Business startup: Back into Development Hell

January 13, 2012

in Business

building the marketing agency

Back in the mid-2000′s whenever I heard of companies needing 3 to 12 months of startup capital to get to launch, I admit I scoffed at that notion. When I read in Canadian Business that RIM (the company that produces the Blackberry device) spent three years in startup hell to launch, I though the execs where incompetent.

I have been a solo-preneur for most of my life, from filmmaking to lifestyle coaching where I was running it more or less like a practice rather than a business (like a doctor runs his business as a practice I mean). I do have experience working in large corporations back in the early filmmaking days, but those were fully financed machines well into operation at that point so I didn’t see their startup pains.

Well now, as this company that I started last year is gaining traction and momentum, I’ve found it necessary to take a step back into development hell and that is taking much longer than I would like.

You see, I learned to run a practice business very well, from startup to positioning & platform building (which I now help others do) to revenue generation. I’ve studied that and done that quite well and have gone deep into this practice model of business for experts, coaches, consultants; basically service providers.

My error was in assuming that running an agency -with several people involved- would be similar. I knew going in that it would not be the same, that the dynamic of business and client procurement and service would be different, but I didn’t realize how much knowledge I simply did not have in that area.

Thankfully when we launched Eat Marketing at the end of September, I maintained that everything we had surmised up to that point was only a guess and that the next few months was where the real learning about the business happened (I had even written two business plans to prepare for the launch).

And work hard and learn we did. By the start of December I announced I had to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to really run the business now that we got our feet wet. And I’ve been deep into researching that since then, now 6 weeks into the process and I’m understanding why it is suggested that companies spend at least 3 to 6 months to develop themselves. I’m going through a steep learning curve and things take time to research, learn, and settle. *note: I actually came up with the idea for Eat Marketing and have been working on it since last February, but none of that counts against our real market feedback from September on.

I pretty much have been studying, thinking and planning from day to night for the last few weeks and feel that I am now at the tail end of this first phase of the development. It’s like I compressed two months of development into one and I’m moving as fast as I can and things are starting to make sense and I’m gaining new clarity about how to run the agency.

The team I have working with me doesn’t understand how crucial this is either. They are a good team of top talent and they are doing a great job with our cliets, but they’re getting antsy wondering what I’ve been up to and, like I was at the top of this post, they are wondering what’s taking so long. I don’t expect them to understand how deep this process (and how hard and stressful) it is, but they should realize that if I do this correct right now, we ultimately become scalable and can become a top company sooner rather than later (and rather than…not!) as I’m creating infrastructure around thinking big.

The down side is time waits for no one and as the weeks past and I’m working on this and delaying client procurement (i.e. sales) it gets harder to move forward. In addition, I’m definitely noticing the effects from my motorcycle MVA as I do this as my fatigue and lost of multitasking ability are large contributors to why this is taking so long and why we aren’t going after 10 clients (I find that if I am concentrating on one thing, such as infrastructure, that other important areas, such as sales, is put aside – until I find help in those areas or get to them).

So I’m in the equivalent of what filmmakers call ‘development hell’, with the clock counting down for me for the goals I’ve set up for myself and what others are expecting.

Such is the birth of an agency. More to come about this topic.

Ronald Lee

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

David Pederson January 26, 2012 at 7:37 am

Your posts are truly refreshing. While I empathize with your challenges, I revel in the fact you are addressing them and even more, sharing the experience as you go through it. That is deeply admirable.

Keep it up! I look forward to reading more, especially when you reach that turning point while the pay-offs begin to happen.

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