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This article was co-authored with Zainab Imichi Alhassan Alli, co-founder of POP Communications.
2022 marks five years since we launched POP Communications, our social media, public relations and influencer marketing agency in Dubai. While POP may have officially launched in August 2017, planning the business framework and brand vision is something we started years ago. The two of us always envisioned working for ourselves, but we also wanted a partner on the road – that’s why we launched POP together.
We are obviously excited as we embark on our entrepreneurial journey together, and we look forward to the adventures that come with forming and running a new business. As with any adventure in life, challenges will arise, but maintaining a positive mindset will help you navigate through them successfully. If you’re thinking about jumping ship right now, here are some lessons we’ve learned that can be applied to starting any business, no matter the industry:
1/ Find an accountant at your company (and other key employees if you can!)
We’ve been there before – start, do everything yourself. Marketing, actual servicing of your business, invoicing, record keeping, and more.
However, this approach is not sustainable and you will hit a tipping point. So if you are going to invest in a key person, make it someone who is digitally savvy and understands the financial requirements of your business entity and location. Even if you have an assistant with excellent record-keeping skills who understand various business expenses, tax exemptions, tax requirements, etc., one person is enough to keep you from panicking. Trust us – you’ll thank us later.
2/ Perfect your brand ethos (aka your elevator pitch)
It is important to have an innate understanding of what you do and the services you provide. Being able to clearly describe what you do, how you do it, and the value you bring to your client is key.
For POP, our elevator pitch reads: “POP Communications is a social media, public relations and influencer marketing agency. We make you ‘POP’ in a crowded marketplace.” Part 1 covers our extensive range of services , the second section focuses on our work.
Not only does an elevator pitch help explain the ethos of your company, but it also opens the door to new business and connections, which can then be further supported by a company background package.
A top tip in this regard: take the time to create a corporate certificate that clearly demonstrates your business services and added value, these can be amended at any time as the business grows or develops. Having this document easily accessible on your website or sent anytime is a game changer – you will no longer have to type your business in an email.
3/ Know what you do best, then repeat – but also vary.
At first, this may sound contradictory, but hear us out. In starting POP, we built a reputation for supporting beauty and other lifestyle brands through marketing communications and brand awareness through bespoke storytelling and strong influencer relationships.
This is an area of business that we were (and still are) very good at. However, we learned that strengths can be both achievements and hindrances. It takes time to understand how to use this strength to make your business prosper.
Having expertise in the beauty/lifestyle space would naturally drive portfolio growth in that space, but we faced a challenge when looking to venture into other industries – a clear lack of experience. Therefore, we also need to diversify to meet changing market demands.
That’s when we decided to use our strengths as a stepping stone to expand geographically, demonstrate diversity in reach, and then expertise. We are then able to connect beauty to health, wellness and lifestyle, leading to expansion in healthcare, business, social enterprise and more.
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So, let’s say your business makes custom children’s clothing and accessories, and it does it well. Maintain your strengths, but develop a diversification strategy that makes sense for the business.
For example, expanding into pet care accessories might be a natural line of business progression. Also, if your company has a lot of data on mothers’ buying behavior, you can leverage and expand on that particular unique selling point.
That said, while diversification and the ability to adapt to market changes are a must, don’t lose sight of what you do best, and what might inspire and drive your business.
4/ Spend time building relationships
You might be wondering why we included this as a lesson learned – read on. As a new business owner, time is a key factor and how you spend your time can have an impact on your business.
When it comes to relationships, whether with potential or current clients, industry colleagues, employees, or synergistic business contacts, personal relationships still play an important role in business prosperity and reputation. During our first few years in business, business growth and results were the focus. We put a lot of energy into our client relationships.
Taking the time at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey to fully understand the role of relationships in your business will put you in a strong position from the start.
Having weekly coffee in the office with employees, connecting on a personal level, spending an extra 10 minutes with a client, or learning about another company’s line of business for referral work will benefit you in the long run.
There will always be deadlines, or more tasks to be done, or the last shipment to be sent out. This never stops, even if you finish the task later, your business will continue. But the good times spent with good people may not always be there tomorrow — and that’s the lesson.
So here are some key relationships to invest in, and how:
staff Invest time in their growth and appreciation for their work. Also, offer flexibility, which increases their support for you and your business. We implemented a No Stress Fridays approach in January 2022 to increase flexibility and encourage employees to take control of their time.
Past and Future Clients Current customers often lead to future customers. A good track record and personal experience go a long way.
industry connection Always remember that partnerships and collaborations come from investing relationships.
5/ Schedule a specific date (and stick to it)
This is really important. Not only is efficiency and productivity increased, but having a schedule will promote a (good) work-life balance.
As a small business owner, you are your business, and as such, you are pulled in different directions and intimately involved. Even after years of business and teams in place, this still happens. It can be helpful to have dates for different parts of your business.
For example, at POP, our goal is to save team meetings and office work until Monday, new business meetings until Tuesday/Wednesday, and keep Friday as a day without calls or meetings. Create a schedule that works for you and your business to grow efficiently. It’s also easier to stick to a schedule when each day is scheduled on your official company planner. If you find that Friday morning is allotted to spending time with your kids or partner, or visiting a new supplier, you’re less likely to cancel it when it’s officially here.
Personally, we’ve found that respecting our time and sticking to it helps. You’ll get nowhere if you let clients, new clients, or suppliers dictate your schedule. Can refuse or offer an alternative. Understanding that the concept is okay and our time is precious is a lesson that will take some time.
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