How I Started My Company with One Month’s Salary
When I think back, I must have been crazy. To start my agency with only one months’ salary in my back pocket, living half way around the world from friends and family in Dubai.
When I told my friends that I was starting my company, I was greeted with looks of disclaim. “But how?” “It’s not that easy…” and “Right...” they said in a sarcastic tone.
But I’d learned after living and working all around the world, that it’s in moments of grit and determination when you truly thrive. Much of our mind's limitations are comprised from the mere thought of what other people think and realistically, they probably don't even care. And if they do, did you consider that it may be due to their own limitations or jealousy; don’t let them affect you.
In the past, I’ve been overwhelmed by people who thought they “knew best.” They don’t.
Despite what people may tell you, you don’t need much to start your company. Not in the material sense anyway. What you DO need however, is to be tenacious, strategic, and to have a thick skin.
Although, I didn’t have much money, I had my reputation; I had built my personal brand and that IS money. And even though I had just moved to Dubai, I had done a few things to ensure I was known.
Proactively create content and use a lot of location-based hashtags on Instagram especially (e.g. #dubailife #dubaievent #dubaiinstagram). When I did this, I watched my Dubai-based social media following quickly increase, organically.
Having an online following in today’s digital world gives you increased brand awareness and influence (anyone who says it doesn’t, hasn’t experienced it). Clients signed with me, as they saw I practiced what I preached. People showed up to my Deals in High Heels talk show events and paid to attend my social media workshops.
In the early days of starting my company, I was hot on business development. My strategy: I would go through magazines such as Forbes and Entrepreneur, map out entrepreneurs and CEOs who looked interesting, and would find them on LinkedIn and add them. I used the plugin Lusha to download their direct number and called them.
Call, but not with a cold call…
Do not cold call people. Please. Be smarter than that. Instead, come up with some bigger and better to call them about so that they can’t help but thank you for reaching out.
My excuse? An Amazon Prime TV series with 40 entrepreneurs coming together from all around the world - which I am now part of! Filming is in JULY 2019, IN MONTREAL! Let me know if you are from there and perhaps we can meet.
And then if that wasn’t of interest, I had come up with a simple marketing campaign for them to be part of. If you give something, you get something.
In our Business Quick-Fire campaign we filmed leaders giving their best one-minute piece of advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs. Invite them onto your podcast, a panel discussion or an event. Introduce them to a contact. Find a way to give value.
A lot of people have a misconception about what makes effective networking and approach it with a ‘spray and pray’ approach with their business cards. They say hi, their name, and then goodbye. They walk away from the networking group, never go back, and question why their “networking” doesn’t result in any business.
We were taught in my sales days that it takes “8 touches” (you have to speak/ give value to a new business connection 8 times), before they trust you enough to do business with you. Your time is valuable. Be selective about the events that you attend: gage whether the attendee list are your target market to ensure you meet quality connections. And when you are at the event, invite people to want to learn more, find common ground (something you both like, such as soccer) and connect with them on LinkedIn/ Instagram as you are handing out your business card.
Work Hard But Smart
If something isn’t working e.g. the industries/ consumers that you have been targeting aren’t buying, then you need to be flexible to pivot. Analyse everything you do, and don’t be too attached to your business being a certain way.
As I’m a qualified digital marketer, I used to pitch my business as a digital marketing agency prior to realising that the real value I brought was combining traditional and non-traditional PR. We were one of the first agencies to produce podcasts in the region and to film our client’s keynotes, repurposing the highlights on social media as part of our CEO branding strategy. The future is in audio and video, after all.
You want to be consumer and client driven: when you can give unique value, that’s when you hit jackpot.