To celebrate National Entrepreneurs’ Day this week, I sat down with All Around Creative President Shawn Fricke and Vice President Amy Romanofsky Schneider to discuss the challenges and lessons they’ve learned about entrepreneurship over the years. They highlighted what it takes to start and grow a successful business, and the tips other entrepreneurs can follow to do the same.
Shawn’s very first vision for the company was a design agency. He played with the idea for about eight or nine years before he eventually took the plunge and founded All Around Creative. After that, Shawn brought Amy on board, and AAC was in business (literally). Since then, AAC has grown into a full-fledged marketing agency that offers core services like strategy & sales enablement, graphic design, web development, video production, digital marketing and content development.
Shawn and Amy both say that the first few years of the company were a little hectic, as there was no guarantee that the venture would be successful. From week to week, their biggest goal was to keep the business moving forward. And week after week, they met that goal and began to build success by staying true to their vision for the company.
From the very beginning, Shawn’s idea for AAC was to go beyond the agency approach. From spending most of their careers working in-house in marketing departments, Shawn and Amy both had firsthand experience with the challenges that companies face when it comes to marketing and design, like meeting tight deadlines and managing gaps in resources. They wanted AAC to function as a partner that in-house marketing departments could rely on to fill the gaps and empower their businesses.
Steps for Growth
One of the biggest challenges early on, Amy says, was managing the workload while making sure they were reaching higher goals and still growing as a company. Like any new business, they found it difficult to turn down work, but they also needed to make sure that they had the resources to accomplish each contracted job.
Now, they work hard to forecast projects and programs for AAC ahead of time, proactively planning how those projects will be executed. That’s been one major step for growth that other entrepreneurs can learn from. Looking ahead, Shawn and Amy are also working with the AAC team on refining our company values and articulating business goals for the coming months (and years).
Shawn says that the best thing and the hardest thing about running a business are one in the same: the people. Sometimes it can be a challenge to manage different personalities and make sure everyone’s needs are being met, from clients to employees. But those same people are also responsible for making AAC what it is today, and the reason why Shawn says he wants to come to work every day. To achieve growth and success, it’s important to invest in the people around you, as well as the future of your business.
Top Tips for Entrepreneurs
From our chat, Shawn and Amy identified several tips for entrepreneurs to rely on, whether they’re just getting started or they’re looking to ramp up their business and achieve more success.
- Stay true to yourself and your team: It may be nice to think you could make more money by doing something, but Shawn warns that if it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t worth it. Entrepreneurs need to balance their business drive with doing the right thing by their employees.
- Understand that running a business requires managing multiple facets: Being a successful entrepreneur is a lot more than just developing a great idea that will make an impact, or having good business acumen–although those things are important. You’ve also got to handle the operational and logistical tasks that come with managing a business and, eventually, employees. You’re going to wear a lot of hats, and you should embrace that from the very beginning.
- Surround yourself with people who complement you: To be successful, you need people around you who bring different perspectives to the table, and who will challenge you to be better. When it comes to hiring, don’t select someone who’s a clone of yourself. If you have people around you who just say “yes” to everything you do, chances are, Shawn says, you’ve failed as a leader.
- Hire for what you need–before you need it: It takes time for new employees to go through the onboarding process and get acclimated to the job. If you can, hire for positions earlier than needed. That’ll give your employees time to get up to speed so they can perform at their best when the urgency is up and the work is critical.
- Leadership is about staying humble: Shawn and Amy both say they’ve been in situations at other jobs where the leaders did things that were good for them personally, but were not necessarily good for the team. To be a good leader, you do need to try and make the best decisions for the group collectively, instead of putting yourself first.