The timeless truths of doing good business

By Caroline Hagen

Whether you’re launching an amazing artisanal chocolate, or saving the world from sniffles and sneezes with a top pharma product, you might be interested in what Caroline Hagens got to say this month. As we move into a new year, she’s been thinking about what can be learned from the past. Though packaging design may not be cheese crafting, these timeless truths seem to cross all business boundaries…

Keep an eye on the future and your feet on the ground

Building your business and looking forward is exciting – and essential. But focusing too much on the future can cause you to take your eye off the ball day-to-day. Take care to balance your attentions between plans for growth, and keeping your product quality as high as the day you started.

Invest time in relationships

When businesses are growing fast of course you have to delegate certain things, but be careful to cherish important relationships. If, like us, you find that key relationships are the crown jewels of your business, consider what your customers value. In some cases, customers are actually buying into your personal expertise as much as the product or service your business offers.

Over the years, I’ve delegated and trusted others with critical relationships when perhaps I shouldn’t have. I didn’t realise how much value clients placed on our personal relationship – but now I’m involved in every project. Though Reach creative teams evolve and flex to suit specific requirements, our clients know I’m always there for them. This way of working is now built into Reach’s business model.

Trust your intuition and go with your gut instinct

Sometimes you ‘just know’ when something isn’t right for your business – so listen to those nagging doubts. They may be about a person, a product or a process, but if it doesn’t feel right, take a closer look, ask questions, and resolve what makes you feel uncomfortable.

I remember one instance when I felt that a key member of staff’s personality wasn’t right within our company culture, but I went ahead and employed them because I firmly believed I needed their specific skillset. I should have listened to my gut though: this employee ended up having a really negative impact on the culture of the business.

Hire who you need – but only for how long you need them

Freelancers and consultants are a fantastic resource. You get top-notch talent, but you don’t have to commit to a role you may not need in the long term. This has actually helped to shape Reach’s structure. Unlike traditional agency models, we handpick from a pool of creative collaborators to perfectly suit individual client’s project, brand and objectives – more on that here.

Recognise people’s skills – and work with them

Encouraging people to take on roles they don’t want isn’t good news for anyone –  individual morale can really suffer. Instead of forcing square pegs into round holes, celebrate and make the most of their individual skillsets. Over the years, I’ve discovered that it’s better to build on positives, and not get distracted with negatives – but I learnt this the hard way.

I had Account Director once who was brilliant with clients but struggled with brand strategy. Instead of making the most of how great they were at building relationships and growing our business with that client, I focussed on the fact that they weren’t a natural strategic thinker and eventually lost a great team member. These days, I remember that if a person is good for your business and a great fit culturally, you can always teach them new skills or adapt their role.

Keep learning – always!

I come back to these simple truths time and again if an ambitious start-up asks for advice. However, I do firmly believe that success is built on openness, intellectual curiosity and endless learning – so I’d love to hear your ideas too. Drop us a line to share your thoughts, favourite resources and top blogs.