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I was truly blessed—or damn lucky—to quote my father—to be raised by exceptional people in a wonderful family. My dad owned a mortgage business for years (more on that story later) and is now a financial examiner for the state of Utah. My mom is a seamstress and can make everything from a wedding dress to a thousand costumes to engineering bags that transport medical supplies.
You know how the older you get the smarter your parents are? Which is too bad because when you are a teenager/early twenties they are really dumb. Come on parents, just what happens to you in those years? Kidding.
My parents passed down a lot of advice around running a business and here are some things I would like to share with you. My sister helped witha couple of these and then Steve added in a couple from his parents.
#1 – Business people always have business cards
Just last week I was sitting in a waiting room, noticed the logo on a guy’s jacket and started up a conversation with him. He is a customer of one of our large clients. BOOM! He’s struggling with some tech questions including building a mobile app and some other corporate tool related things. He picked my brain for 45 minutes, asked for a copy of my book, and who knows, something interesting may happen. I’d love to work with this particular company.
#2 – Do the best you can with the time and resources you’ve been given.
I come from a family of overachievers, so you have to understand that this piece of advice is actually negative—it’s the advice when you need to quit giving 110% because whoever you are working for doesn’t appreciate it and you are only taking it out on your soul.
You still show up, you do a good job, but then you go home, do only what you can with the budget, and you work within the time constraints.
#3 – Give them the same courtesy they would give to you.
Like you’ve given two weeks notice and the entire office has turned on you and every day is 12 hours of living hell. Asssuming everything is wrapped up—and there is no plan to hire/train a new person—do you need to stick it out? Give them the same coutesy they would give to you.
#4 – Set up your work environment to be as efficient as possible.
If your work environment is set up correctly you can make more money. I learned this working piece rate for my mother. If a job pays $0.07 per piece you can either futz around and make $5 per hour or you can get down to business, touch things as few times as possible and make $18/hour.
#5 – Some people have five years of experience, some people have one year of experience five times.
This tidbit is helpful when you meet someone “who’s been in the business for 20 years” and you think that cannot possibly be true. Or when I was put up against a designer with a resume so similar to mine I thought he’d copy/pasted it from me—but he wasn’t producing the kind of work for his company that I was.
#6 – There are two things that you cannot compete with: dishonesty and inexperience.
When you lose a bid for reasons that don’t make sense: There are two things you can never win against: (1) dishonesty [people that say whatever just to get someone on the hook and then take more time/money later], and (2) inexperience [those that don't really understand what the project will take and underbid it].
This is probably one of the things we run up against the most at this point in our careers. We bid something but then someone comes in much lower. At that point we thank everyone for their time and move on, we never compete on price like that—because generally we know what’s about to happen. More than once people have come back later, or told us they should have gone with us. Often the project never sees the light of day (yes, we watch for them to be launched by someone else).
This actually leads to an idea we’ve been discussing lately about value and positioning, but that’s another post.
#7 Be a morning person.
Get in, prep your stuff before anyone else (that always makes you look on the ball and punctual), get done and get out. Suddenly there’s even more hours of the day. From my sister, “I always loved working the 7:30-4:30 shift at work instead of the 9-6 even though it was the same number of hours because I still had day left.” I guess since I’m writing this at 6:45 am I also agree.
#8 – Make sure you don’t find out you’ve “Missed your chance”
This one is indirectly from my sister, she moved out last year and uncovered a diary from when she was a little kid, it had only one entry and it read: I wanted to watch cartoons this morning but my dad said, “I’d missed my chance,” my parents are big big big big big big big big big big big big big big big big brats.
We all thought that was hilarious, but now I’ve started to notice how much I say I’ve missed my chance, or we have, or a client has. The lesson here is to head people off at the pass—if you want to get on our schedule, let us know early, if I am bidding a project I do whatever it takes to get that bid back as quickly as possible. And yes, last year, something happened that delayed our bid and when we finally submitted we had “missed our chance”.
#9 – Set a Good Example
From Steve: My dad always said that if you want or expect a certain behavior out of someone that the best way to get results is to practice that behavior yourself. If you expect people to be on time you should be on time yourself.
#10 – Don’t burn that bridge, even though you want to.
And the last one, also from Steve’s parents, odds are your business community is smaller than you think it is. You may be tempted to burn a bridge with someone. The better tactic is to be graceful about it. Burning a bridge will almost certainly come back to haunt you later in life. We tend to have long memories for those that wrong us.
Share your lessons…
What about you? What business lessons have you learned from your parents—or taught to your children? We love to see comments on the blog or on Facebook and read/respond to every one of them.
We survived the holidays, we followed up on all the issues from the first of the year—but now we are looking at refocusing what we’ve been doing for the last several weeks / months / years.
I’ve had this exact conversation with four people already this week—we are doing it and it sounds like all of you are doing it as well.
It’s time to refocus.
There are lots of reasons why:
Either because the economy was getting better last year and so we took on more and more work—to find out one day we had the wrong mix of clients at that exact moment.
Or the economy wasn’t getting better so we added more and more and then found out those things don’t perform as well.
Or the economy aside, we are doing well, our partner company is doing well—can we do even better together?
Or we are doing well, we want to partner with this company, this is the deal they have—it’s close to what we are doing, it could mean growth, but to grow that arm of the business we have to take away from this one.
Those are the four broad items that started the “we are going to refocus” conversation with people this week (only one of them is our issue).
Most of them come back to: in the face of opportunity what does it cost you, as a person, to split your focus on many things? Are you going to grow because you took the opportunity? Or are you going to fritter away what was good and what was working?
As we refocus I’ll share some of the things we are doing—in the meantime—are you refocusing? What does this time of reflection and resolution mean for you?
We are refocusing our marketing and social media—can you help us out by answering this completely anonymous, short survey?
“Type selection is incredibly important now that we have web fonts and retina iPads. Three years ago we weren’t allowed to care about type as web/app developers.”
— Amber Sawaya, Partner, Sawaya Consulting
Shout out to Sara for spotting my quote in the newsletter. The entire survey isn’t posted on their site yet, but it should appear here soon.
The section I was quoted in is below:
MORE CONTROL OF TYPE ON THE INTERNET
In our previous surveys, the consensus among typophiles has been that web design was limiting, sometimes frustrating, and therefore not a place for type to shine. Indeed, the most common strategy in designing for the web was clear: keep the choice of fonts simple, clean, web safe, and cross-browser compatible. Certainly, that sense of constraint still exists. But today’s survey suggests that a gradual evolution is taking place as technology advances. Says Keith Smerak, Partner, Element Six Creative Group: “Many designers and developers seem to see type as an afterthought. I’m happy to see type control getting more prominence on the internet – the trend is changing for the good. Type is equally important on the web as it is in print.” In the same spirit, Woody Schauer, Art Director, Schauer Design, says: “Type is still not as important on the web as in print but it is becoming more so with the use of Google fonts and other web based fonts.” Adds Amber Sawaya, Partner, Sawaya Consulting: “Type selection is incredibly important now that we have web fonts and retina iPads. Three years ago we weren’t allowed to care about type as web/app developers.” Says Joy Panos Stauber, President & Creative Director, Stauber Design Studio: “Type decisions for the web are still important. Not to replicate print, but to make sure the type supports functionality and creative direction – that it supports communication… Type online is getting better all the time.”
I published one of these last year and thought I’d carry it forward this year as well.
How did we do on the goals we set forth for the year?
- Redo our online portfolio: check!
- Keep up on exercise: check! Still working with Age Performance, still going to Fluid Heart Yoga classes and this year Steve and I both took up Antigravity Yoga.
This year’s wrap up:
- We had another record year—we did more projects with more clients and brought in more people to help us out than ever before.
- With more work came better tools, this is what helped us get through the year:
- New Retina MacBook Pros, a flock of Thunderbolt displays and all the new iPads (retinas and mini).
- Corporate Alliance — it’s a networking group I belong to. I’m a total evangelist.
- Things — daily to-do list stuff.
- ProjectFlow — tracking high level projects
- Stride App — our sales funnel CRM
- Omniplan — planning software
- Adobe Bridge — been kicking this around for like 10 years now, but have only just realized how awesome it is for organizing purchased stock, UI elements and icons.
- Citefast — helpful for all the sources in my book.
- Instapaper — for when you see an article you want to process later.
- Evernote — of course, old fav, but we also love the new paper notebooks.
- Google Docs — meeting notes, change logs, it’s all in here.
- Dropbox — files shared with clients and consultants
- Shutterstock — it’s like crack for designers if you can swallow the price tag.
- Of note — there are somethings that didn’t make it and we’ve cut them out. Hootsuite is gone (we don’t do as much social media and I read you were being penalized for third-party posts on some sites); CapsuleCRM (replaced with Stride App), Our Client Access Sites (Dropbox and Google Docs get the job done better, faster and easier).
- I wrote a book about our mobile app experiences (expanding on the presentation I mentioned in last year’s post). Building a Mobile App: A Resource Guide for Clients & Corporations is out on Amazon now. I worked with a great marketing firm that helped this take off like wildfire—600 copies out the door in a few days and landing a spot on the Amazon Best Seller list.
- We did more responsive sites—the SOS Employement Group one is one of our favorites.
- We did more mobile apps—check those out here.
- We bought a frickin’ laser. So far I’ve made turkey placecards for Thanksgiving dinner — so those run about $1000 each until I can amortize my projects coming out of it.
Some goals for 2013:
We aren’t totally nailed down on things right now, but we are looking towards:
- Bringing down the costs of apps, increasing profits— you’ve heard me say it a hundred times… apps are way more expensive than websites. There are so many ancillary pieces that the price necessarily goes up. The problem for us is that we are charging more and making less — nobody wants that. Here are some ways we’re going to look at streamlining:
- Better processes in place to take care of all the ancillary stuff.
- Bring more of the dev back in-house, we’ll still work with additional developers, but the more we can setup before we bring someone else in the less we have to discuss in revisions (things like — yes, the color really should be the same color that was in the mockup…).
- Figure out a better way to preview apps with clients—the app dev process is so painfully long that you spit out something weeks or months later and the client may say, “I thought this would work differently”. Enter costly dev changes. It’s just not HTML, it’s just not that easy.
- Keep the exercise time. People, we need to move. Exercise isn’t about weight loss, it’s about mental focus, mood and preventing injury. We plan to continue what we have been doing.
- Stay small, stay nimble, stay true. We were asked by several clients this year if we could please just add a few more people to the company. At our high point we had four full time people and five more part timers. We love the people we work with and plan to continue working with all of them…but at our core we set out to change how a design/tech company runs and services clients. And that isn’t through status meetings, time sheet hounding and the other trappings we left behind. We do plan to clarify some of our values and communicate them better to anyone that comes onto a project with us.
What sort of things are you planning to do in 2013?