It’s been two years since we sent out our very first round of invitations to use Edgar – and while we thought we learned some valuable business lessons after our first year, the past 12 months have been packed with surprises.
This time last year, our team was 13 people – now it’s 18 and counting! We’ve grown to more than 5000 users. Edgar has 3.2 million status updates in his libraries, and they get sent to nearly 70,000 social media profiles.
(No pressure, right?)
Basically, we’ve grown a lot over the course of year two – and that means we’ve learned a lot.
But while growing a lot is a good problem to have, it doesn’t mean that the lessons of the past year always came easy. In fact, knowing about this stuff ahead of time probably would have made growing a whole lot faster and easier.
That’s why today, we wanted to share some of the biggest lessons we’ve learned over the past year!
Getting a business off the ground is one thing – but making sure it has staying power is another entirely.
How do you avoid the sophomore slump when you’re running a new business? What do you have to keep in mind – and what do you have to actually do – to keep up the momentum you built when you first started out?
Here are some of the most valuable lessons we learned in year two – and how you can apply them to your own business no matter how old (or young) it may be.
Focus on “how,” not “if”
According to the Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel tracked their progress through the woods by leaving a trail of breadcrumbs.
This proved to be highly impractical.
For one thing, gluten-based methods of monitoring your success are rarely the solution. But for another, knowing where you’ve been and understanding how you got there are very different things.
Hitting your goals isn’t nearly as valuable as figuring out how exactly you hit them.
This is why it’s so important not only to set goals for yourself, but to break those goals down into tasks – that way, you can better understand what works and what doesn’t.
Over the past year, we’ve renewed our focus on major milestones, and on analyzing what we did to hit those milestones as we reached them. It’s made it easier not only to celebrate big wins, but to objectively identify what actually works and what only feels like it works.
Instead of just looking at what you did, look at why you did it, and whether it made a measurable difference.
Otherwise, the actions you take are just like dropping breadcrumbs – it seems at the time like it’s helping, but after a little time passes, repeating your past successes and avoiding your past mistakes becomes more of a matter of chance.
Let go of things that don’t add actual value
We’ve written before about the dangers of task-switching, and how multitasking in your everyday routine kills your productivity.
In our second year, though, we had to accept that multitasking on a large scale is just as dangerous – and it’s a habit you need to break.
That means letting go of the things that don’t make a positive impact – no matter how much you want to keep them.
For us, that meant saying goodbye to a program we’d run for years – an annual course that had actually been taken by thousands!
As close to our hearts as the Creating Fame program was – we’d been running it since 2009 – it eventually become a distraction. It pre-dated Edgar, and Edgar had grown so much that financially, marketing and operating the program took more time and energy than it was worth.
So we had to let it go.
Get used to cutting parts of your business loose – even ones that aren’t that old.
Creating Fame was technically totally separate from Edgar already, but we had to be ruthless this year about cutting newer additions to our business, too!
In late 2014, when Edgar had only a few hundred users, we launched a Facebook group where those users could interact with both us and each other. Edgar HQ was a place where we could make announcements, and our users could offer us feedback. (And frankly, everyone had a really good time there!)
Within a year, though, the group we loved so much had outgrown its purpose. As its membership ballooned into the thousands, we realized that maintaining and moderating the group was getting in the way of the very thing we set out for it to do: empowering our users, and enabling us to provide stellar customer service and a continually improving tool.
In January 2016, we shut the group down, and found more scalable ways to fulfill its intended purpose. We built a better system for collecting and listening to user feedback, we beefed up our help database, and we’ve doubled down on sharing announcements via email and our official update blog. By focusing our energies on things that can grow along with our user base, we’ve made it easier to provide the kind of support people want and expect.
Don’t make business decisions based on your emotional attachments. Make them based on whether or not something adds value to your business!
(Another example of where this comes up: the hiring process. Don’t base your choices on what you like or don’t like – base them on what makes sense for your business!)
Speaking of scalability, though, there’s another big change we made this year, and one that every business should keep in mind – no matter its size or its age.
Make life easier for new hires
When you only hire one person every few months, bringing them up to speed isn’t necessarily that difficult. Sure, it’s work, but it’s gonna be a long time before you have to do it again for someone else!
Unless, you know, it isn’t.
When you’re growing quickly, you need to find ways to streamline and speed up that process.
We hired a bunch of new people in our second year, and not always one-by-one, either – sometimes we’d add multiple people in a single week, and that forced us to find more efficient ways to catch them up.
That meant building out documentation, and lots of it. Training manuals, branding guidelines, instructions and how-tos in our employee wiki – we created an easily searchable database of info and know-how that would help people new to the company hit the ground running.
(Kind of like one of those old-timey employee training videos, but less cheesy and weird.)
There will come a day when you just don’t have time to spend hours and hours personally walking every new hire through the onboarding process yourself. Prepare for that day by documenting as you go!
As you document, though, keep one thing in mind:
Don’t fight natural changes
Nothing you do is written in stone – not even your name.
When we launched Edgar two years ago, we wanted to introduce him to people – that’s where our URL came from!
And while we sort of meant to leave it at that, over time we found that having gone with MeetEdgar.com had a bit of an unintended side effect: people kept calling us Meet Edgar!
So we figured, what the hey – if that’s what it makes sense to call us, we’ll roll with it. Our scheduling tool still goes by Edgar, but as of June 2016, we’ve changed the name of our actual company to MeetEdgar, and created pretty new logos to go with it:
Don’t stick with something just for its own sake. If you’ve made a decision with purpose, by all means, own that decision – but if the wind is blowing a certain way and you don’t have a real reason to fight it, why would you?
(Besides, it always sounded kind of grammatically weird to say that we “work at Edgar.”)
On to year three
Yes, hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy to look back on what you’ve accomplished and think about what you would have done differently if only you’d listened to your tarot card reader.
Ultimately, though, learning lessons like these the hard way isn’t a bad thing – it’s what gives you the knowledge and the tools to improve yourself!
So for now, take what we discovered in our sophomore year and apply it to your own business. Analyze your actions, focus on what provides value, document your way of doing things, embrace big change – and in the meantime, we’ll see what lessons we can pick up in year three!