Starting Your Own Company: My Advice After 6 Years

start-companyI've been lucky enough to work at entrepreneurial companies, including forming an agency 6 years ago and selling it earlier this year. Occasionally I'm asked my advice for anybody starting their own business, so here are a few pearls of (what I hope is) wisdom.

Find a Mentor

If there's one thing I could go back in time and tell myself in 2005, it's that I should find a business mentor. You'll have plenty of people around you who can give you advice as your business grows, but you'll need someone outside of your colleagues and board for advice and to sound off to about your frustrations and concerns. Someone who has plenty of business experience and has seen it all before – half wise aunt or uncle, half teacher.

Manage Change

Digital is one of the fastest-changing industries in the world. We all know this, but having a deliberate strategy in place to cope with that fact is something I suspect many of us lack. Knowing how you’re going to detect the latest industry developments, understand their impact, and act accordingly is vital. You need to dedicate talented people, with time to think.

Be Flexible

You need to be flexible to adapt with the change that will be your constant companion – and not to fall into the trap of becoming an obstacle. It’s easy to get stuck in your ways when you’re constantly busy, under pressure, and stressed – but you’ll always have a competitor who is flexible.

Be Prepared to Fail

We all fail. We might not like to admit it and certainly don’t shout about it, but we all fail. Be prepared to – it’s part of learning. The trick is being able to fail fast, stand-up, dust yourself off, and try again. Most successful business leaders have failed before they succeeded.

Learn About Stress

Stress is the hidden enemy. The fast moving nature of digital means we’re often rushing from one meeting or project to the other, being interrupted by text messages, emails, social media, and people wandering over to our desks to ask a question.

All of these things add to our stress levels – and reduce our attention spans and ability to do our best work. So learning to spot when you’re becoming stressed and when to take a step back is important to maximize your own efficiency. Whether it’s listening to classical music, taking a walk around the block, or reading a magazine, learn how to clam yourself down and keep your focus when the pressure is biting.

Take Care of Yourself

Another deadline. Another late night. Another takeaway when you get home late.

It’s easy to fall into bad habits when you’re working every hour you can. But if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll burn out or lose your passion – and make bad decisions on the way. Make sure you have downtime and exercise time.

Optimize You

Like a campaign, you can be improved – through a mentor, training, or a business coach. There are always things we can improve on – take time to understand what you can be better at, and addresses those weaknesses. The ROI might not be immediately obvious, but you’ll look back one day and be glad you invested in yourself.

About the author

Duncan Parry, COO of STEAK, began his career in search in 1999 at Lycos, during the early days of the industry.  

In 2002 he joined PPC engine Espotting and rose to the position of Agency Editorial Manager, working on campaigns for some of Europe's leading brands. He left Espotting in 2004 to work as a consultant in both paid and natural search, during which time his clients included publisher VNU's portfolio of UK IT, finance and recruitment websites.  

In 2005 he reunited with ex-Espotting colleagues to found STEAK. His roles at the agency have spanned PPC, SEO and Insight, as well commenting and writing in trade press for the agency, and contributing to STEAK’s social presence.