What We ReLearned As A Small Business In 2021
Last year was a strange yea but it was also a great year for learning. I’ll skip ticking off the various national and global examples because I’m sure no one’s forgotten, and many are still going on. But on a smaller scale, these events and changes have continued to inform how we communicate and interact personally and professionally.
In addition to all of the new and improved tools and philosophies to manage projects, remote teams, and work/life balance, there are a few basics that our team has had to re-learn as we navigate day-to-day issues both mundane and monumental. This has helped us maintain our sanity, and contributed to our understanding of the space we’re in so hopefully it translates to insight for you and/or your organization.
THE FOLLOW UP IS SUPER IMPORTANT
In my previous position at a successful Houston, TX, startup, I made it a point to observe our CEO on calls. She never said much. In fact, she preferred for team members to drive most conversations. But she regurgitated the goals and action items at the end of these calls, and she always sent a concise follow-up email to all parties, either personally or through a team member. Of course, as the CEO this wasn’t expected of her but it set the tone for future interactions and created expectations.
In my current business, this has become a valuable practice. Many customers have a limited time for calls or meetings that don’t deal directly with their employees or client roster. Knowing this, we often utilize our follow-up emails and templates as a quick reference when customers have questions about a particular item or to confirm overlooked items to each other. If a new idea or workaround for a discussed issue comes to me before the followup, I include it as well, which helps move the project along a little faster.
SOMETIMES “NO" IS THE BEST ANSWER FOR YOU, AND YOUR CUSTOMER
This is something else that I observed from my old CEO, other founders, and a few really brilliant creatives. It’s also something that I believe wholeheartedly. To be clear, our little group is nowhere near big enough to reject work willy nilly but every once in a while, we are presented with a project whose scope, timeline, and budget just don’t make sense for anyone.
In the “early” days of 2020, I pushed a couple of these projects through. Even though the resulting deliverables turned out great, we essentially ended up paying these customers to work for them because I didn’t truly consider the additional resources and time needed to tick off every milestone.
This was based on fear. Fear that each client may be the last. Fear of turning down a project and never having the opportunity to work with the customer again. Fear of referring the client to someone who could facilitate their request and losing them to this savior forever.
Eventually, I remembered that despite these insecurities, I had a responsibility to my teammates and customers. So last year, I became more comfortable with saying, “No, I don’t believe that we can accomplish your goals this way, but what if we try it like this?”, and sticking to it. I learned to better probe and segment project components/phases, and I began compiling comparable alternatives before the discussions even began, along with arguments for why it’s more feasible and the impact on the project goals. This takes more time, effort, and coordination, which of course are all in short supply for an “ASAP” project. But so far it’s helped us to slow things down a bit in the beginning to make sure everyone’s happy in the end.
Set Boundaries And Remember The Pause Button
The whole premise of JAiden Group is to provide a one-stop shop for small businesses and entrepreneurs through specialized marketing services. Accessibility is part of this so I often take after-hours, “20 minute calls” that turn into 60 minute calls. We’ve all done this, and most customers respect your time, and expect the same from you. But what I realized is that the more this became the norm, the more it became an expectation, and the more it started to chip away at the already limited time with my family, and time for myself.
Despite my realization, maintaining boundaries and the concept of turning it off until tomorrow is still difficult in practice. No one wants to push “pause” when the ideas are flowing or when you are closing in on a deadline or putting out a fire. But one night, as I stood at the kitchen island, holding the phone to my ear and tapping at my keyboard with one finger, my 2 year old grabbed my leg and looked up at me. He was holding his favorite truck in his other hand, expecting for me to pick him up and pinball through the house like we do most nights. This is why the “pause” button exists. And that’s what I had to remember.