Five things I learnt as entrepreneur in past 5 years of business – AkinfenwaAyodotun Akinfenwa is brand/marketing Consultant and Founder, Lifestyle Hues Brand Consulting.
Ayodotun Akinfenwa is brand/marketing Consultant and Founder, Lifestyle Hues Brand Consulting. She shares her experience with Modestus Anaesoronye on her journey into entrepreneurship, challenges and achievements.
She begins her story: “I never set out to be an entrepreneur. Quite frankly, I had told myself from the onset that I wasn’t cut out for navigating the business world on my own. I was a great member of staff, doing well in that context and I was fine until gradually I was not anymore. I wanted to explore some gifts which kept stirring in me; you know those rare gifts that show up in moments of inspiration. One December, I resigned and thought I was taking a break, alas, it was a transition. My journey has been coloured with tons of valuable lessons, and as we mark our fifth year in business and reposition ourselves at Lifestyle Hues Brand Consulting, I thought it was wise to share some of these lessons and defining moments for new or intending business owners.
Here are five of the many things I’ve learned and am still learning on my journey:
It is one thing to know your craft; it’s another thing to handle the business of your craft. If anything, my 9-5 taught me my craft, but my business taught me both my craft and how to make it make money. And I’m learning in waves, from my successes and failures. Passion is one thing but you have your margins and your growth to think about or you will be out of business fast! There are many debates on the subject of passion vs profit, following your passion and what not. I learnt the hard way that what I thought was amazing wasn’t always amazing to the target audience and so you need to keep tweaking to find the sweet spot between what you offer and what the market needs. The tweaking never stops.
I realised for a long time, that our clients were happy but our bottom line was not! If you will be in business sustainably, both you and your clients need to be happy or there’s no point starting that business conversation. For instance, while you cannot serve everybody, you can create packages and services to suit some groups, and still make money. Some of those packages will succeed, others will fail. We keep learning and tweaking.
People and Team building regardless of your own expectations and experiences
I have a very strong work ethic because of my background in 9-5 and anyone in marketing and communications can relate to the drive you need to survive. I brought that to my business and tend to push my team, expecting them to deliver the same way I do but over these 5 years, I’ve had to learn to be patient. I’m still learning when to be tough with my staff and when to let things go, they are human after all and have emotions. They also do not have my experience and capacity yet and they are different from me, different talents, strengths, and weaknesses: no two team members are the same. That said, you need to constantly watch and play to their strengths, feed their motivations, leverage their unique capabilities and all they bring to the table and watch them deliver and grow under your tutelage.
In hindsight, I now understand why some business leaders are termed crazy. It takes a certain amount of crazy to do great things and carry your team along. That said; we seek a balance. We lead by example, push them to be more but strive to be human. In the end, the business is yours, not theirs. This also applies to clients, some are set up to be easy to work with, some are just not, different dynamics. In the end, marketing is a people business
There’s so much inside you and in your environment to discover
When I was in 9-5, I didn’t know anything about the world of business outside my craft, but starting out has forced out my leadership, negotiation, creative and other survival skills. These are skills I never knew I had. Running a business forces you to grow up in a thousand ways. There’s a whole world out there for you to explore. When I opened one door, I discovered another door and yet another. I started small with simple brand consulting for small businesses, and in the process, I realised that we could take on projects. From there, we made our foray into Marketing strategy, Training, Corporate Communications, Media Relations, and Outdoor. From the power of the knowledge economy to endless possibilities in investments, it has been an adventure in discovery. In the process, I discovered our (my team and I) ability to pull off a wide range of things.
To be honest, it wasn’t all roses and champagne, it still isn’t, there were challenges and roadblocks, as is the case with every journey towards greatness. My advice is that you embrace the reality that the more you get, the more challenges you face, the more strengths and skill you discover.
Network. Learn from my successes and failures
Every business connection I made or lost, every recognition, every contract I missed or got was based on just how much networking I was doing. A huge chunk of our business comes from referrals, about 70 percent and sometimes, I can hardly keep up with the enquiries. On one hand, I have relationships I haven’t cultivated and I have missed so much. The associations I have managed to sustain have brought us so many opportunities.
Do not fall into the trap of being an employee in your business, enveloped in daily tasks, a major part of your responsibility is networking with stakeholders in your industry, with prospects and the business community in general. Do not fall below the radar. This brings me to my last point.
Your mindset is everything
When it comes to the quality of work you intend to deliver, how you see your business, you need to guard your thinking, this also applies to the trajectory of your business needs and niche market.
You are the driver of the business, whatever standards regarding the quality of your work you set, your staff will follow suit. Everything rises and falls on the quality of your leadership. Invest in your thinking, associate with the right people, invest in programs that will expose you to a higher level of awareness.
Your money mindset is another huge roadblock. When I started this consulting service, I thought small and charged peanuts, and served clients like I was their employee and it backfired. You are now a CEO. You need to carve out time to think like and learn to act like one. As time went by, I came to realise that small or ‘reasonable’ would not pay the bills and compensate for the volume of work and effort my clients demanded. That’s history now though. I learned and I’m still learning to understand my worth and charge accordingly and even add tax. As a learned to think big, I have equally learned to turn down some jobs that don’t have the potential to build us up, and both parties are the better for it.
Know that your growth, your advancement and your worth as a business starts in your mind. If you think small, you most definitely get small. Think big and you get big. Think like the CEO you are or hope to become.
Entrepreneurship is a whole level of education on its own. It has taught me to be brave and determined, and to wear my big girl pants. You will face money hurdles, people hurdles, regulation, legal hurdles and more. The good news, in the end, is, it will be worth it if you are cut out for it, which I believe you are because you have read this article to the end.