Although I’ve been working in an entrepreneurish manner in the language and communications business since the end of the 20th century, my very own company Cape Context Oy turned just one last week. One year in business. This makes me want to take a look back on what has happened during the first year, and most of all, what I and the company have learned.
1. Regular customer is the best customer. I guess I would never have started my own business if I hadn’t been sure to have at least three or four regular accounts. Mostly connections from previous employment or projects, they are the bread and butter of my livelihood, and that is why I will continue to do my ultimate best to provide good work to keep them happy.
2. Learn to know about taxes. Having a good, reliable, up-to-date accountant is of utmost importance but it doesn’t mean you can leave all up to them. Learn at least the basics on one of those affordable courses arranged for small entrepreneurs by the unions or the chamber of commerce. Then when you have a clue, stop obsessing about tax deduction. It is not your core business. As long as you know what your accountant is supposed to do for you, leave it, and use the extra energy on strategic marketing.
3. Stay open to new opportunities. In a small business, doing just that one thing you know you do best is not enough. At least not for long. Expand your expertise to include enough knowledge about related tasks and fields. Your customers will appreciate the bridge you can build from your niche to the next, making their jobs easier. Keep answering to those requests for cooperation and applying for new contracts. Even if they are not always exactly your cup of tea, you’ll make new connections and learn about requirements and compensation levels as well as to recognize and avoid unprofitable work.
4. Speaking of which, and this is perhaps the most important lesson: only engage in profitable work. If you can afford charity, great, but nobody will expect that during the first year of business. What good is it to you, your customers, the national economy, or anybody, if your business fails because of selling cheap? Do the math on how much you need to survive after paying the taxes, social security, office expenses and the rest, and then calculate the price of your work based on this. If customers think you are too expensive trying to make a decent living, then perhaps you’re in the wrong business.
5. My motto says it’s all about the context, but at the end of day, like almost everything in this world, it’s all about the people. My success will ultimately depend on how well I manage to communicate with and understand those important people around me: customers, colleagues, service providers, competitors, the family. Thank you all for an exciting and rewarding year and please continue to work with Cape Context. We will continue, to the best of our ability, to be worthy of your trust and investment.