The Biggest Lessons From 15 Years In Business
This month, DesignGood is hitting a milestone. We are celebrating 15 years of creating meaningful brands for passionate entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.
Many of you might not know this, but DesignGood started out as Deuce Creative in Houston back in 2005. In those 15 years, my life and my work have been shaped by both the highs and the lows of being a business owner.
Splitting with a business partner and shutting down a company? That was definitely a low. But it was followed by the high of reopening with a new name and a new, inspired direction.
When DesignGood launched, we got hyper-focused on the kind of clients we loved working with. And we developed a brand creation process tailored to the needs of those specific clients.
Today, that process continues to get powerful results for our clients. We’re so proud of helping them get their products, services and ideas out into the world and create businesses that support the lives they want to lead.
In 15 years, we’ve created a lot of websites, written a lot of copy and shaped a lot of business game plans. I’ve learned a lot along the way, too. So today I want to share 10 of the most powerful lessons from 15 years as a business owner.
1. It’s OK to pivot and transition.
The core of what we do at DesignGood has stayed the same. But the way we do it today is totally different than when we began. Owning a business will always be about fine-tuning and figuring out what you love doing. And that often changes over time. My role in this company has been ever-evolving. My advice to you is to be as fluid and open as possible. Don't get too set on anything in your business looking a particular way. When that happens, you miss out on some pretty cool solutions and opportunities that lie outside of your norm. It's been the things that I thought "could never happen" or "I could never let go of" that have altered my business in the best ways.
2. Keep investing in yourself.
It’s good for you and for your clients. They hired you because you’re an expert, so you’ve got to maintain your expertise and continue to bring new information to the table. I spend a lot of time reading, educating myself and going to conferences and events. This helps me be a better boss, a better guide to my clients and even a better friend. You're always doing your clients a great service when you take time to learn and invest in yourself. That way, you have more tools in your toolbox to help guide them to their goal.
3. Don’t neglect self-care.
To take care of clients, you have to take care of yourself first. Any time I have neglected self-care, both my business and my mental state have suffered. I know it's easy to push through, work late nights and skip the gym, but your mind won't be fresh and your heart won't be in your work. Do things that lift your spirits and nurture your soul so that you can do your best work.
4. Trust your gut.
Chances are that if you are an entrepreneur, you’ve got pretty good instincts. It took me years to learn this, but there is always a reason you feel a particular way about something. It is your body trying to guide you. When something seems off, it likely is. Pay attention to what your higher, more connected self is telling you about a situation.
5. Be selective.
Business isn't about being all things to all people. It's about being everything to the right people. When you cast too wide a net, you fail to stand out. We say this all the time, but it's essential to get clear about the people you want to be working with and tailor your language to them. I can’t tell you how many times I have taken on a client that I knew wasn’t the right fit, only to watch the project go south in the end. Make sure you are working with people you feel aligned with and who value and respect your expertise.
6. Be grateful for closed doors.
Sometimes the universe closes doors for you. Throughout my career, I have had many doors close for me and situations vanish that I wanted so desperately to work out. I do think the universe tries to steer you, and when you keep pushing down a path that is not meant for you, the universe sometimes forces you out of a situation. When those doors have closed, I’ve of course been heartbroken. But, each time, it was the universe’s way of doing for me what I couldn't do for myself. Everything on the other side of the heartbreak was better than I could have ever imagined. I know that, as difficult as it is sometimes, I am guided, and that is pretty fantastic.
7. Take burnout seriously.
Over the past 15 years, I can look back and identify many major burnout moments. (I'm sure I had a few mini ones in between!) Burnout is your body and soul telling you something. In these times, you need to refocus and create space. Your instinct in these times might be to dig in and work more — or at least that is my go-to. But working more will never give you space, and you need that space to fill up your well again! Check out this piece we wrote on surviving burnout.
8. Honor your passions.
Building on that last point, when I am not doing work I am passionate about, and my plate is full of tasks that don’t bring me joy, I burn out a lot quicker. The thing about owning a business that I have to remind myself of constantly is that I created this! So I could create anything or give myself whatever job I wanted to have. If you stop finding joy in your business, that is a major problem. Don’t ignore it. Take a look at where you may have drifted away from what you truly love doing and see how you can bring more of that back into your work life.
9. Delegate and outsource.
Your business needs you using your unique gifts and talents. These are the things you are good at and you love doing. If you are doing something that you don't love, and someone else on your team can do it, pass it on! If you don't have a team, hire support staff like virtual assistants and bookkeepers. You didn't start your company to stay stuck in the weeds. You should be thriving. This is something I have to take a look at yearly. Since DesignGood is a team of only 10 people, we all wear many hats. Especially me! However, this team is a highly capable, passionate group of women (yes, all women). And when I started to give them some of my tasks, they felt empowered and trusted, which boosted morale overall. I was assuming that just because I didn't want to do something that they wouldn't want to, either. But what I found was giving them more responsibility showed I trusted them — and they loved that.
10. Return to your ‘why.’
I often think that my "why" has changed over the past 15 years, but really it hasn't. It has absolutely evolved, but the reasons I started this company are still there: I am a process-driven creative. I love beautiful things. But those beautiful things (at least in my business) should be meaningful and effective in drawing in a result our clients desire. I get it. It's hard not to stress about money or where your next client is coming from. But if you keep close to your "why" and keep doing what you love doing, you will stay in flow. So think back to the reason you started your company in the first place. Was it for freedom? To help people? Because you really loved doing this one particular thing? Keep going back to your “why” to recenter yourself, inform your decisions and do your best work.
Thank you so much for being a part of the journey of the last 15 years for us, and for letting us be part of your business journey as well. I can’t wait for what’s ahead.