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Top 5 Lessons Learned from Building a Business - 5th Anniversary

October 21, 2015, by Corina Sibley and Stephanie Messier | Performance Management

We can’t believe it.  We have been in business for 5 years this month!  Time has flown by and we are still as excited about our business as we were in the early days; must mean we are doing something right.   We love our work, our clients and our team; what could be better?  As we reflect back on the past 5 years, here are our top 5 lessons we’ve learned so far, with many more to come we're sure in the next 5 years:

Lesson #1:  How You Start is Not Often Where You End Up – and That’s a Good Thing!

Being an entrepreneur is all about executing on ideas.  Sometimes those ideas work and other times they don’t and you try new ones.  We started off with a vision of being an on-line HR department for growing businesses with the main focus of providing easily downloadable and affordable online HR tools.  As we grew the business, our focus shifted to first HR consulting to those growing businesses using the tools we created to provide speed and cost savings to our clients.  Then we added recruiting at the request of our clients.  Five years later we are a full-service HR consulting firm with associates that provide expertise in all facets of HR; but still with the same client in mind – the growing operation with either little to no in-house HR expertise.  That vision has remained constant.

Lesson #2:  Be Authentic and True To Your Values

In every step of building our business we have always adhered to our values; treating our clients’ businesses as if they were ours; providing quality, expertise and services at cost-effective rates; ensuring we are a value-add to our clients and if we can’t be, referring them to trusted businesses that can.  Of course, we look at what our competitors are doing and offering, but this doesn’t drive our decisions.  If it’s not meshing with our own values, we won’t do it.  Sometimes that means we lose business, but that’s okay.  We’re growing on our own terms with clients we respect and with whom we enjoy working.

Lesson #3:  Hire the Skills You Don’t Have

Let’s face it.  No business owner is good at everything.  But there is a tendency for entrepreneurs to try to do everything in the beginning to save costs.  Sometimes in the end this can cost you more money because due to your inexperience, it either took you much longer than it should have, or you made a mistake and have to start over.  Either way, it’s often a more savvy move to recognize your areas of weakness and find people who can do the job faster and more effective than you ever could.

Lesson #4:  Ensure your team is taken care of before you are

This is another one of those common sense things, but it was definitely reinforced as we were growing our business.   As a segue from Lesson #3, we began hiring associates to help increase our bandwidth for taking on new business and also to augment our skills in other areas.  There was quite a period of time when we were starting out that we couldn’t pay ourselves because of the investment we were making in our business; but we certainly made sure our associates were paid on time every time.   We wanted to ensure our team felt a part of HR a la carte and wanted to continue working with us, and on a practical front that often involved a sacrifice on our parts as owners.  But boy was it worth it!  Five years later we have such a wonderful team who have the best interests of our company at heart and on whom we rely day in and day out.

Lesson #5:  Shake the Shoemakers’ Children Syndrome!

Our business is HR consulting. We provide strategic HR advice to our clients as naturally as breathing.  But we are often so busy doing that, that we sometimes don’t take a step back and apply that same level of scrutiny and strategic support in our own business.  When we do, great things happen.  It’s a matter of carving out that time to reflect on where our business has come from and where we’d like it to go and determine whether we have the resources, talent and wherewithal to make it happen. 

As we approach the next 5 years we will continue learning and have fun doing it!

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