Things we learned during this lockdown

Lessons for creative businesses

Phew, these last (almost) two years have been quite ‘different’ to say the least. I’m part of a generation that is going through a pandemic for the first time. Every part of life has been challenged and so has business. Where challenge comes, is where lessons rise. And this has been the case for BYAustin. Here’s are lessons we feel are relevant for every creative business.

1.  People need relationships more than ever
In our case, our network was the primary avenue of generating leads. Being in the public eye, I connect with many people who are at that place of operating their business and ready to take their brand to their next step. The pandemic interrupted our networking opportunities over 50%. Working from Ghana for a few months allowed me to network, but only to a certain extent.

Back to the relationship part
Our existing network and client base ensured referrals to still take place. In a time where often money is a hurdle for some, good relationships help them to overcome that hurdle and pay for a service they need. I realized the more, that people need brands they can trust. Whether that trust can be realized with a small talk, a virtual meeting or simply sending an appreciation gift. This is relevant for both B2B and B2C. If you’re not ready to build relationships, then I think that a service based business after 2021 is not for you.

2. Teamwork makes the dream work
You might say: “Duuuh.” But having started this business small (I mean small). I started with just €0, offering communication solutions. And the growth has been rewarding.  But because we focus so much on relationships and offering customized solutions, new business models came into play. Which is a good thing when it’s developed. Every business model added, held an untapped level we had to tap into. This requires focus and time. Speaking of time. A 2-hour designing of my client’s brand book was fun to me, but not time efficient. This was my cue to start working towards building a team.

I simply needed:
– Fresh perspectives on the strategy and operations of my business.
– My business to run with or without me. Which is quiet of an achievement I’m still in process of working on.
– To explore my relationships with my business partners.

I look back on partnerships (here we’re talking about relationships again) that brought in many opportunities I’m benefitting from to this day.

I simply needed a team for that. And besides, a strong sense of perspective helps you to put your team in place. My vision for my business is to create a work environment for the young creative and digital savvy. So I had to put my plan in place that starts at project-orientated hiring to parttime or fulltime.

3. You can’t do what everyone else is doing
The pandemic urges everybody and their mother to go digital.
For example, more business owners recognize that there is money to be made in broadcasting, e-learning and other digital channels. But people who are making money haven’t reached that place over night. And a YouTube channel is not relevant for any and every type of business. Let’s just remain real.

No one-size-fits all
After having worked with a wide range of international businesses, from consultancy to public speakers. It’s safe to say that there is no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to digital. But some brands NEED to implement double of their digital channels, while other companies simply need a strategic networking plan and a few digital supporting activities. I’ve interacted with experts that aim to be invited as a keynote speaker while they weren’t open to utilize their social and digital space. This was a case of an individual wanting what everybody else is doing, without a customized solution.  

4. Don’t do it, if you don’t want to.
In 2020, I got burned out accepting jobs that weren’t rewarding at all. If
a client proved to be difficult accepting my prices, I spent time adjusting my services and even my prices. At the end I asked myself: was it worth it? In terms of relationships and profit. No, I felt used and tired. I decided to commit to say ‘No’. My commitment was that serious. The relief was great!

5. May your brand speak for you
This is just to point out how important it is to have your company values composed in a brand.

  • Your values
  • Your company ‘strength(s)’
  • Your company characters
  • Your promise to your ideal client

If my predictions are to be true, a serviced based business needs to be committed to manage their brand as long as it lives.

6. Adding figures to your goals
Dreams sound beautiful until we understand how much it all costs. As a business owner, I had to learn the hard way on writing figures and
reviewing them to audit what brings in ‘coins’ and what doesn’t. As one operating a creative business, I recommend a healthy balance between doing what you love and doing what brings in an income. Trust me, I’m a full-on creative and I decided not to focus 100% on my music and broadcasting. Simply because that requires a long-term investment before you make profit. And besides, you’re a stable creator when your bills are paid.

Figuratively speaking
People often regard being broke as a fuel for better art. But my value lies with health first. Your creative ideas need funding, but most importantly, your basic set of bills need to be paid. I don’t discover many artists who are literally in a state of hunger or (primary) need to be making good business decisions. I recommend every client that comes in looking for personal brand development to keep their primary avenue of income rolling first.

7. Your business is only as strong as your mental strength.
This is a punchline I heard a guest speaker drop at a summit that I was moderating. This is a harsh reality that kicked in years ago when I, in the first two years of running my business, added business models while I didn’t understand how to put them in place. I was making profit, but not enough to pay myself just yet. Also, I rolled into doing business by simply doing what I love. No business plan, no strategy and no idea of how to scale. This required a deep fix. Which I eventually implemented. I will devote an article to how I pulled this off.

Anyway, looking back at the numbers. My depressing period held the lowest numbers in terms of profit. The punchline I referred to, came alive to me.

It’s the grind for me
Looking back at these bullet points I’ve kept over the last year, I feel a great sense of wisdom added to this ‘grind’. Remote working was always a part of our routine, so the by-force remote working thing wasn’t a big blow to us. The moral of this story is how readjusting, challenges and bouncing back remains relevant to any business. Staying creative requires focus and so does operating a business. My notebook is full of these reflections. I won’t hesitate to share on a regular.

Got questions or simply something to add? Feel free to drop us a message or follow us on Instagram @byaustinonline.  Stay tuned for the next reflections.