Fifteen years of business: What we’ve learned
This year, Lemonade Hub commemorates 15 years as a communication, branding and training consulting agency. There’s no denying that 1,5 decades of running a successful concern teaches you a few things about life, people management and business.
It teaches you to be grateful that you have stimulating work and can provide gainful employment to others. It also teaches you that while the playing field may change, the rules of the game should not.
Here are a few basic principles that will stand any business leader in good stead and enhance their day-to-day operations and communication. While our insights and suggestions alone don’t guarantee the longevity of your business, these principles and/or tools will certainly help sustain it.
Any successful business requires a leader or leaders that are present, available and ‘in the trenches’ with their staff. Nothing inspires confidence and loyalty as much as working as hard (or even harder) than your team. If they see how much time and effort you’re putting in, they will feel more encouraged to do the same. Like most things in life, it’s about relationships and setting an example. These cannot be maintained by an absent leader.
If you have shown up, make sure you are present. Cultivate your listening skills and pay attention. We all get preoccupied and stressed, but wherever and whenever possible, you need to operate in the moment. Remembering a client’s birthday, or to ask after a team member’s sick child, or to concentrate on someone’s business presentation helps you to build relationships and gain knowledge and insight. Put away your laptop and smartphone. Look people in the eye. Listen (properly). Observe. Take note.
Have good manners
Certain adages stand the test of time. “Treat others as you wish to be treated,” is one of these. Exhibiting good manners is a sign of respect. We need to acknowledge other people’s efforts and time. Say ‘thank you” to your colleagues and employees for work well done. Show up on time. If you’re going to be late, communicate it. Respond to messages and emails. If you’re busy, drop a one-liner stating it, and say you’ll will get back to that person as soon as you can. Apologise when you’re in the wrong. Communicate.
Old dogs may not want to learn new tricks, but if an ageing bull terrier wants to compete with a frisky Jack Russell, they had better make the effort. Work your grey matter, read, set yourself professional challenges, widen your scope of enquiry and your skills set. Nothing instills respect as much as someone who plainly shows that they know what they’re talking about. Especially if they do so by exhibiting a good dose of confidence tempered by humility. Such behaviour is attractive, engaging and inspiring. Be that person.
Change can be daunting, but it is also inevitable. If you are open and flexible, you can modulate and refine existing skills and experience and channel them into new areas and ventures. By being adaptable, you stay relevant and you stay in business. Sometimes you will try something new because you see a gap in the market and sometimes because it just lands in your inbox and you’re keen on a challenge. Be a yes-person. Within reason, of course.
Play to strengths
Choose your team members/associates/collaborators carefully and based on basic shared values. They’re supposed to make you stronger. They’re your bungee rope, allowing you to jump. Do not be scared to add team members who are BETTER than you to the mix, as long as they embrace the team values – in this way, the whole becomes more than its parts.
Know when to quit
A good general knows when they are fighting a losing battle. Instead of forcing their soldiers to the slaughter, they’ll pull back, disengage, take the time to recover, reassess and rather let everyone live to fight another day. While perseverance is admirable, stubbornness is bull-headed foolishness. Know the difference. You cannot be all things to all people. You should not over-extend yourself or those you employ over and over again. Yes, sometimes we all have to pull together to make things happen. But no company culture should be exacting. It’s simply unsustainable. Don’t be proud. Don’t be greedy. Be professional and sensible. Rather do less brilliantly than do too much in a mediocre fashion.
Find the joy
If you aren’t stimulated in your work or business, you need to make a change. Life is simply too short to turn into a hollow version of yourself. You need to be enriched, inspired and excited by your chosen profession most of the time. If you’re not, get out. Exit and seek something new. Don’t allow yourself to be governed by fear. Seek your true place. For 15 years, we’ve been privileged enough to keep finding that sweet spot for ourselves and our clients. There is no better feeling. And perhaps, at the end of the day, that’s why we’re still here.