In February of 2017, my search firm turns 20 years old.
Almost 20 years ago, scared out of my mind, I opened the doors of Wolftec - my executive search firm. There’ve been great years and slower years, but through multiple recessions, the dot com bubble, and several other businesses launched and closed - Wolftec has been the primary in my professional career. I’ve learned so much, but here are 10 things I wish I knew at the beginning:
1. You can over prepare. I spent months getting ready for launch, and what I needed to do was pick up the phone. If you can push through the fear and replace planning with doing - success comes much quicker.
2. Still prepare daily. I can’t go to bed without my plan for the next day done. By knowing what I need to accomplish every day, I’m more efficient and productive. You can over prepare, but not in your daily planning. I’ve tried every system out there, and I love the bullet journal. It’s free, easy and customizable.
3. Working from home takes discipline. The flexibility is awesome, but you are the only one responsible for your own results. If you abuse the flexibility, it’s reflected in your profit.
4. Consistency is paramount. One activity done repetitively over an extended timeframe produces results. If you call five new companies a day, every day, you will get more clients than you can handle. If you spend 15 minutes a day practicing a skill, in a month you won’t believe how much you’ve learned.
5. Quality over quantity. It’s worth it to take the time to make sure that you are doing your best work for your clients always. Even if that means you can’t serve everyone. Don’t take on more than you can handle if it means sacrificing your quality.
6. Know when to fire a client. Sometimes it must be done. I would have saved so much time, and generated more revenue if I could have learned this sooner. Don’t be afraid to fire a client. One of the great joys of owning a business is getting to pick those people or companies you want to be your customers.
7. Bigger isn’t always better. I went through an arduous process and built my firm up to 10 people at the height of it, only to find I had more aggravation, management responsibility and longer hours. I made a little more money, but it wasn’t worth it based on what it did to my life. Balance is key.
8. Outsource what you can. Figure out what your worth is in terms of an hourly rate. If you have tasks that you can pay someone else less to do, it’s worth it. It can be scary to pay someone else to do something when you don’t have a lot of discretionary spend, but in the long run it makes you more money.
9. Invest in training. When you own a company, you are the product. You need to be as sharp as possible, and that means investing in continuous improvement. There is always someone out there that can do each thing better than you. Find them and learn from them. Read books. Find a mentor. Spend time investing in you.
10. Charge a premium. You’re worth it. Your clients won’t think so if you don’t. It’s ok to turn down business if the fee isn’t high enough. Companies will pay your rates, and wouldn’t you rather do less work for more money?