Wow, just wow! It seems like I received Forward View's business license just yesterday, but we've been in operation four years! Entrepreneurship has been an incredible experience—satisfying, exciting, educational, humbling, and full of blessings. I wouldn't trade Forward View for anything and can't imagine not owning the firm. Someone recently told me that every business owner has a buyout price... an amount of money he or she would accept to sell a company. In the theoretical sense, I guess that's true, but in the realm of reason, there's no way I'd sell out. I'm simply having too much fun running Forward View!
I'd like to use the rest of this note to describe the four most important lessons I've learned from Forward View's first years of success.
A business is like a kid at the toy store: It always wants you to buy something! There's a seemingly endless stream of offers, sales pitches, and potential deals landing in my inbox and voicemail. Many of these products and services are high-quality and would be valuable to Forward View, but I invest in very few of these opportunities. It's important, I think, to limit spending on the "nice to have but not necessary" items. I'll only spend on goods and services that will significantly improve client satisfaction, materially boost our team's efficiency/capacity, or make Forward View more scalable. Limiting the number of Forward View vendors and expenditures allows us to maintain low prices for our services, and affordable pricing has been key to our growth since Day 1.
Scaling a business, noted as important above, is incredibly challenging. As a firm expands, various process bottlenecks will develop and must be eliminated before another period of business growth can begin. A process that seems efficient during occasional use might be woefully inefficient in daily use. Be prepared to blow up how you do everything multiple times as you build your business! I've tried to build a business infrastructure that allows me to plug in new clients, vendors, and team members with minimal disruption, but, occasionally, even the company's infrastructure must be reset. Creative destruction is necessary the longer your business is successful.
Focus on marketing, not advertising. Marketing encompasses the entire spectrum of activities necessary to acquire and satisfy clients. As noted by Brian Tracy in Entrepreneur magazine, "[T]here is a 'Seven P Formula' you should use to continually evaluate and reevaluate your business activities. These seven are: product, price, promotion, place, packaging, positioning and people. As products, markets, customers and needs change rapidly, you must continually revisit these seven Ps to make sure you're on track and achieving the maximum results possible for you in today's marketplace." Collectively, Tracy writes, these are the seven P's of marketing. "Promotion" (advertising) is just 1/7 of the marketing puzzle but is often seen as being synonymous with "marketing." In fact, promotion should be viewed as the last of the P's because it relies on success in the other six elements of marketing before it's relevant. Before we create promotions and ads for clients, we encourage and support them as they refine other elements of their marketing. Advertising is a marketing catalyst, not the centerpiece. As I've noted here before, we're inundated with ads each day, so it's important to develop a well-rounded marketing strategy that doesn't rely on advertising as the sole customer funnel. The longer I'm in business, the more I believe in marketing and the less I believe in huge ad budgets.
Don't offer every service/product you could provide. I've steadily pared back the breadth of our services while increasing the depth of our offerings. In fact, I'm announcing that Forward View will no longer market financial consulting services as of today. I thank Fred Campbell, our financial analyst, for all of his amazing contributions to Forward View and for serving as a voice of reason on the team when I needed it most. I'll truly miss working with him, but Forward View is best served by becoming a pure digital marketing and design agency. I don't know why God closed the finance door, but it's clear to me that He intends to use and bless our marketing and design business! I have faith in our future and look forward to serving Him through the sharpened business focus! Again, I had to trim the business before it can bear more fruit. It's an unpleasant but absolutely critical process, as gardeners know well. Sometimes you can accomplish more by doing less!
In closing, I thank our team, our clients, and our business partners for four years of success! I look forward to our next chapter of growth, too. We have many exciting projects ongoing, and we're thrilled by the numerous opportunities ahead. Forward View will hopefully celebrate many more birthdays!