As a little girl, owning an Internet strategy agency isn’t what I dreamed I would do. I started out as a psychology major at Purdue, and I planned to be a stay-at-home mom with lots of kids. My sister, however, encouraged me to take a computer graphic class, and a world of possibilities opened up. Always a creative soul, I found that computers and creativity could go hand in hand, and after earning a master’s degree in technology and working in the industry for a couple of years, I launched TBH Creative in 2004 and never looked back.
In communications and business, the only certainty is that things will change. Fast. It is important to have a few touchstones to keep you on solid ground. These are my top rules for success (which happen to also be the things you can expect from the entire team at TBH Creative).
1. Be prepared
My not-so-deep, dark secret is that being under-prepared is out of the question. Not being prepared ranks right up there with running late (or missing a deadline). Both can (and should) be avoided. Fortunately technology makes prep work easier than ever. Being prepared leads to more efficiency as a business owner, which leads to higher-value service, which leads to the best solutions.
2. Ask questions
Listening is key to building relationships and developing strong creative or technical solutions. Learning to ask effective questions is a key component to establishing long-lasting client relationships; listening well also plays a significant role in developing marketing solutions that are specific to individual client needs (and are therefore more successful). Clients want to know their voice is heard, so practice active listening and ask smart questions. You will likely be surprised by where the conversation may lead and the solutions that are inspired.
3. Be confident
We’ve all heard the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it.” I am not advocating that you pretend to know more than you do but I am suggesting that you believe in yourself and know your value. In the digital marketing and web design industry, there are always things to learn and new challenges; it is impossible to be an expert in everything. Confidence comes with experience and preparedness (see #1). As you gain experience and tackle new challenges, arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can so that you can enter all meetings with confidence.
4. Be responsive
In other words, don’t leave people hanging. Some experts advocate setting aside time at the beginning and end of your day to read and respond to emails. This policy has never worked well for me. With fast moving projects, clients and team members count on real-time feedback. While I’m not totally available 24/7 and always work by a prioritized tasklist, I make a point to be timely and considerate in my communications. If I am busy and cannot respond properly right away, I will oftentimes send a quick acknowledgement note to say “I got your message and am tied up the rest of the day, would it be okay if I get back to you tomorrow (or by the end of the week)?”
5. Embrace mistakes
Regardless of your education and expertise, mistakes are inevitable. Of course you’ll work hard to keep them at a minimum, but don’t forget to learn from your mistakes and move on. Sometimes this means being better prepared next time. Sometimes it means acknowledging your limitations and seeking outside support from mentors, peers, or team members.
Determine where the mishap occurred and why, and then adjust your process appropriately to do better next time. If someone else is effected by the mistake, take the appropriate steps to make it right.
6. Follow through
It is as simple as this: do what you say you are going to do. It seems easy and obvious, but I am continually amazed by how many people do not follow through. I believe this rule applies to big things such as completing project work on-time and within the agreed terms, but it also applies to small things such as returning a call, sending someone a link, or just showing up.
Why is this important and fundamental to success? Because people want to work with people they can rely on and trust. Following through on the little things consistently helps reinforce that you will also follow through on the bigger tasks.
I have learned a lot in the past 12 years as a business owner, and I’m still learning. I have two young daughters who were born as my business was hitting its stride, so one of my biggest challenges has been figuring out the balance between my career and home life. I have to continually remind myself that it is okay (and awesome) to have both. In fact, I’m proud to be setting an example for my girls.
All in all, I am very grateful for what I have accomplished with TBH Creative and proud of the high quality marketing work we provide. Also, I love what I do, so that feels pretty lucky.