are going to be faster, you are going to make fewer mistakes, and you can eventually hire almost anyone to execute your process.
6 – Network and build community
Networking groups will come and go and change shape but the need for networking will not stop. All these online groups and communities have a place, and it’s great but nothing replaces meeting people face to face. Networking is the fastest way to gain more clients, develop deeper partnerships and create meaningful communities.
As you and your business grow you may want to evaluate what type of networking events you attend, whether they are workshops, big conferences or seminars, over time those will change. It is quite a good exercise to evaluate what your business needs at that point in time and which networking events you’d learn or gain something from.
Today we don’t go to the same events we went to a few years ago since they don’t serve us in the same way they used to. We like to meet our peers, friends and fellow business owners however from a learning point of view it is important to know the value you are looking to get from a networking event – time is money!
7 – Stay focused
The ability to focus can make or break your success in life. In fact, scientists consider the ability to establish mental focus as an important predictor of a person’s future success. It is perhaps one of the most important indicators, along with intelligence. We may be unable to dramatically increase intelligence, but we still can greatly increase our ability to focus.
We spent the best part of a year planning, researching, testing ideas, making mistakes… and of course, trying again. We are by no means perfect… let’s face it, we still get tempted by the “I have a great idea” moment, and they happen often, but at least with our laser focus we are able to stay on track. It’s so easy to get distracted when you are building a business but the key to success is to become a focused business owner.
Another great quote to take with you, this time from Zig Ziglar “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
8 – Have fun and celebrate regularly
Who does not like to have fun doing what they love to do? If you stop having fun, it’s time to go back to point one and think long and hard about why you set out on this journey in the first place.
I am going to add a cheeky last thought in here as a reminder to ourselves mostly. Along with the fun, we are continuing to have, to also celebrate achievements – big and small. Not everything needs a huge party and VIP invite list. Sometimes the best celebrations are unplanned… “let’s have a quick glass of bubbles and cheers to that win we had today” moments.
Feel free to share your lessons learnt with us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we would love to hear from you. All our journeys look a little different and I am sure we can learn a thing or two from our community!
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Written by: Estelle Roux-Stevens