Being a director means getting a pedi at your desk and swanning off for extended lunches, right? As Creative Director of Contentworks Agency – a leading marketing agency for the fintech and finance sectors, I’ve certainly learnt a whole lot over the past 24-months. And as our brand prepares to celebrate its 2-year birthday, it’s time for a bit of reflection and lots of cake!
So, what have I discovered along the way?
1. You must learn things that don’t interest you
If I spent all day talking about Twitter and influencer marketing, I’d be so happy but the business wouldn’t be. As a start-up director, you must be prepared to learn about things that don’t interest you such as tax and social security payments. Why? Because they’re pretty darn important. To be a good leader means understanding your business model and how to run the company successfully. It also requires you to have extensive knowledge of the topics that matter to clients. Essentially, you need to be able to hold your own in any high-end meeting. And, in my case, oversee content for the financial services sector. If you understand how your company works from the ground up, then you can effectively delegate tasks later.
2. You won’t live an Insta-millionaire lifestyle
As a director of a startup, the beach is a luxury and not a daily activity. And “influencers” who tell you otherwise are often fakers. You can sip a margherita underneath an umbrella, but you know – technology, plus the glare of the sun, sand, noisy sea splashers and sand-castle-makers, usually means you retreat home quickly.
Sure, the thought of living an Insta-millionaire lifestyle is appealing. But the reality is very different. Perhaps take those impressive social media snaps if you ever manage to get more than a 5-day holiday. And that’s probably not likely to happen anytime in the first couple of years as a start-up director.
3. You need to find a work/life balance
Gone are the days when bundling in the office at 9 and leaving at 5 was a ‘thing.’ And remember when you had 20 days holiday and sick leave… As the leader of a company, you might find yourself working all hours of the day. This can be damaging to your health, so it’s really important to find a balance. One of the best ways to do this is to set client expectations from the start. If you’re always replying to emails late into the night, you’ll be considered easily available and people won’t respect your time. Instead, set specific hours during which you’re contactable.
If you find yourself constantly online, try to disconnect your devices and give yourself a break. Take time out to do things outside of work and prioritise ‘you’ time every now and again. I read a lot about successful company owners getting up at 3am and drinking raw juices whilst riding a jet ski (almost). But it really is about finding what works for you. 5am-7am are my uninterrupted hours to exercise, plan for the day and yes, drink raw juice!
4. Learn to say ‘no’
With so much to do on a daily basis, learning to say ‘no’ will revolutionise your experience as a director. Don’t feel you have to attend every single event of the year. If it’s not a good match for your company, forget it and save your energy for more beneficial occasions. You may also find you’re asked to attend a whole bunch of meetings with people who value your opinion. This might be flattering at first, but you’ll quickly learn to sift timewasters from those who could bring business. Again, don’t be afraid to say no to meetings that aren’t going to be productive. Here’s a tip if you’re bombarded with verbal requests for advice or information. Ask people to “put the brief or request in an email”. You’ll be amazed how many can’t be bothered and if they do then you can better manage your time and responses.
5. Get your core team right!
Having the right people in place early on is essential as they’ll help your business bloom and grow. As a start-up, it might be tempting to hire the first candidates that come your way but don’t fall into this trap. Instead, read CVs carefully and conduct proper interviews! Set probation periods and ensure the individuals you choose have great potential. As a rule, hire people smarter than you, as there’s always room to learn and hone your existing skills. Of course, you will also need to delegate work so that you can free your time for acquisition and business development. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
6. Combine Business and Leisure
With such a hectic schedule and so much to organise, it can be tempting to fly into events or meetings and leave at the end of the day. I try to combine my trips with an extra day at the end to sightsee, relax at the hotel or network with friends or colleagues in that city. When planning your travel time, it’s ok to be 20% leisure. Research before you go and be sure to check out the top restaurant or tea shop in the area.
7. Always Be Closing
Remember that cringey speech in Glengarry Glen Ross? A,B,C- Always Be Closing! Whilst we don’t operate a boiler room sales team, the line Always Be Closing is still somewhat relevant. Learning the LTV (Life Time Value) of clients and understanding that there is a natural drop-off rate is key. Essentially that means that even when business is going well, you need to focus your attention on acquisition. After two years, patterns in your turnover and analytics will start to form and you can also draw conclusions about seasonal turnover. Focusing on acquisition when business is going great seems unnecessary and it’s certainly, contrary to the advice dished out by those Insta millionaires. But it’s essential.
8. Take time to look back
Remember when we didn’t have a CRM? Or when we thought it would be a good idea to give out promotional chocolates in the middle of the Cyprus summer? (DOH!)
Of course, as the director of a startup you want to be looking forward. But you can still take time out to remember the lessons you learned along the way. Doing this will help you to understand how far you’ve come and remind you that being a business owner is a learning curve. Next year, I’m sure I will be doing the same thing again.
9. Take Naps
Your startup business is a new-born baby. It demands your attention 24/7. But on the rare occasion it doesn’t, you can take a much-needed nap. Ideally, naps should last 30 to 45 minutes. Any longer, and they can have a negative effect, interfering with your sleep that night. Even just 10 minutes of zzz in the mid-afternoon is beneficial, according to a study in the journal Sleep. The study authors found that a 10-minute nap increased alertness and performance immediately after the nap and lasting up to three hours.
Naps are especially necessary during expo season!
Being a director is tough. But it’s also incredibly awesome. Collaborating with great clients, jumping into exciting new projects and working with a great team means that the role is never boring. So, to round this article off, Happy Birthday Contentworks Agency. You’re two years old now, so cake, mess and tantrums are probably the order of the day. Huge thanks to my amazing business partner Niki, our international team as well as all the wonderful clients we’ve worked with to date. Here’s to a great third year!