In May this year, my creative agency, Drew London, turned sweet sixteen.
Sixteen is quite a feat, and to celebrate, I delved through thousands of photographs and memories to help build a landing page of key moments; find it here.
The time has rocketed by, my only barometer for the age of my company being my amazing 17-year-old son - lead image, who now stands at a whopping 6'2" and is one of the loveliest humans I know.
I still find every single day brings a new challenge, celebration of success, a story to hear, a story to share and an overwhelming feeling of happiness and joy or stress and sadness.
Before I share my 'sanity tips' for now, if you'd allow, I'd like to reminisce: The world has changed a lot over the past 16 years; social media barely existed in 2005, which feels somewhat incomprehensible. I had a pretty stable, creative director role within a brilliant and successful agency. I loved my job, but something deep within me knew I wanted more and I wouldn't say I enjoyed the side look as I left the office at 5:30 to collect my baby from the childminder.
I was lucky to have my Grandpa, and namesake of Drew, to champion me, and being championed is really, REALLY important. As we're carefully traversing our way out of the pandemic (who knows what the future holds in that sense), there are certainties that, as a business leader, you have control of. I have listed what I see as essentials for your sanity below:
As mentioned above, you need a champion. Not someone to blow smoke up your arse and pat you on the back saying everything will be fine... someone who gives you energy and helps you take those vital steps forward.
They remind you why you're a leader.
They stand shoulder to shoulder with you.
Start as you mean to go on. Research accounting software, such as Xero or FreeAgent, and start setting up suppliers and clients on the systems from the get-go. It will save you a world of pain as you grow and help your accountant (I can recommend a good one) along the way.
Another fantastic communication tool is Slack; ensure you pay for it as the depth of history that Slack can hold, with its incredible searchability, is vital for future paper trails.
Trello is a great project management tool (there are loads out there, but I'm wedded to Trello and its simplicity of To Do, Doing and Done), ensuring you start organising your systems from the off.
You'll thank me later, I promise!
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is built overnight. It takes time and nurturing. Some weeks you might make colossal progress (remember to celebrate and document those facts), and sometimes you feel as if you're going backwards.
A vision board can help to ground you and remind you why you are on the journey. A strong business coach (mine, Angus Lyon is fantastic) will help create logical steps that don't overwhelm you.
BNI Home Grown (picture below) who have a 'sector seat' policy (meaning you are the only company offering that product).
Urbano, who I am eternally grateful for. They helped me grow from zero clients or suppliers to hundreds. For further encouragement on building you startup please view this webinar hosted by Mark Herring of Urbano: How to start and grow your company.
DBA offers its members sound, welcoming networking coffees.
Our very own Drew Talks seventh floor networking evenings.
London & Partners have a plethora of scale-up talks held globally, and I always come away inspired.
Home Grown is a private members club that put collaboration, partnership, innovation and networking at the heart of their offer.
Remember, networking is not free, and it's a logical investment that it is not based solely on new businesses (and if you think it is, you'll be disappointed). My contact book is crammed full of brilliant connections, including clients, suppliers and terrific friends.
BNI Home Grown Group
This one is a touch condescending, but I've seen it so many times, and well, it makes me sad. When you've started your business and settled on a name, please buy and launch the URL. There is nothing worse than seeing a firstname.lastname@example.org address.
If you're not comfortable with IT, I'm more than happy to help you set up your emails in GSuite - get in touch.
This one strikes a chord with me as I forget to live by this tip... I don't have any pictures of the day that I set Drew London at.
I don't have my first invoice.
I don't have my first payment cheque (well, we are going back years).
All of these key moments need to be recorded and celebrated (your champion can help with that!) then you can always look back and see how far you've come!
I hope some of my tips help you in some small way. I am almost ready to start my new CIC business which will go even further to help startups. It's all taking shape (exciting!) To be launched soon.
The past sixteen years have flown by, and every single day delivers a new story, whether it's a struggle or celebration.
I would love to hear your stories, advice and thoughts on starting and running a business.