If you’ve been following my column, you already know that I started a digital agency, grew organically from a one-man show to a few hundred employees and recently sold it to a company, which I believe will take good care of it and the employees. However, rather than staying with the company and having a comfortable life as an executive, I decided to step out. So what am I up to now? Well, I went allllll the way back to square one and I’m starting another company from scratch.
As any entrepreneur knows, starting a new company can be difficult, with so many unforeseen challenges and pitfalls along the way. It’s like going on your adventure; you kind of know the end goal, and you have a roadmap from a 30,000-foot view, but you’re quite not exactly sure what is in store for you or how you’re going to get there (any Lord of the Rings fans reading this?) Questions and at times, even doubts plague’s the founders mind day and night. Where should I start? How do I prioritize? Will the revenue model prove profitable? Is it going to work? Am I crazy doing this?
In my next few columns, I’ll be candidly sharing the trials I’ll be going through while building up this new company: DesignRush.
Let me first start by explaining what this new project is and why I started it. DesignRush is a digital destination to inspire creative minds (how do you like that pitch?). Ultimately, it’s a digital magazine for graphic and website designers. A place where they can go to search for the best curated designs by industry and style, where they can read interviews with top designers, and where they can find trends and newsworthy information about the design industry.
As for why I made it, well, I started my career as a designer. I would have loved to have a resource to help me find the best designs by industries and categories (to save hours of time researching) and provide helpful tips on the latest in technology, as its always changing so rapidly. Not to mention, I would have loved to know what motivated and inspired leading designers. I wish I had had a resource like DesignRush, so I decided to create it. In fact, I have plans for adding a few more features in the near future as well. But the flip side of embarking on a new venture is that it put me back where I started all those years ago: Working 12 or more hours a day, 7 days a week. (No, that is not a joke. Any responsible new business owner on a strict timeline will tell you the same.)
The best part? You’re not getting paid for all that hard work, yet you get to wear all the hats and shoulder the full responsibility of its success. And as the hat-wearer, it’s your duty to determine where to start. I do have an edge though – I have already started one successful business and I have a pretty strong background in the digital space and marketing. So the first priority for me was to get the site up ASAP for SEO purposes so Google can start seeing and indexing the site.
But wait! You need people to do that. Should I hire a website design company, or individual designers and developers? And then there is the content part. It’s a publication site after all. But who is going to do all the writing, what should the topics be, what should the writer’s qualifications be? How will the process work? That reminds me, I have to create the company structure and write the roles and responsibilities for each position. Then, it’s setting up the legal entity, expense tracking, planning out revenue models, creating investor presentations, ensuring the site offers unique compelling value that the audience can’t find somewhere else, etc., etc., etc. The list goes on and on — and it can be daunting.
Clearly, this is the ‘agony’ part of growing, or more accurately, starting a new business.
In my case, since DesignRush is a startup media site, SEO is critical for driving traffic and awareness. The first priority was to get a website up onto the Internet, so I worked with some freelancers while posting full-time jobs.
It’s important to note that, in the very beginning when I was looking first looking at the website, I cringed. However, I took comfort in knowing that this was not the final product. It simply existed so that Google could recognize it and start sending traffic.
Going off of that, one of the biggest mistakes I see people make is trying to make their site perfect before pushing it live. When you go that route, too easily a year will have passed, your website won’t be live and guess what? It still won’t be perfect.
DesignRush has undergone some major cosmetic changes in the past three months. While we may have some users who may judge us based on an older version of the site, we’ll likely have many more readers who see that we’re constantly improving the online destination, and consistent improvement is a great brand builder.
So instead of waiting too long, pick a point at which you will just publish your website. You can — and should — always change and improve it. But at some point, you’re going to have to take the plunge and make it public. Sometimes, sooner is better.
Once you check that off your list, then you can start saying, who do I need, what are their responsibilities, what are their tasks on a weekly basis, what are their qualifications, what are their weekly and monthly goals. I have this documented for every position I need to fill.
(Oh yeah, I forgot, I should set up Quickbooks so I can start tracking expenses and future income.)
You know, that’s the lovely thing about a new business. Things always pop into your head at inopportune times (or worse, in the middle of the night while you’re trying to sleep) so staying organized is crucial.
But back to recruiting — here’s where the tough stuff starts.
In my case, because I was a one-man show, I thought I’d get some help from some recruiters, yet at the same time, I went on LinkedIn to simultaneously post the roles I was looking to fill. As any small business will tell you, the LinkedIn fee is not small — it can be anywhere from $5000 to $10K just to get started.
While that cost is a pain point for a start-up business, let me tell you, there is no better source of hiring than LinkedIn — and no, I was not paid to say this. The darn thing works and it brings in candidates – fast. If you want quality candidates instantly, LinkedIn is the place to go. Period. It took the recruiter 3 weeks to send me a few candidates, but by the time she sent me anyone, I was overwhelmed and inundated by applicants via LinkedIn.
I’ve probably unburdened myself enough for one column, but next week, I’ll dive deeper into the nitty-gritty of how to recruit dedicated employees, such as the candidate qualities that are truly important and how to find team members that will stick with you through thick and thin, from someone who has made some hiring mistakes (and found successes) along the way.