10 Things We’ve Learned During 10 Years of Business

As Knox Design Strategy celebrates its 10 year anniversary, founder Brandie Knox shares 10 things she learned in her 10 years as a business owner.

Be Fearless. “Now isn’t the right time” is an excuse. 

We all probably struggle with the thought, “Now’s not the best time” or “Let’s just wait until the time is right”. We have some news for you. It’s never the right time to start your business, take on a new hire, or even go on vacation. Procrastinating thoughts are a way of justifying fear. Take a leap of faith and more importantly, believe in your abilities. No one has ever accomplished anything great without taking a risk. Sometimes things don’t pay off, and that’s okay. That’s just an opportunity to learn and try again. Look at risk as opportunity to succeed instead of fail.

Business means complete dedication. 

Owning a business should not be looked at as a job, but a passion, a lifestyle, your own way of life that belongs to no one else. It can be consuming at times, especially towards the beginning when you’re fighting to get things off the ground. When you own a business, you will never stop trying, building, and pushing for more. You will accomplish your goals, only to set new ones to strive towards. Surround yourself with people who support you and understand you are not a regular 9-5er. Instead, you’re a hungry entrepreneur who will be available at 3AM every morning if it means building and bettering your business.

Prioritize personal wellness. 

Like all things worthwhile, physical wellbeing requires sacrifice. Schedule yourself so that your wellness is part of your daily routine and not something extra you’ll get to “if you have time”. Just like you schedule your meetings, book 30 minutes or 1 hour three to five times a week to hit the gym and workout. Go to bed early and wake up earlier if that’s what it takes to fit a workout routine into your busy day. Mental clarity and physical health are essential to an entrepreneur. Give your body that endorphin boost it can only achieve from a good workout. Even if you don’t feel like it, even if you’re tired, think of it as being just as important as your next business meeting. You wouldn’t pass that up, right? 

Strong relationships lead to successful business.  

There are so many people who have helped me build myself and my business from the very beginning. It’s important to take note of these people and give them the credit they are due. Colleagues, friends, family, people who have made referrals, and even longtime clients who have trusted in KDS over the years are all essential building blocks to the business. Without having a support system and circle of people who believe in you, it’s extremely difficult to succeed. During hard times, it’s important to have someone lend an ear. Designers and strategic partners have worked alongside me for years and have helped bring my vision to life. Without all of these incredible people, without a strong support system, none of this would be possible. Keep your network strong.

Do what you say you will. No exceptions. 

One of our core values is to stand by our word. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when someone cannot stand by their word. Life happens to everyone and no one is perfect, but it is always better to be honest and even under promise, rather than talk things up and not be able to deliver. It is always so much better to over impress or over deliver to your client than to leave them underwhelmed and wanting. When the inevitable unexpected happens, communication is your best friend. Be honest with your clients, always. We highly recommend as much visibility as possible.

I don’t personally like to be left hanging. I’m sure you wouldn’t either. Put yourself in the shoes of your client and don’t leave them in the dark. Open communication and only promising what you know you can deliver is key.  

Understand your client’s business and earn their trust. 

Take the time to have a sit-down with your client and learn about the client and their business’s key issues. What is it that keeps your client up at night? What are their worries and concerns? How can you help them gain internal buy-in? It isn’t just a visual problem we’re solving, it’s a messaging problem, a business problem. To be successful, we need to understand our clients. It’s also important to note, there is no cookie cutter template to serve them.  Each should be treated individually and a custom plan should be created for according to personal goals.

Provide value and be hands on with your team.

Your growing team needs to believe in you and see for themselves just how committed you are. Your client has chosen you for a reason, so show them you’re a leader and take initiative when you can. As a leader, lead by example. Make yourself available to answer questions and be sure to stay on top of details. Make your presence known always and don’t be the person behind a curtain or closed door. Go above and beyond the scope of work, and inspire the team to do so as well. Make sure your clients are comfortable and confident in the solutions you provide. We take extra care to  ensure all of our clients see the value in the services we provide and we make sure they know we are working for them and with them.

Be open to all ideas. There are many roads to success.

Be open to the notion that great ideas may sometimes come from unexpected places.  Don’t brush anything off without giving it a second thought. Brainstorm and consider approaches other than your own. While others may not do things the way you do, that does not make their method less effective or wrong. You may learn something new if your mind is open. Sometimes the best ideas come from members of my team, and sometimes, even from the client themselves. Hear all of these and see value in them. Talk ideas through because at the end of the day, you never know what you may find. Sometimes the best ideas are not your own, and that’s okay. 

Welcome feedback with open arms. We all have room to grow. 

Ask clients what they think of your strategies and your results. Find out what they think can be done better, whether with interpersonal relations, implementation of strategies, or even the end results. There are always better and different ways of working through issues, so open your mind to them. We are all dealing with unique internal challenges.  Find out what these are for your clients and devise a system to work around it. Keep communication open and understand that constructive criticism helps everyone grow. It does not make you lesser than and is not meant to cut you down.

Never stop learning. Stay hungry. 

None of us will ever stop learning throughout our lives. Every day, open your mind to learning something new. This can be from a member on your team, from your client, or even a stranger on the street. Listen to thoughts and ideas of the people around you. Be open and accepting of change. If something doesn’t make sense to you, don’t dismiss it, ask questions. Just because you’re a business owner doesn’t mean you know it all. The best businesses thrive because their leaders know they have something to learn from their team members and all those who surround them.