If someone had told me 12 months ago what was about to happen to the world, just as I was about to start co&co, I would never have believed them, and because of that I probably would have just done it anyway! My mum always said I’ve never had enough fear.
It is safe to say that our first year has been an experience, but I have loved every single second of it. We have had the chance to work with some incredible companies, on some mega projects, and I just can’t wait to see what the next 12 months has in store. Surely it can’t be anything like the last, can it?!
Reflecting on our first year I am beyond proud of what we have achieved. I had no experience of running a business going into this adventure. I had headed up international marketing teams for multi-million-pound businesses, but that was a walk in the park compared to being responsible for the whole thing!
And while we aren’t a multi-million-pound company ourselves (yet), I wanted to look back at some of the things I have learnt and some advice I would give myself if I could go back to when it all started.
Your time in precious, don’t let it be wasted
This might sound obvious, but when you are starting out you are the new kid on the block, and without a regular client base you’ve got to propel yourself forward to get the business up and running. When you have also got the effects of a global pandemic to contend with, things really start to get fruity.
It can be very easy to fall into the trap of jumping through hoops for people and catering to people who actually have no intention of working with you. Working out who these people are and how to manage them is a skill you need to learn.
Don’t get me wrong – when you are in the position of supplier, you need to make time for those people and businesses that generate your income. They are one of the most important parts of your success, and in the early days, they are literally paying the mortgage. But, if someone is giving you the run around, know when to call time on it. Your time is much better spent on the clients you do have, or those potential new clients you are missing out on by wasting your time with messers.
Businesses don’t care about the same things, and you shouldn’t care about that
For me, this was the hardest bit to get my head around. Obviously when it comes to co&co I care about every little detail. My whole brand and offering is based around the personality and ethos of the business, so it is the little details that make the biggest difference to me.
But, when you are working with a client, you have to understand what they care about – what you see as really important or a vital element of their business, might be right down the list of priorities for them. This is their business – it is their call.
My job at co&co is to give clients the best advice and guidance when it comes to strategy, and the execution of the overall plan – but at the end of the day, that is all I can really do. If there are other things at play in the business that are a higher priority, then it is up to me to understand that and provide the best ‘Plan B’ possible, that still ensures growth and progress within the business.
Don’t underestimate the power of your network
This might seem another obvious one given the whole ethos behind co&co is collaboration, and the network of partners we work with is only possible because I spent the last 10 years building up my network. But what I have realised is your network goes further than just who you know to help you execute work.
Over the last year I cannot thank our partners enough for the incredible work they have produced for our clients. Not only does it make me incredibly proud of what we have helped to make possible, but it also reinforces that gut feeling I had about the gap in the market for a business like co&co.
Now what I am finding is that the strength of co&co’s network has taken on a life of its own, and it is growing fast – with new specialists and experts wanting to get involved because they love our approach, and they love the part we play in making these projects a success.
The majority of our clients so far have come from word of mouth, referrals, recommendations. When I started co&co I knew the network we had access to would be able to help us execute and bring our ideas to life, what I underestimated though is the number of enquiries they would generate for us.
I always saw co&co as the start of a collaboration, but what I am learning is that there are other businesses out there who need us and our expertise as much as we need them – and for that I will be forever grateful and humbled.
Always keep in mind why you started and what you offer
A bit like the advice I would give myself in regard to time being precious, I would also tell myself to always keep in mind why I started co&co and why we offer what we do. If you have read any of the content on our website outside of this article, you will know that we believe the traditional full-service agency model is outdated.
And to be honest, while it is a view that a lot of other specialists share, it obviously isn’t one shared by everyone (after all, there are still huge, global full-service agencies doing really well for themselves – and that’s cool).
The trap you need to avoid though, is doubting yourself when faced with someone who just doesn’t get it. I get asked two questions a lot:
1) ‘Where does co&co fit in?’
2) ‘Is it a good idea to be so open and honest about the fact you outsource work?’
Aside from really getting me riled up, I have learnt to see both these questions as a bit pointless – because if someone is asking them, then they haven’t taken the time to understand what we do.
By the way, my answer to both of them?
Also, never ever call it outsourcing, we collaborate in partnership with specialists. We are involved throughout. If you need to debate the difference, then best we end the conversation there.
It will all be worth it – honestly
The main thing I would tell myself if I could go back, is just do it. Don’t over think it. Be confident in your own ability and block out anyone who puts doubts in your head. In all honesty, there is probably a part of them that knows they would never be brave enough to take the jump, and they are just projecting that on to you.
There is no better feeling of waking up every day and knowing I am in totally control of what I am doing and who I am doing it for. If you put the work in, go after everything with 110% effort, you can make something happen.
In the words of some American bloke, and a meme I saw on Instagram, ‘You miss 100% of the shots you didn’t take’.
At the end of the day, what’s the worst that can happen?
Here is to another 12 months of madness, and many more exciting years ahead. Stay mega.