As kids, we (Lauren and Melanie) never had aspirations to be business owners. It was more along the lines of a princess or teacher. It wasn’t necessarily in the plans to become entrepreneurs with our own startup; however, with jobs in sales combined with creative ideas and both of our skill-sets combined, we were ultimately led to the idea that is now VaVa Virtual Assistants. Since our company just turned 5 (yay!), we are reflecting back on what we think are the most crucial lessons we learned along the way to help us get to where we are now, and we’d like to share them with you.
- Be a Jack-Of-All-Trades: In the entrepreneur/startup world, you wear a lot of hats. In addition to utilizing our skills for the services we offer, we had to initially learn how to start and operate a business. This can be daunting for a lot of people – it was for us. It actually stops a lot of people from starting a business because it takes WORK. And a lot of it. Not only do you have to run the business, you also have to figure out how to market your business and stay on top of it. Because we are in the marketing space, it was a little easier for us to do this; however, it was still a challenge at the beginning and required a learning curve.
- Stay Current: The business world is constantly changing, especially when it comes to what’s trendy as far as products, services, and even marketing tactics. What’s popular now may be out-of-date and replaced by the next best thing in just a month’s time. Additionally, being aware of what types of marketing are trendy for various demographics is very important and plays a big role in getting business names and products to consumers. An interesting example: Alex had a plumbing business and did well with the 60-85 generation, but could not figure out why he wasn’t getting customers from other age ranges. We did some digging and realized he wasn’t advertising online. We quickly got him up and running on Facebook, Yelp and Instagram and he soon started to see an increase in business in the younger generation. The moral of the story is that he wasn’t keeping up with the trends of the century and those of different demographics to be able to target the younger generation lives online as well. If he wanted to obtain new business from Millennials and Gen X, he would have to find out where they ‘hang out.’ Finding out where your target demographics ‘hang out’ is crucial for the success of your marketing strategies.
- Select Your Partners Wisely: We balance each other out. Ours is an introvert/extrovert situation, which works well for us. It certainly can be challenging at times, as with any partnership; but we try to remember each other’s talents and what works well so we can operate our business effectively. For example: Lauren loves to talk (a lot) and she is great with customer service and sales, so networking events and getting the business name out to the world are great for her. Melanie is great at editing/writing, organization, figuring stuff out, and designing so she supports much of the back-end side of our business, keeping the gears turning behind the scenes. An “opposites attract” situation isn’t always right for everyone so thinking out the qualities that would fit well with you for a partner is certainly worth considering.
- Be Smart with Money: This will mean something different to every single business. It depends on how you’re starting financially, what you’re selling, what you’re investing, your employees, your type of business, etc. What’s not different, however, is knowing what being smart with money for your specific business means. Along with a business plan, you should include a financial plan that at least gives you a basis and some ground rules to follow from the get-go. This can always change as you build, but having a strong idea of how you can make your business succeed financially is a good place to start.
- Be Adaptable: In any business, there is always change, especially when you build from the ground up. You can probably expect to have a business that looks at least somewhat different in the end than what you had imagined at the start. As you grow and learn with your business, you figure out what works and what doesn’t work, and where you should try new things to improve upon the business. Additionally, as before mentioned, you have to stay on top of the trends and what sells in that current culture or you’ll fall to the wayside and be replaced by something more modern. Adapting to change and being able to update your business plan as you go along is imperative to its success.
The overarching message we would have for you is to have a solid foundation from the start with a business plan, a financial plan, a great team, etc., but know that every part of your business must be adaptable. In business you will always be learning new tools and ideas that will help you succeed. Be willing to try new things and be ok with things not always going as planned, knowing that if you get stuck somewhere along the line, you have allowed new ways to keep your business going.