So, you’re just starting out. Or maybe you’re not starting, but you still haven’t hit that milestone that you were aiming for (no specific number tho).
For me, I found it to be after we crossed a Million dollars in revenue. Things kind of changed after that, so let me share my story of going from $0 to hit that first $1M.
I started Jakt after graduating from college. I was working out of my NYC apartment and, in hindsight, I had no idea what I was doing. I was ok at the coding part of it, sure. But the actual day-to-day, well, that stuff I was figuring out as I went along.
It’s tempting to look at big companies, hundred-million-dollar firms with all the trappings of big business, and to try and emulate them from the jump. Even Jakt (we’re at around $4M/year now) doesn’t operate now as we did back then.
But I’m here to tell you that all of that –the offices, the business cards, HR, payroll…– needs to (in my opinion) be firmly off your radar when you are just starting out.
That’s right –I focused on one thing to make it to that first $1M.
And, again, I don’t want my words getting lost just because you’re seeing “$1M.”
The point I’m making is around the time when you’re getting “off the ground.” There’s no unanimous milestone. It can be any number depending on your industry, service, location, etc.
So, what did I find most important?
There are many things that are important when you’re running a business. But if you want to grow, you have to focus on sales and top-line revenue. No business has ever survived or grown without revenue and sales.
Note: this is MY experience growing my business. I’m not saying it’s perfect. I’m not saying you necessarily have to copy the way I did it. I’m just sharing what worked for me in hopes that you can too find some value in it.
But how, right?
I’ve written about sales before –specifically about rewiring your relationship with them.
Sales seem to not come naturally to some people. I think that part of it is our misconception that you have to “manipulate them into buying” — no shit you think selling is hard then!
My approach to sales is simple – I’m a naturally curious person. I want to help people. While I’m an introvert, I like to talk to and, most importantly, listen to them and their business problems and challenges.
When you know or uncover what someone needs, then it all comes down to whether you can help them or not. If you can, that’s when you offer your services. And if you can’t, my approach has always been to refer them to someone who can when possible.
But it really all comes down to serving instead of selling.
My First Big Deal
Looking back, I do think there was an inflection point in that process. Our first major deal. A quarter million dollars.
That was a fun moment, let me tell ya. I remember that, after the meeting, the client made an off the cuff comment while smiling: “we’re signing with you because we like how you’re dressed.”
What he didn’t know was that we had dressed up for this meeting specifically. Right before, I called my partner at the time –a classic t-shirt everyday guy– and I told him to go to Macy’s.
We didn’t have much then, but we decided to invest in some nice clothes. I told him it would be worth it. Talk about ROI, huh? 🙂
Suddenly, we needed to hire people and turn the business into a machine. But none of that would have mattered if we hadn’t been working day after day to get the sales to fuel the whole thing.
There’s plenty of other shit you’ll have to take care of after you make the big sale. But, until then, your job is to make that sale.
It’s all there is.
But What About Everything Else Needed To Run a Business?
I’ve made it pretty clear already that I personally find selling is the most important thing. And you shouldn’t really be spending much time building the machine until you have the revenue secured to fuel it.
At least that’s my take –sell first, and then design the perfect service or product around it.
At the same time, I do think it can be beneficial to keep in mind the future systems you’ll need to support your company.
In my article on the 4 Business Systems Every Agency Owner Should Know About, I talk more about the details of building the machine — New Business, Production, Back-Office, and Financial.
You’ll eventually have to set the right people, processes, and tools around them. So, while your main focus should be selling, researching and taking small steps to properly build the 4 systems will help you in the long-term.
With time –and the more you transition from IN to ON the business, you’ll be able to coach people on how to do it. You’ll become the Architect. The less your company depends on you, the quicker you will be able to grow and scale.
If You Could Go Back in Time, What Would You Change?
If I’m honest, I wouldn’t change anything.
And of course I made some decisions that didn’t go as planned –but I learned from them. They were part of my process and don’t regret them one bit. I had to go through them.
I turned them into valuable lessons that I can now apply and share with you (here’s 5 more — and these cost me $100k+).
Yes, even if they hit the balance sheet in the wrong direction.
If you started another company, what would you do differently?
Glad you asked. Because I am starting another company: Polpo Finance.
With Polpo Finance, I’m taking a slightly modified approach. We are selling and landing clients first–no change there. This isn’t just theory on what I’ve done in the past. I’m eating my own dog food and we’re using it again. I have much more experience now but, back then, I didn’t even know the systems I needed.
Now that we have a couple of clients, we are starting to build out the systems (that I mentioned above) while continuing to sell. So perhaps you could say my new approach is:
Sales + Systems
With all my years of experience and learnings, I think this is the right approach now, so that’s what we are doing. If this changes in the future, I’ll write another post and share. But as of now, this is the approach that I’m personally going with.
So, the way I grew Jakt from 0 – $1M was by focusing mostly on sales. We didn’t have any huge marketing campaign either —here’s how I landed our first customers,
But I did invest a big share of my time going out of my way to talk to people, find if/how I could help, and showing what we were doing at Jakt to them.
There is an endless amount of things that are important when you run a business. But the truth is, sales are the number one requirement for them to exist. I don’t care if your Production team is amazing — they’ll be bored out of their minds (and you will be losing money) if you don’t bring in clients.
So focus on the sales and revenue but, while you’re at it, be sure that the systems created in your company don’t all have to go through you.
Growing Your Business To $1M/year:
- How did I go from 0 to $1M/year? Sales. Sales. Sales. Early, in the beginning, focus on them above all else. Get out there and work for them.
- Start building systems early and focus on streamlining those systems so they’re scalable. But keep selling.
- Buy yourself some nice clothes. *wink*