We are one!
Today, We Are Comma turns one! What a year it has been; great highs and occasional disappointments. Starting a business is never easy but add in a global pandemic and there have been a number of challenges to overcome. We have learnt a lot in the last 12 months. So, we thought we would have a look back and share our experience.
When we started We Are Comma, we knew we had ample skills and experience to provide services which other organisations needed. We have a combined more than 30 years working in marketing, design, public relations and communications. So, in many ways we were ahead of many other businesses when they start. But there is more to running a business than simply being a good professional in your field. Very quickly we had to learn how to run a business. As employees, we had whole teams specialising in business administration to rely on; we didn’t need to know about the invoicing procedure or debt collection. Previously, when our team expanded HR colleagues provided advice on finding and hiring the best candidates etc. Suddenly, all these ‘back office’ services and systems were gone and we had to figure it out for ourselves. One of our first lessons was to ask other professionals for advice. Within our first week, we met with our accountant – who was recommended to us which is always the best way to find anyone to provide a service. Our accountant is experienced, knowledgeable and – importantly for us – very patient. He has spent a long time answering our questions about the best way to structure our business, what processes and procedures we need to have in place and so on. And to manage the day to day business admin, we each took responsibility for the various ‘back office’ functions.
Choose clients carefully
When you start a business there is a temptation to grab whatever work you can; anything to have some money coming in. Obviously having money coming in is very important but so is working with the right organisations. Our experience has been that the jobs which we thought would be a quick buck are not always so. More important is to work with clients that value your work and share a similar ethos to you. We work with organisations and businesses that change lives and drive social good. We help them influence more people to bring about more good in the world. However, we have also learnt another lesson through this: beware of getting carried away. As the purpose of the organisations we work for resonates with us, we can easily find ourselves doing lots of additional work as a good will gesture. But we do have to remember that there are only so many hours in the day. And our time is much more precious now that we are wearing so many hats.
Work life balance
From the start we all said we wanted to use the opportunity to start our own business to also ensure we have the work life balance that we want. We had great visions of being able to take every Friday afternoon off to pick the kids up from school and take them out for a treat or be able to meet friends for drinks etc. The reality is very different. Yes, we have more flexibility which given the Covid-19 pandemic has been greatly needed but actually we more often have to try and be strict with ourselves so that we are not working more than we did before. When you are building a business, it’s easy to think “just another hour on this” or find yourself spending the weekends trying to manage your own marketing because during the week you’re managing client’s marketing. But this has been another benefit of working as a collective – we can support each other but also challenge one another, if we notice any one of us seems to have got their work life balance off kilter.
That’s our top three lessons from starting We Are Comma. If you’ve started your own business what lessons did you learn? If you’d like to start your own business what do you think would be the biggest challenge?