Tips

Five lessons I’ve learned from starting a business

The first 18 months of running IrvineMedia have been a mixed bag. There have been more positives than negatives… I think. Regardless, I’ve come across many valuable lessons along the way. Entrepreneurship is a complex beast, and the answers can’t always be found in a book or on a website. Hence, the reason for this blog post.

The results will help shape the future of IrvineMedia throughout 2024 and beyond. It will save valuable time, resources and my sanity. I’m actually very excited about the plans we have coming up.

Below is a raw, stream-of-consciousness list of the five lessons I’ve learned from starting a business. I’ve tried to keep them general instead of industry-specific so that any start-up or fledgling company will benefit from them. Let’s go…

Don’t expect anything

A grim one to start with, sure, but keep your expectations of clients and customers low. They won’t always act exactly how you want. It’s a rule for life, really – if you don’t expect too much from people, you won’t be upset if they let you down. The same goes for business. In the corporate world, you’ll come across slick operators who will promise you all types of riches, exciting projects and long-term retainers, only to renege on them. In the early days, I was gullible enough to take these at face value, only for the rug to be pulled from underneath me. It left me desperately trying to chase work as I’d relied on their now-lost income for the month. Set the bar lower than a snake’s belly and enjoy anything above it. *See bonus tips below for more on this.

Celebrate the small victories

Won a new client? Celebrate. Expanded your network? Celebrate. Finished that piece of work that’s been haunting your dreams? Cele… you get the picture. Every step along the way is progress for what you want your business or brand to become. This was a mind shift that didn’t come easily for me. But it’s important to enjoy each success, no matter how small. Heck, if you’ve managed to escape a toxic client, don’t forget to celebrate this, too.

Build out your team ASAP

If you have the means, hire someone part-time or on a project basis to sweat the small stuff. Admin, finances, emails, custom/client liaisons or even social media can burden a lean start-up. Doing everything at the start might feel OK, but you need to take a holistic approach as an owner. It’s what separates you from being a freelancer or a business.

Start saving

I’m terrible with money, but thankfully, my better half is not. Unless it’s written down, I have a hard time tracking the financial incomings and outgoings. I’ve since enlisted the help of FreshBooks – an all-in-one invoicing and accounting platform. It’s really easy to use. If I can use it, then so can you. The most important thing I’ve learned from doing this is keeping an eye on my savings. You never know when your business will go through a barren patch, and making sure you have funds to fall back on is essentially for keeping you a) sane and b) free from bankruptcy.

Hold on to great clients

OK, this is targeted to those providing client services. A good friend of mine told me this, and I didn’t know what he meant until we found a great client. We have numerous ones now – they’re the ones that are clear with their communication, pay on time and provide updates in a timely manner. You don’t have to worry about after-hours calls or emails asking you to tidy up the mess you could see happening a mile away. They’re professional. So, going above and beyond for these clients is exactly where you want to be. Hold them close.

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Bonus lessons

  • Never turn down the offer of work because you’re too busy. You’re not, and you never know when that decision may come back to haunt you.
  • Keep your current customers and clients sweet, but always be on the lookout for more opportunities. Again, you never know when you might need them.
  • Be ready to evolve because what you start out doing now might not be what you do in the future. I started writing about video games, but I can draft a white paper on the future of KYC/KYB perfectly. This applies to services, too. Inflexible businesses will be left behind.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others – especially on social media. Everything is carefully curated on Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. Keep doing your thing.

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Beware the AI evangelists

 

I swear AI evangelists have barely used the products they’re weak at the knees about. I’m not saying machine learning won’t eventually enable artificial intelligence to perform bigger, more complex actions, but right now, they’re extremely limited.

A prominent influencer and business mogul posted a video about the wonders of ChatGPT. They recommended using it for insights into certain industries. These could then be used to build strategies to enter a new market because “Google won’t be able to do that”. So I tried it.

At a glance, they looked decent. The replies covered all bases. But anyone with half a brain and a few seconds to dig a little deeper could see they were safe bet bullet points that provided little to zero insights. And here lies the problem.

Most champions of AI take it at face value. They input a command and are dazzled by the result. *Any* result. Then they tell their followers about it, close their laptops and order another flat white. If it *looks* good enough, it’s good enough.

I’ll leave you with another example. The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover has gone viral recently because AI has been used to expand the picture to show what the area outside it could look like. Just don’t tell those fawning over the image that Abbey Road exists in real life.

AI is good, but it’s wrong to assume it’s capable of performing miracles.

 

Our founder, Nathan Irvine, originally created this post on his LinkedIn profile. Edits have been made to provide extra context.

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Press release on fire.

Don’t write a press release like this

Here’s a timely reminder of why clear and concise communication matters: Silicon Valley Bank’s disastrous press release.

This press release, which you can see through the link above, is impenetrable to the layman. It’s a rambling cacophony of jargon. By the time you arrive at the first full stop around the 70-word mark, you’ll be exhausted.

Not only is this a lesson in how not to write a press release it’s also a prime example of why a company’s crisis comms must always be on point. Rather than extinguish the fires of doubts and fear to prevent disaster, the press release poured petrol on the situation by being unclear and essentially shouting the bit it was supposed to whisper – “We’ve lost $1.8bn”.

IrvineMedia has received thousands of press releases throughout their careers in journalism, and we now draft effective ones for clients. So here are three quick tips for making sure yours hit the mark:

🍰 Summarise the release
A tl;dr (too long, didn’t read) summary allows the receiver to digest the essence of press releases in a bite-sized fashion.

🎯 Get to the point
What’s the news? Angle? Or simply put, the one thing, if nothing else, you want people to know about? Get all this information up top.

📧 Don’t forget the Call To Action.
Tell the reader what happens next and how they can find additional info. We’re always surprised when we receive press releases without contact info or what happens next. Do it like this…

“For more information on how IrvineMedia can create more impact for your press releases and communication material, fill out the form below.” See, it’s simple.

This article was originally published in March 2023. The information has been edited slightly here to apply more context to the Silicon Valley Bank situation.

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Branded podcasts

Podcasts: Why your brand needs one and how we can help

According to Statista’s 2023 report, there are 464.7 million people who listen to podcasts. That’s a lot of ears… and many untapped potential customers and clients for your business or brand.

The beauty of podcasting is that there’s no entry fee. If you want a bare-bones show, you and your colleagues could huddle around a smartphone, use a free voice recording app and then post it to all the relevant channels in seconds.

It might not have the same production values as shows like Steven Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO or Serial, but it can be done. And so long as you have something interesting to share, you’ll find your listeners.

If you’ve ever wondered how to start a podcast, message us, and we’ll help you get started. We have two decades of experience launching and maintaining shows across many industries.

IrvineMedia can cover everything you need, such as:

💡Concept

We can help you come up with show and episode ideas. How long they should be, when to post, what topics to discuss, and the like.

🎙 Equipment recommendations for all budgets

From intimate setups to vast studio-style ones that cover audio and visual shows, which can then be uploaded to YouTube or social media channels.

📒 Agenda and scriptwriting

You carry on growing your business, and let us develop the episode scripts and running order for you.

🔊 Audio editing

Professional sound editing that slices out “umms” and “ahhs” like a ninja and makes your messages or stories crystal clear.

🎧 Distribution

We put your podcasts up on all the major networks so listeners can easily find your show.

In short, we help you get a branded podcast off the ground. Just fill out the contact form below, and we’ll get back to you soon. Remember, you could be speaking to 464.7m potential customers and clients.

Originally posted on October 3, 2023 on LinkedIn.

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