This week as the team at SellSide Media is celebrating its 5th Birthday, I took a few moments to reflect on the what we’ve accomplished, and more importantly what I have learned since we opened shop in a small storage room 5 years ago.
As someone who reads a lot of online business publications, I often encounter articles that list business tips written by incredibly successful entrepreneurs that have quickly built up large organizations. This is not that.
SellSide Media is still very early on in its journey. But, I have had the good fortune to spend the past 5 years working with, for, and around some seriously smart business people as I have had to navigate the direction of the company. I’ve learned some invaluable lessons during that time which I hope will be useful to others.
So below are the 5 top lessons learned upon reaching this milestone.
- Cash is Your Lifeblood and Your Poison
Companies need to make sure they have enough cash for growth and for protecting themselves from a slump. Being low on cash puts the company at risk and can also slow its growth. However, companies with too much cash often become complacent which leads to a lack of innovation and initiative driven by the company’s management. This scenario leaves the company a sitting duck for hungry, ambitious competitors. Cash needs to be invested, and finding the right balance between saving and investing is an important skill that comes with experience.
- Avoid Diversity of Values within the Team
Diversity among the team members is crucial for any company. The team should be comprised of people with different skill sets, backgrounds, levels of experience and from varying demographic groups. However, the core work values should be homogeneous. Teams where most employees are very focused on having work/life balance, will have a hard time adjusting to a new addition that is very focused on earning money and advancing at all costs. Similarly, employees that really need and enjoy the comradery at work will have a hard time with those that prefer to work independently with minimal personal contact. Every business has its own set of values and it’s important to hire and more importantly retain, those with values consistent with those of the company. Getting this wrong can become a major setback for the business.
- Chose Your Pond Carefully
We all want to be a big fish, i.e. a dominant leader in our respective industries. But in the process of becoming this big fish, there is often not enough time spent on evaluating the pond itself. For example, becoming a leader in a large, competitive industry can take lots of time and money and even then, is a risky endeavor, as many other companies will constantly be fighting to dethrone you. On the other hand, becoming a leader in a niche within that industry might be much more doable and sustainable, and allow you to obtain the resources needed to then tackle a large niche or industry.
- Take Nothing for Granted
It’s easy to fall into the trap of just assuming that your customers, vendors, partners and investors will all be there tomorrow to continue supporting you. But that’s just not how things work, though this mindset is all too common for companies that have enjoyed success for long stretches of time.
It’s imperative to continue delivering value (and showing appreciation) to everyone that’s important to your business. It’s equally important to make contingency plans in case, despite your best efforts, those you counted on have moved on to something else.
- Move on From Success and Failure Quickly
It’s important to celebrate your victories, no matter how small they are. It’s good for morale and helps fuel your next win. It’s also important to reflect on your losses and try to extract learnings from mistakes.
However, both processes should be short-lived. Whether it’s basking in your own glory or sulking over failure, you need to move on, quickly. It’s neither productive nor healthy to focus on what’s already past. Both success and failure should be used as springboards for the company’s next great accomplishment.
There were times over the past 5 years when our company’s survival seemed questionable, so reaching our 5th birthday is a milestone worth celebrating. We will be having a company lunch, enjoying some cake and making some corny private jokes that will not be funny to anyone outside the office. Then, once we finish celebrating, it’s back to working on our next accomplishment.