On June 18th my business, Elisha Consulting, turns 2-years old!
Thinking over the past 2-years, there have been incredible moments of exhilaration and more nights than I can count where I couldn’t sleep as I wondered if I could actually be an entrepreneur. There is not much more humbling than going forth trying to start your own thing. Comfort, security, and stability fly out the window for a life of not knowing what will happen next.
I would not recommend it for most people. The stress is high, the pay is low, and you will question yourself every single day.
Maybe you have what it takes to start a business or you already have a business. If so, celebrate with me. The goal of this article is to have a time of reflection where I share some highlights, and, more importantly, lessons I wish I would have known before I started a business. My hope is that these lessons, or let’s call them what they really are, failures, could be avoided by others.
Starting with the Highlights
During the past 2-years, I have realized many of the successful entrepreneurs I know have a few things in common. Grit, obsession, slightly crazy, but one thing stands out. They show gratitude. Being an entrepreneur is tough and the only way to make it work is with others helping along the way.
I am incredibly grateful for mentors, friends, family, and especially my wife. All of them have pushed me beyond what I thought was possible. A few years ago, I could have never imagined overseeing comprehensive marketing campaigns, negotiating large contracts with executives, and helping small businesses build captivating brands. The people around me have challenged me. And I won’t lie, there have been many nights where I didn’t think it would work, actually, there are still many nights where I don’t know if it will work. I call those weekdays.
Yet, Elisha Consulting is still standing. We have been profitable since the first month, and as much as I would like to take credit for the success, it’s really my support team which has done the hard work.
I must also thank all my contractors who have worked with me. Recently, I was paying a contractor and was amazed at how many people I have hired. Some for short projects, others for months at a time, and now Alejandro Sanoja has decided to jump on board with Elisha Consulting. Pray for him, he has to work with me :)
Then, of course, there are my clients. Elisha Consulting could not exist without them and they deserve credit for believing in me, taking risks, and giving up resources for detailed marketing campaigns. Below is a list of the amazing clients I have been privileged to work with.
- Benefit Concepts, Inc. is a leader in Employee Benefits. We assisted with a new responsive website, updated marketing collateral, a customized communications strategy, and continual adaptive marketing.
- BizLatte helps millennials advance their careers with digital resources, 1-on-1 coaching, and business consulting. Elisha Consulting worked with the team to build their website and marketing strategy.
- Centre Technologies is a premier IT solutions company. We created a digital book, brochure, flyer, educational blogs, and video for one of their prime products.
- Coreluv International builds and operates orphanages in third-world countries. Elisha Consulting acted as their interim Marketing Director to oversee campaigns.
- LMC Sprinklers is one of the highest-rated sprinkler, irrigators, and landscape management businesses in San Antonio. We created a modern website to replace their previous site.
- Lone Star Network Communications builds and maintains comprehensive IT infrastructures. We created their website and assist with ongoing marketing campaigns.
- Shannon Talent Solutions is an executive recruiting firm that works with both employees and employers to build successful companies. We counseled on their go-to-market strategy and are retained for developing marketing strategies.
Anonymous (signed NDA)*
- Audio/Visual Business: worked with the founder and created their branding, marketing collateral, and initial marketing strategy.
- Company in the Outdoor Industry: Researched and wrote their business plan and marketing strategy.
- Internet of Things Product: Researched and wrote their business plan and marketing strategy.
- Dried Nut and Fruit Company: Set their social media marketing strategy.
- Gourmet Candy Shop: Researched and wrote their business plan and marketing strategy.
*Anonymous clients are working on a service or product that requires non-disclosure of their offerings
Since I am a marketer, I can’t just list items. Below is a sample of our portfolio.
Click HERE for the full portfolio.
I could go on with the celebrations but would be doing a disservice unless I discussed lesson learned.
What Not to do When Running a Business
A simple Google search on starting a business will provide thousands upon thousands of articles with tips, advice, and “hacks.” However, many of them leave out gritty details. That’s why I am here, one of my greatest strengths is doing things the wrong way. I usually learn a painful lesson and try not to make the same mistake again. Some would see that as a good trait, I would rather learn from other people’s mistakes. My hope is you will not make the same mistakes as me in your business.
Mistake #1: Not Having Contracts
It sounds obvious, you should have a contract if you sell a service. Maybe it is obvious to you, but it wasn’t for me when I first started. I have this thing where I trust people and see the best in them. Sometimes it’s a curse, yet most of the times it’s a blessing.
For the first few months of business, everything was going well. I was working with solid clients on various projects from re-branding companies to campaign execution to website development.
I was referred to a business and met with them. We hit it off and agreed to terms on the spot for a small project. In the moment I was thrilled as I closed another deal. It was just a matter of time before I was invited to Elon and Zuck’s secret island. I am still waiting on that call. Back to the story.
At this point, I was still intimidated while talking to executives and after handing in the final draft of the project I received a phone call from the president of the company. Oh crap, imposter syndrome was settling in - did I do a good job, are they going to ask for a complete re-do, what is he going to say?!?!
I picked up the phone and the president said he was nervous about hiring someone as young as me for the project. The then words came out.
“The is some of the best work I have ever seen and I have been in business for decades.”
The company genuinely loved the work. I was paid immediately and thought that was it. Wait, aren’t we talking about contracts? Hold on, this is a long-form blog, we will get there.
A month or so passes and I receive a call from the president of the same company. He says his team is in a bind and needs a similar project done in a couple weeks. I think about it for all of a second and agree. We set similar terms and I send an email to confirm, an email might hold up in court but it’s not a legit contract. I work on the project and get it to them late on a Friday as they needed it done by the following Monday. They are grateful and I send my invoice.
A few weeks pass and I get a check in the mail for half of what was agreed upon. The company is in another state and I can’t get anyone to answer my calls or emails. The second half never arrives.
Coders will understand the above.
At that moment I knew I needed a contract for every project moving forward.
Lesson Learned: if you start a business, have contracts written, signed, and dated. It’s business. I don’t care how much you like your client. I would make the Pope sign a contract if he wanted marketing services. It’s not personal.
Mistake #2: Undervaluing Services
When your business first starts you just want to sell. This means you will accept almost any price for your service or product. There is some benefit in working for a low rate because you can attain a lot of experience quickly. Yet, you will need to set your price based on the value you bring to a company.
I completely undervalued my services, and according to all my entrepreneur friends, am still too cheap. Don’t make my mistake.
Do research for your industry and see what the range is for your services. At first, you will be on the low end, but don’t stay there. Begin to increase the amount you charge for your services/products.
Note: I am assuming you do great work. If not, then get better at what you do before charging more.
There is nothing wrong with getting paid for your service. If you are a creative, you will feel guilty about charging anything as you just want to design, build, and create. Get over yourself. This is business. Again, these are mistakes, I have made.
You want a story to prove my point? Guess who worked on Christmas Eve and has only taken 2 total days off the past 2-years? This guy. Why? Because I have been so scared to lose my clients, I have worked every day, except Christmas for 2-years running.
The root cause of the overworking nature is I have undervalued my work. Setting the right price builds a relationship of respect. Giving discounts means clients feel no shame in contacting you late in December for that project which is vital (it’s not). Yet, if you set a fair rate, you can say, “sure, I will work on X project, however, since this is last minute notice I will need to charge a rush order.” That’s when reality sets in and clients think twice about the true urgency of the project.
Lesson Learned: set a fair price. If you don’t you will become bitter and resent the work you do along with your client even though all they did was agree to your price. Again, it’s not personal.
Mistake #3: Not Asking for More Help
Ideally, you will succeed with your business. Once that happens new problems arise. For example, arrogance.
You start to really think that phone call from Zuck and Elon will actually arrive at any moment, again it still hasn’t.
I was fortunate enough to land 5-clients within the first 3-months of starting my business. Each of those clients came from referrals, in fact, all of my clients have come from referrals. This means other people have been the catalyst for the success of my business.
I like to think I do good, and at times, excellent work. But none of that matters unless there are clients. Those clients have come from my network. As my business grows, I am also growing and realizing it’s okay to ask for help. My mentality reached a point where I thought asking for help was a sign of weaknesses.
It has only been the past few weeks where I have started to actively ask for assistance. I said starting a business is humbling in the introduction. Humility is important to run your business, it’s not a sign of failure or weakness.
Lesson Learned: take the time to reach out to your network and ask for help. At the same time, give as much as you can to others. If you are fortunate enough to grow a business, people will reach out to you for advice. Give it to them. Take people out to coffee. Mentor someone. Simply give back because you have received. Now it is personal in the best way possible.
It’s Been an Incredible 2-years, Here’s to 20 More
Thank you for celebrating with me. Starting and maintaining a business is one of the more difficult things someone can do in life. Maybe you already are an entrepreneur or will be in the future. Keep moving forward, do the right things, ask for help, and give back to those around you.
Small businesses are the heart and soul of America and other countries. They build communities, provide jobs, and reflect the true American dream. It’s a difficult journey, yet if you have what it takes, go for it and build your company.
<Insert Shameless Plug>
I hope you enjoyed the article! All the stories above are real and my hope is you do not make those mistakes. Instead, make different mistakes and correct others.
Now it’s time for the ask.
If you enjoyed the article, please like, comment, or share.
Also, check out Elisha Consulting, we might have just what you need to build your business.