Starting a business is the scariest thing you will ever do in your life. I promise. It is scarier than becoming a parent, joining the workforce, meeting your love’s family. You will wake up both terrified and invigorated daily. The combination of emotions is the absolute best sensation. The terror you feel daily can be harnessed and used to help you stay motivated, focused, and truly appreciate the freedom your decision has brought you.
When I was starting 3Raptor, I spent hours planning what the office would look like, what furniture I would buy, what mood I would create. Each time we moved up, joined an incubator, had a desk in a shared workspace, and rented an office, I would lose myself to a vision of what I needed. I never stopped to appreciate what we had achieved. In fact, I wasted countless hours planning what our own building would look like. I had created a vision of what I wanted rather than a realistic view of what we needed.
Fast forward three years, and I find myself in a very different frame of mind. We have grown from a two-person company to a 5-person, family-owned business. We have weathered a pandemic and proven we are relevant, vital, and have the tools our customers need. We have steadily grown our client base while deliberately choosing to do business our way. This journey has taught me so much, and I wish I had learned these lessons sooner.
The confidence you exude in your capabilities, staff, and work far outweigh the image your office projects. By no means do you want to invite a client to meet you in a janky office, located in a questionable part of town with broken furniture. But your office doesn’t have to be on Park Avenue and look like a million dollars either. As you progress through your journey, your office will grow and change. Your understanding of what your clients are looking for will change too.
When you start your business, ask yourself what you really need to successfully complete your work. Every business needs a solid website, a social media presence, and a marketing plan. If you have staff, your staff will need to understand your vision and where you are taking the company. You will need a quiet place to work, a reliable computer, and other equipment as dictated by your trade. But you may not need an office. As a start-up, maintaining a lean budget with low overhead is vital. The faster your overhead grows, the more potential your business has to financially fail. Taking on debt the first year is not a wise move, taking on a rolling line of credit is wise.
Depending on the work you do, it may be possible to go to your clients rather than have them come to you. Never underestimate meeting in a coffee shop or at the local chamber. Shared workspace is also an option. Your clients will be looking for professionalism and confidence, as well as a solid product, good price, and someone who will listen to what they truly want. Meeting deadlines, following up, and delivering more than you promised will ensure success.
Looking back at our beginnings, I wish I had been more focused on the actual work and products versus our look. There is nothing wrong with wanting a beautiful office, your workspace should inspire you. Because of the pandemic, we opted to greatly reduce our overhead by moving our offices to our homes. This move cut our overhead by two-thirds and I have found has saved me a ton of time. I no longer have a commute to work, I can be much more flexible with my work time, and I have fewer interruptions. Clients enjoy Zoom meetings, meetings at coffee shops, or the fact that we go to them. Once we are post-pandemic, I don’t see us making a move back to renting office space, for our team, a home setup is perfect.