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by Robin Grainger 8th December, 2017
3 min read

5 of my biggest mistakes in business and what I’ve learned from them

I’ve been running an agency for 10 years. I now own 3 agencies and I am very proud of what we’ve achieved, but, while I might have done a few things right to get here, I’ve certainly done a lot more wrong.

We now have a Chairman who has been there and done it before and a team of strategic advisers who have too. Whilst they can advise me on what they did wrong and try to stop me doing the same, I really do believe it’s important to make your own mistakes, in order for you to learn from them and get better.

So some things I have done wrong and learned from:

1)    I doubted myself: I suffered from “imposter syndrome” where I thought someone would find me out and realise I have no idea what I’m doing. I still suffer from this a little, but I’ve now turned it into a strength by making sure I’ve surrounded myself with people who do know what they are doing. Don’t let ego get in the way of good hires.

2)    I thought I was too young to be taken seriously: I was 30 when I set up this agency with a partner who is 3 years my junior. In fact, our youth and our initial lack of experience forced us to be more dynamic and innovative in the way we approach what we do. We had to focus on client delivery rather than our networks or where we’d worked, or for whom we’d worked before.

3)    We tried to fly under the radar: we approached things differently, launching new services to a sector that hadn’t typically used political consultants before and were protective of the market we were creating. This meant that while we built a great reputation among a certain community, we had to play catch up to be noticed by our core market. So shout about what you do from the start.

4)    I’ve rushed recruitment: there have been times when we rushed into recruiting people as others were leaving or we needed the extra resource immediately. This always backfires without fail. Take your time with a recruitment process. Get as many people in the business to meet the candidate as you can without turning it into a multiple-interview-marathon. Bad hires can massively impact a small business, leading to client loss, low staff morale and worst of all staff leaving because of the new person. Poor hiring decisions cost in many ways.

5)    I’ve underinvested: I tried to run the business on a shoestring, which worked well at the beginning as I could deliver all the work, but you’ll never grow if you don’t invest. To this day, the decision to take on recruiting those first members of staff still feels like the biggest decision I’ve ever taken.

I’m still learning, every day. I’ve been through lots of ups and downs, business-wise and in life. I am in no way solely responsible for the success of 140, GKI and GK Strategy and that’s not my imposter syndrome speaking.

It’s the people who work here that make these businesses the success that they are. Look after them and never take them for granted.

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