February 8, 2016
In October, KRC celebrated its two-year anniversary. In February, we rebranded as Switchboard. Both anniversaries and rebrands are occasions for reflection, so I’ve been reflecting a lot in these momentous few months. It’s hard not to marvel at how far we’ve come. I left my job in corporate PR and started the company that is now Switchboard with no clear direction, no clients, no safety net — nothing, really, other than a desire to consult on a variety of projects that made a difference. Turns out that sheer will can be enough to start a successful company.
After taking the plunge, I was fortunate to be able to take three weeks to reset. I crafted, I did yoga, I reflected on past achievements and failures — that’s a big one for me. I set goals for myself and my new company. Then I got to work.
I went to Small Business BC and got set up with my terribly original company name: Kathleen Reid Consulting Limited. I consulted my mentors, including my parents, all of whom are entrepreneurs themselves. One thing I learned from talking to them is that you can often learn a lot more from hearing about people’s failures than about their successes.
In that spirit, I am going to share with you the lessons I’ve learned from failing hard and failing often during the first two years of KRC. I’m not one to give unsolicited advice, but I would prefer that anyone reading this not make the mistakes I’ve made. Learn from me, and make different mistakes!
Behind each of these lessons learned, there’s a story of a mistake, a mishap, a misfire. Buy me a beer, and I’ll tell you my stories; for the sake of brevity, today I’ll just share the lessons:
Hire slowly, fire fast.
It takes a lot of time to find the right people to work with you. When you find good people, invest in them and listen. On the flip side, when you know someone isn’t right and you get that gut feeling, fire fast, like ripping off a band-aid. It sounds callous, but you want to avoid holding onto people or worrying about what will happen. Believe me. Pull the plug.
Trust your gut.
The feeling you get when you first meet people is usually a pretty reliable sign of whether they’re a good fit. For example, our office is a bit of an ongoing construction zone. If people are visibly turned off when they see our space, we know they won’t be a good fit. Better to know from the get-go.
Get a good accountant.
This is especially important if you’re not good with the financial stuff. Keep your books up to date and your receipts in order, and get your invoices out on time. If you don’t, you’ll regret it. Trust me on this one.
Take accountability for your mistakes.
This goes for mistakes made with employees, vendors, clients, whomever. Address them right away, come up with a solution and don’t dwell. I used to be the worst dweller; I’d spend night after night ruminating about a project after it was done. Replace rumination with meditation. Yoga has done wonders for me.
Build a team that has the work ethic you need.
It’s cliché, but I’m a work hard/play hard type. The business I’m in isn’t 9 to 5; it requires people who are willing to stay late, come in early and put in time on weekends sometimes. I’ve been fortunate to build a dedicated team that’s willing to do what’s needed, and I do my best to reward them by being flexible. Work/life balance works differently around here.
This can be exhausting for many people (myself included), but it works. You never know who you’ll meet, or what amazing opportunities you’ll stumble upon.
Luckily, it hasn’t been all mistakes and misfires, but failures always make for better stories.