What I learned 5 years after I started my business

The media likes a good story about a successful startup company, takes a good idea and turns it into a billion dollar business. Entrepreneurs see the success of other companies and imagine turning their ideas or business ideas into a success story, just like Facebook or Uber.

What the news does not cover is that 80% of businesses fail within 3 years of opening their doors. According to Forbes, more than 543,000 new businesses are started each month (but more employers close the business than they started each month).

I can clearly remember sitting in a coffee shop on a cold February morning drinking my morning coffee. I was meeting a successful businessman who worked in the financial services industry. This gentleman dealt with all kinds of business professionals and entrepreneurs, which is why I was looking forward to the morning meeting.

After I just opened my digital marketing agency, The Media Captain, I made it my mission to meet as many successful people as possible and learn their tips and strategies for achieving success. I was an optimist at 23 years old who knew a lot about digital marketing, but not entirely about starting a business.

“80% of businesses fail within the first few years,” the financial adviser said. “You know you made a hole in the business world when you celebrated your 5-year anniversary.”

Hearing this statistic for the first time touched a chord in me. I realized that this was not going to be a cake walk to meet my business goals. I wanted to move my office from my apartment to a trendy place in downtown. I envision having a staff of digital gurus who can help any client from an online perspective regardless of the challenges associated with the project. After this coffee meeting, the cards must have been stacked against me.

This past February, Media Captain celebrated its 5th anniversary. I wanted to call the financial advisor and tell him I made it to the 5 year mark! Instead, I thought it would be even more rewarding to share the most important lessons I’ve learned in 5 years of owning a business and starting it.

1. Always keep learning:

When I started my agency, I was familiar with search engine optimization but not an expert in any way. I was helping clients with their social media endeavors but still haven’t gotten into the SEO arena. After talking to various business professionals, I learned how valuable it is for them to be at the top of Google’s search engine. If a law firm can appear on the front page of Google, it makes a big difference in their bottom line!

After this realization, I became obsessed with SEO. I started following hundreds of industry experts on Twitter and stacked my bookshelf with some of the best sellers on the subject. Most importantly, I started implementing SEO on my website.

In my opinion, there is nothing better than experience. It is one thing to read a book but quite another to try and find real life results. By practicing different SEO methods on The Media Captain’s website, it has allowed me to learn and improve on this skilllet.

If I hadn’t been interested in learning a new craft, my business would not have been able to grow steadily every year. If you are willing to learn, it will give you an advantage over the competition when it comes to improving your own business.

2. Do something uncomfortable every day:

Attending a networking event after work can be difficult when you spend long days in the office, especially if you try to make time for your family. That being said, you never know who you might go to and it could turn out to be a business opportunity.

The easiest route would be to leave it at 5:00 pm and go home after work and open a beer. As an entrepreneur, you must do something uncomfortable every day.

Whether it’s attending a networking event, making a cold call or sending a handwritten note to your dream client, there should always be a sense of activism during and after office hours. This will help you grow the business.

I was able to land as a client at one of Columbus’ most well-known companies and had cold calls and reached out to the owner on five separate occasions. Do you know how much it cost me to get this client? Just a couple of hours!

If you devote a certain amount of time to growing your business and doing something outside of your comfort zone every day, you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.

3. Become a Warrior on the Weekend:

Did you know that works from Monday to Friday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM? Every single person!

As a business owner, you need to differentiate yourself from the rest of the field. If you are serious about growing your business, not just to satisfy your customers, then you need to devote extra time to the business.

Personally, I’m a morning man. One of my favorite activities of the week is Saturday and Sunday when I go to a coffee shop from 8:00 AM to 11:30 AM and work to grow the business.

During the week, I am immersed in answering phone calls, meetings, client projects and emails. The weekend is when I can take a deep breath, analyze everything that happens during the work week and be active with my business.

4. Ask for constructive criticism:

I’m not perfect in any way, just ask my girlfriend! That being said, there are many entrepreneurs who believe that this is their way or highway. I believe this is the downfall of many businesses. They are not able to see the problems presented to them.

Whenever I complete a project, I ask clients where I can improve or where my teammates can be good. When you ask politely, you will be amazed by the wealth of information available!

One example I would like to share is from one of the first big accounts we took for an SEO project. Our agency works in a very fast paced environment so we can get rolling over projects and start delivering results.

Although our client liked the activism on our part, in a company of their size, he was not accustomed to working at the pace we were going for and he said he was somewhat overwhelmed.

We immediately changed our approach so that we can still deliver results but not overwhelm the client via email and updates. We’ve had this account for over 4 years now!

If we never criticized, we would never be able to adapt as quickly as we used to.

5. Love what you do:

I know it sounds clich, but it’s absolutely true. My girlfriend gives me a hard time because when I am on vacation, I enjoy reading books about digital marketing, SEO and online marketing. The truth of the matter is that I like the art I’m in and I enjoy reading this kind of material so I can always learn.

I think it’s great that my company can completely redesign another company’s online presence by redesigning their website so that it’s responsive across all devices. And once they have a great website, we can help them grow their business by generating more leads through search engine optimization and online advertising.

When you love your work line, your business will benefit. It makes coming to the office every day enjoyable. When you spend 50+ hours a week in the office, what you do is love is an absolute necessity.

Shame on you!

Starting a business and being an entrepreneur can sometimes be lonely. When you work so hard and don’t see the light immediately at the end of the tunnel, morning or late night stress sessions may not seem worthwhile.

My advice continues to grind! If you follow the five tips mentioned above and continue to crush it every week, the lighting at the end of the tunnel will be extremely effective.

While entrepreneurs underestimate how much they can achieve in five years, they overestimate how much they can achieve in one year. Business owners and entrepreneurs should have a big pat on their back every Friday afternoon. You’re almost a week away from making it to that important 5-year anniversary sign!

Jason Parks is the Captain of The Media, a Columbus-based SEO company and owner of a social marketing agency.

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