The Secrets To Small Business Growth
Nearly ten years ago, my founding partner, @Joe McDonald and I created a business plan for The Game Agency. Just a few months later, we left our cushy jobs and jumped into the entrepreneurial ocean. Six months into business, we hired our first employee, and began our journey to 30 people strong. Our growth has been slow, steady, profitable, and fun. Here are four secrets to our success.
Find Your Focus
It’s tempting to be a chameleon and chase every paying job you think you can successfully deliver, but few clients believe you can do all those things exceptionally well. Instead of being Jacks and Jills of all trades, but masters of none, we’ve chosen to hone our skills in:
- Games: training, education, and marketing
- Contests: skill-based, sweepstakes, and instant-wins
- Loyalty: prize and gift redemptions
By specializing, we’ve become best in class in our little niche, created an excellent reputation for ourselves, attracted new clients, and kept them for years. We chose to stick with what we know best and what interests us the most and find clients that share our passion rather than trying to sell our services to companies that don’t see the value in what we do.
We pride ourselves on thinking strategically, creatively, and holistically about client programs. We kick off each client engagement with a focus on measurable goals and we track results every step of every project. While everyone has an opinion, it’s hard to argue with numbers. By aligning ourselves with clients at the start on what a campaign’s quantitative goals are and by attempting to beat these goals, we create an environment to foster success and build long healthy relationships.
Internally, this means we track our own successes and failures, looking for ways to help our teams improve. We believe in coaching up our teams’ strengths and supplementing against their weaknesses, rather than trying to change the tiger’s stripes. Externally, it means that we track every phase of interaction with our clients, which allows us to provide better, more agile service and support to them, and better estimate costs and delivery timelines.
We admire a lot of companies we see, and we try to identify what element of their secret sauce it is that makes them great. How are they attracting/retaining employees, building morale, and rewarding their team? We believe one of the best things we can do for our company and our clients is to empower our employees. We’ve put cultural rules in place, including:
- Listen – We ask our employees to speak up and we listen carefully. Employees see many things that we don’t. Leveraging their eyes and ears often makes our company and our clients more successful.
- Respond – We engage in discussions (and sometimes debates) with our employees. We learn from them daily, and when we do, we make a point of thanking them for helping to see new things.
- Act – We put our employees’ ideas into action. Some of the best ideas come from those doing the day-to-day work. That means we try a lot of things here, and if they don’t work we try something else.
- Give – We want employees to go above and beyond for us, so we go above and beyond for them. We offer them respect, praise, a flexible work environment, fun, and rewards including unique gifts and trips to exotic places.
Lead and Do
Today, The Game Agency has four partners and we challenge ourselves daily to lead and to do. My partners and I are executers by nature but doing everything ourselves isn’t scalable. Each of us leads up a team (sales, client management, creative, production). Many small agency leaders find growing their agencies challenging, because they’re still spending too much time doing. We hire smart people, we coach them every day, and we give them space to execute flawlessly (or pretty darn close).
With a decade of business around the corner, I couldn’t be prouder of our business, our team, or the work we do. Here’s to making the next decade even bigger and better.
Are there any secrets you’d add to these four? Is there anything you’d like to see from this list implemented where you work?