Founder at Above Digital, a holistic digital marketing agency in Dubai that helps businesses grow their revenue using online marketing
Coming from a business family, where entrepreneurship is in our blood, I still had to learn my lessons the hard way. Some valuable lessons came from my father, and some I discovered while running my own boutique agency for almost 17 years in Dubai.
Here are five lessons I’ve found to be most important in business:
Never be scared to have more hands.
My father always told me to never be scared to hire people. The more hands you have, the more free time you have to work on the business and not in the business. As a visionary, it’s important to ensure you always have time to dream, to think up new streams of income and to envision the future. If you are busy running the day to day of the company, you will never get time to think about growth, and you will always be busy doing things that are not your core expertise.
He also said that people come with their own luck and fate. You never know whose luck helps the company grow faster. In fact, I noticed this when we hired more members of our team. I never had to worry where their salaries would come from because somehow new clients and new projects would fall into our laps and help us grow further. So don’t be scared of hiring more help.
Have a win-win philosophy.
No business can succeed without a win-win philosophy. At Above Digital, our motto is: “When our clients win, we win.” Because only when they make money can we make money. However, I had noticed that our clients were growing exponentially through our marketing efforts, expanding into bigger and multiple locations, whereas we were still sort of just breaking even.
During the Covid times, when all our brick-and-motor clients sent me plea emails to stop their payments for the next few months, I was in a tight position; the cash flow came down to almost zero. As a small business, you never plan for such a crash, and we were supposed to be on an unpaid leave month in April.
I was having sleepless nights until I came up with the idea of launching a digital marketing training for small-business owners. The whole team came together and did a fantastic job of selling more than 260 seats in 15 days. These small-business owners were scared of what was going to happen to their businesses and took the course to learn about digital marketing and save their dream ventures.
About 25 of those business owners decided to come on board and hire our services. The course was completely sold out, and in my years of running this agency, we had never onboarded 25 new clients in a month.
At the same same time, we introduced a commission-based model wherein the clients pay us a small commission for getting them an exceptional return on their ad spends after crossing a certain revenue threshold.
This commission is then further split 50% with the team, so the team now has more incentive to do everything they can to ensure the client makes more money for the same spend on ad platforms.
I think we will close 2020 with exceptional profits, and this has only happened with this philosophy of win-win.
Be open to change, and pivot when necessary.
When I started this company, we were a web development company. However, in the early 2000s, no one wanted a website. Everyone wanted to put ads in newspapers, print, and distribute brochures, so we pivoted. We started making brochures, creating logos and printing banners for events to keep the cash flow coming in.
With time we evolved into a Google Ads agency, to a social media agency, and now a full-service digital marketing agency. We wouldn’t have survived if we didn’t pivot as per the situation. Always be open to change.
Invest in training, coaches and mentors.
This is a big one. It’s important to understand the power of mentors and coaches. Very early on, I did not know how to price our services. At the time, I was reading a book called The Designer’s Guide to Marketing and Pricing, and the author of the book offered mentoring services. I hired her services, which helped me discover a niche, get into public speaking and learn how to appropriately price our services.
Then I realized I was poor at selling, so I invested in a sales coach. He helped me understand how to authentically serve by teaching me the art of selling.
To stay on top in business, you need to keep learning and innovating what you do.
For example, I took online training courses, which taught me direct response marketing. I started traveling to the U.S. to attend digital marketing seminars to learn. This helped me understand what I enjoyed doing, what was showing results and how to marry the two.
Be part of a tribe.
Lastly, be part of a tribe. Connect with local businesses and build a network. I did this recently during Covid times. I wanted to see what was happening around us. How are other businesses coping? What are they doing differently? What are their challenges? I wish I had done this much earlier. We would have grown faster.
Every day, entrepreneurs and business owners will face new challenges. Overcoming them is how you evolve as a person and learn.
Running this company has taught me a lot and made me who I have become. Kudos to all the entrepreneurs who are in the process of becoming who they are meant to be.
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Author: Namita Ramani, Forbes Councils Member