As we approach the end of 2022, we approach the five-year anniversary of the founding of The Social Brand. Five years. So, I wanted to write a more personal blog sharing the five biggest lessons I’ve learned in the last five years. These lessons aren’t all connected to marketing, but rather just life lessons, entrepreneurial lessons… you know, just lessons. So here we go.
1. People matter the most.
After five years, I understand now better than ever that people are what matter. Success and financial gain are part of why we do this, it’s a business. However, the people we meet, the people we choose to love, and the people who choose to love us back, are way more important than any of that other stuff. That sounds nice and fluffy, or even the right thing to say. But, I can say that in learning this lesson, it has caused it to be very real to me.
The decisions we make impact people. In the last five years, I’ve made dozens of decisions that affected my team poorly. I’ve chosen work over family time. I’ve made all the mistakes you can make. At the end of the day, if this all went away and The Social Brand was no more - all I’d have left is the impact it made on the people around me. So how I treat my team, when I choose to spend time with my family, the way I choose to talk to people - that’s the most important thing. I have learned that I truly define success by the quality of my relationships.
2. Hustling is toxic.
In the beginning, it was all about the hustle. I told myself it had to be, after all, I was starting a business! I would be up at 12:30 AM editing a video and up at 6 AM posting on a client’s Facebook story. I was at every networking event even though they drained me (introverted hermit, here!) I was doing all of the things… because I had to. Or so I told myself.
But hustling can be toxic. Hustling, for me, led to a sense of desperation. I needed every client I could get, every job, and there was never enough time. I had to do all of the things… I couldn’t get enough. Then I realized…. STOP. There’s enough. There is BALANCE. There is enough time in the day to get what I need to get done. If there’s not, then I’ve overcommitted. There’s enough business to go around for everyone. I also realized I could grow my business in ways that were healthy and sustainable for my mental health and I didn’t have to do things I hated because I didn’t have to do anything. I was my own boss.
I still remember when I set boundaries around time. I started taking evenings and weekends off. I didn’t work past 7 PM and I didn’t work on the weekends. My life transformed. I didn’t lose my business… or any clients! I was happier and the quality of my work actually improved. Because I wasn’t running on E anymore. Now, I’m happy to share that I’m off at 5:00 PM most days. I was achieving balance.
3. Pretty doesn’t always mean effective.
You can put lipstick on a pig, but that doesn’t make her a prom queen. Is that the saying? Or did I just make that up? Some marketing campaigns are just that. I have learned that the strategy behind the campaign and the messaging can be a lot more important than the presentation. And booooy, does that hurt to say! I love great design, I thrive on making things pretty and on brand, and that is important. However, a poorly messaged (yet on-brand) campaign isn’t effective.
For me, this lesson means that I had to shift. In the beginning, I would take whatever message my clients gave me. I considered my job to simply get the message out there. But I quickly learned, that it’s our job to help grow their business. If the message is wrong, we have to change it. This means that I have to slow down, evaluate things closer, do more research, and test things. Ultimately, our clients get much better results.
4. Growing before you’re ready can be detrimental.
“Scaling” is the term I see everywhere. I see ads on Facebook one million times a day, “Are you ready to scale your business?” But what I have learned (both from personal experience and from walking alongside clients in this) is that if you don’t have the processes in place to scale, then growing can be detrimental to your business. More money = More problems. You’ve grown a broken business.
Taking the time to build processes, leadership, and relationships for your business is vital. Developing smooth pathways for prospects to follow as you onboard new clients, training manuals for staff, and writing out standard operating procedures (then implementing them) are a few steps we’ve personally had to take at The Social Brand to help stabilize after tremendous growth in 2020. We still are working hard on improving our processes every day. It must be an evolving work.
I’ve also seen clients make this same mistake. Spending money on lead generation, then the leads come in and they don’t have a system to follow up with them. Or maybe their receptionist doesn’t know how to properly field calls when they come in, so that conversion into a customer doesn’t happen. The system can break down at any point. But that’s why taking your time is important.
5. (Good) Leadership requires a lot of accountability.
Being a leader is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve done a lot of hard things. I have had to be really honest with myself about my shortcomings… I’ve had to be accountable for my choices and answer to people other than myself. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that good leadership requires a lot of accountability, and setting the right examples. But that is where the beauty is. That’s where personal development comes along and growth happens and suddenly things become a little bit easier.
Good leadership requires attention, relationships, and intentionality. It wasn’t something I could “hustle” my way through. There are nuances to it. So, it takes time to master. I’m still working on it. As I should. As we all should.
So. My five biggest lessons in five years (almost). January makes five years, so I think it counts.
The bottom line is this: being an entrepreneur is really hard. It requires growth in places you don’t expect at the beginning of the process. I’m sure most of the people reading this are on the same journey. You have to develop expertise on topics you never expected (or intended to).