I was talking to some new business owners yesterday that were working to get things off the ground, and they asked about failures that we’ve seen over the years. Successes can be great to study, but failures are often great learning opportunities.
While things at GreenMellen have gone pretty well (we’ve made it nearly 12 years at this point), we’ve had our share of mistakes over the years. Here are five that come to mind.
When we were first considering office space, we found two options that could be great for us. One was absolutely perfect, and the other was a much smaller (and less expensive) option. We went with the small one and regretted it almost immediately.
We did it for the right reason (not committing too much money), and things have worked out great since then, but in retrospect getting the right office the first time would have been good move.
We’ve done well with our hires over the years, and I wouldn’t trade a single person on our team right now — they’ll all literally extraordinary. That said, we’ve made two less-than-perfect hires over the years.
We loosely follow the EOS model for running our agency (I’ve mentioned it a bit here) and they have a concept of making sure employees have “GWC” regarding their role:
- Get It: They understand what’s needed and can execute.
- Want It: They have passion for the position.
- Capacity: They have time and ability to make it happen.
In our case, we had one that didn’t “want it” (he simply didn’t care) and one that didn’t quite “get it” (he was a great team member, but wasn’t the right fit for that position). We’ve learned our lessons from those, and have been more careful (and very successful) with our hires over the past few years.
LLC vs S-Corp
We formed our company as an LLC, but it seems an S-Corp would have been a better move. It’s not a huge difference, and I don’t understand the nuances of each, but it’s something you should consider carefully when you’re first starting.
Being too generous
This is a tough one, because we pride ourselves on being generous. We’re generous in how we treat our employees, we’re generous with how we serve our clients, and we’re generous with how we share in the community.
While this has done far more good than harm, we got ourselves in a tough spot a few years ago by being a bit too generous with our benefits and bonuses with the team. It wasn’t even the generosity that caused the issue, but the lack of a plan behind it. We still offer solid benefits, bonuses and other great things to our team, but now they’re all done with solid planning and calculations that serve the best interests of everyone.
Saying “yes” too much
This is one that I still struggle with, and it comes from two directions:
- My desire to try to help everyone. This hurts us the most when I bring in very small clients that we all want to help, but they take up time that could be devoted to more profitable work that will keep the company healthier.
- My fear of work drying up. It hasn’t happened in 12 years, and we’re currently as busy as we’ve ever been, but I always have a thought in the back of my mind that business will suddenly slow down so “we’d better take this client, even though they’re not a good fit”.
It’s a tough balance, and something I’ve improved a lot on in the past decade, but it’s something that will always take more work on my end.
More good than bad
I don’t want this to be a negative post. Over the years, we’ve done far more things right than wrong, and I still can’t believe what we’ve put together. That said, it’s always good to review your mistakes and continue to refine your efforts to be the best you can be every year.