2018 was fantastic, the business keeps moving forward and we continue to improve as a team, grow as people and have the passion (and ability) to better our skillsets. But in this article I'd like to touch on a few specifics we are looking to achieve in 2019.
We make tabs on our competitors, we review and keep an eye out, what they are doing, producing, PR, achievements etc. I think this is very important so you understand what other companies are doing. But I think it's too easy to compare, we need to stop comparing as much in 2019. Every business is different, there's no set way in business, everybody has a different approach and that's OK. It's about understanding what they are doing, why it works, but it's not judging us as the same and comparing ourselves. I read far too many articles about success stories and lifetime achievements that are just gloating, there's no substance to the article - it's just somebody showing off. This can have a massive effect on new businesses and business owners. Why? Because Mental Health is SO important, I know individuals who compare themselves to other people all the time and makes them depressed. It's happened to me on occasions and I thought "He's earning XXX and he's only 23. He's done this and he's done that" and directly comparing that to my life. This year is about celebrating how successful MadeByShape has been over the years and how we can progress as a team. I've met many businessmen and women over the years, and it seems like Mental Health is a huge issue, in my eyes I see them as being fantastic individuals and owning a hugely successful business.... but they see it differently and want more.
I've only ever been to 2 specific courses that improve and review individual skills. Obviously we learn every day through life experience and pushing boundaries in the studio, self targets, books, articles etc. But I think training courses are great, you get to engage with other business folk, ask questions, learn about their experiences and also get direct knowledge for a professional trainer. This year I aim to go on at least 5 courses. I don't know what they will specifically be yet though...
Over the past few years our client list has grown, and expanded all over the world. We have regular clients further afield and a constant flow of enquiries from all over. It's always been my theory that 'face to face' meetings convert higher, they get to you know as a person better, I get to understand them as people and what makes them tick, what goals they have for the business etc. and the human factor is real. We've always tried to meet as many enquiries as possible, and this has taken us all over the UK and Europe.
It's now more obvious to potential clients that we travel to meet, we have relationships with businesses and individuals, and they aren't scared to enquire if they're not from the North West of England. This is great.
But in 2019, I want to do this more. I think it will really help us grow as a business. It indicates to an enquiry that we are serious, we take the time out of our diary to go visit them - before we've even won a contract. And for our current clients, we build a firm relationship by getting to know each other, going for a drink, a meal, a face to face meeting offers many positives through human factor. I don't think it's as easy as putting this on a list and ticking it off - but it will be a conscious effort to meet more people throughout the year.
Last year we altered workflow, started using Sketch, and other tools - but myself and Jason have discussed moving this forward. It generally involves digital spreadsheets, making more notes, making sure we get all relevant info at the start of the project, providing the developers with more direction, and communicating 'tweaks' to projects better. This all sounds simple but sometimes get lost within projects, especially when they take a long time. Concentration diverts and it's about focusing on smaller, individual tasks to help meet the bigger tasks that are over a few months. We love what we do and enjoy coming to work, but sometimes boredom does creep in on bigger projects - it's about working together to make those large projects more successful.
I think we all have a great work/life balance here at Shape and it's part of our ethos to look after the team. We work less hours than other studios, more holidays, financial benefits etc. For me individually though, I send a lot of time in traffic, travelling, working on my own tasks as well as looking after the team and clients. My job role entails me being switched on from the time I wake up, 'til I go to sleep. I think this year I need to find a way to work smarter, my job isn't a 9-5 - it's all day every day. Whether this is going to the gym straight after work? At a specific time during the day on a certain number of days. Splitting my diary up so I work out a routine to break up the week with a meeting or a lunch time client meeting. I'm not sure yet. I am very happy with my work/life balance, owning your own business brings a lot of pressures but it also gives you freedom. I love it. I just think I can improve in small areas, sometimes I feel very stressed and that's not productive - during these periods it's probably better not to work, or to change focus. For example, if I'm stressed and I play football - an hour later my approach on life is completely different. Not sure if this makes sense in writing but I know what I'm going on about in my head.
I also think it's important for me to be strict with my diary. My job focuses on clients predominantly, so on occasions it's not productive for me to be in the studio - that time could be better spent with a client. I think sometimes, I need to ask clients if they'd like to meet and discuss projects even if they haven't requested this.
Obviously we set goals each year and it's my task to set financial, individual and team goals. But this year is huge for MadeByShape. Without going into specifics, we have some big goals to achieve that may change the foreseeable future. I think it's important to set realistic goals, as well as bigger targets. I see that as a way to push yourself and continue improving.
When I was younger, I used to play football every day. I could eat what I wanted, and was 9 stone forever. It's too easy to set a New Year Resolution to eat healthy and go to the gym 5 times a week. But actually achieving those goals is harder than it seems due to lifestyle etc. Over the past few years I've put on muscle (and fat) and gained weight through diet and gym. 5 years ago I thought I was too skinny, now I think I'm to big. For me, feeling good in your own skin is very important - it effects your mood and confidence. This year it's not about numbers on the scale, it's about feeling healthy.
I certainly need to drink more water each day. I need a fancy water bottle that you can put lemon slices in (so you don't eat the stringy bits).
Our finances are good at MadeByShape, we have never had any investment or loans. But I've been doing some reading recently on No-Spend months and I think it's something we could try. Even if it's just for 1 month of the year. Obviously we need to cover wages and bills, that goes without saying, but for one month of the year we could cut our advertising spend etc. I think this small target could make a difference in the right period of the year, and this over the next 10 years could add up to a decent sum.