What I wish I’d known before starting a business

Rob Twells 2 weeks ago . 8 minute read

From school I’d been interested in software and web design – so it was no surprise for me to do this at college and then later at university. During my third year at university, I decided to put my passion for going into business to reality and began designing and building websites for people that were looking for them in my spare time. By the time I graduated, I had built up a steady client base and had the financial security in order to go full time with Frogspark. But there was definitely a lot of lessons I had to learn – and many late nights ahead!

The reality

I think it’s natural to assume that individuals running a business live a glamorous lifestyle, with endless disposable income to spend on expensive cars, nice holidays etc – but it’s not quite as easy as that. When you start a business, you quickly realise that your life can become fully consumed by the business, making it difficult to manage that work-life balance (see my take on it here).

From the beginning work has to be a top priority, it’s constantly at the forefront on my mind (even on weekends), whether I’m thinking of new business strategies, how ongoing projects are going or how the team is performing – there is always something to think about. It seems that I only spend around 20% of my time doing actual ‘work’ for the business, in terms of designing websites and creating digital marketing strategies for example. The other 80% of my time is consumed by business tasks required for the day to day running, and this isn’t really something I’d thought of before setting up the business. I’m always a business owner first, and a digital marketer second.

You’ll make mistakes

When I first started out, mistakes would play on my mind constantly, and I’d always beat myself up for every little mistake I made. But I realised this mindset wasn’t healthy, and adopted the idea that for every mistake I’d made, I would learn something that would actually make the business 10 times stronger than it was before. Whether it be happier clients, producing work to a higher standard to having projects running smoother – there was always something to help to improve the business.

For everything I do right in the business, I probably do about 5 things wrong – but it’s natural, and something I wish I would have realised from the start, rather than constantly beating myself up for it. It’s all about the idea that mistakes don’t really exist, you either win or you learn. Once you adopt this mindset, it makes things so much easier.

Growth

In the beginning stages of starting a business, it’s really easy to get wrapped up in figures, and the money coming into the business – and it’s natural to do this. But I quickly realised the most efficient way to sustain long term growth was to invest and focus on myself and the team – whether it be improving what we’re doing to produce better websites and digital marketing campaigns. As soon as I focussed my efforts on being the best at what we do, and really investing in the quality of our team as a whole – the more we really started to grow and excel in our field.

Be yourself

Back when I was starting out, I definitely had the impression that business had to be very formal and corporate; wearing suits and giving off the very stereotypical ‘prim and proper’ vibe. But this wasn’t me. I soon realised that we’re all ‘people’, whether you’re an MD of a huge company or not, everybody has a personality and a set of hobbies that makes them, them. We shouldn’t be hiding this, we should showcase and celebrate it!

Not only this, but being myself really helped when it came to building relationships with clients. From making the odd joke, discussing hobbies and checking in with them on a social level to actually see how they are – we’re all human at the end of the day. The old saying people buy from people is definitely true, and something I like to abide by.

I’ll never be fully satisfied

If I think back to a couple of years ago when I’d finished university, if I would have known the business would look like it does now, I’d assume I’d be over the moon. But I’m also striving for more – whatever happens, you’ll always have your eye on the next business goal. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to celebrate the victories, but equally never take your foot off the gas.

About Rob Twells

Managing Director, Frogspark Ltd

In 2012, I set up Frogspark whilst studying full time at University. Since going full time over two years ago, Frogspark has formed a fantastic team, worked with some great clients and is fast becoming one of the most widely known agencies in the local area.

Link Iconfrogspark.co.uk