How to grow your company and build your team
When I found WordPress in 2005, I knew it would completely change the way I helped my clients. I did enjoy comfortably working from my couch, surrounded by my dogs and within arms reach of my refrigerator, but I knew I wanted to grow this business.
More than that, I knew San Antonio needed a Web design company centered on integrity, and that was my passion. But how do you go from soloing on your couch to a full-blown Web firm with a code crew? We’ve done it in just three short years.
My father taught me how to code in 1998. He had learned HTML by hacking other people’s websites. Over the years, he had built up a client base of 80 or so. I had been following in his footsteps and had two dozen clients of my own. This would serve as our initial client database as we merged our companies together to launch WebTegrity in 2012.
TIP: Building up some reccurring payments from loyal clients is a good way to start. This will serve as a safety net while you launch into a bigger entrepreneurial adventure.
Our first step was finding the right creative office space. We knew we wanted to keep the overhead of running a business as low as possible. My goal was to keep all of our operating expenses to be less than one website project cost per month (roughly less than $4K). This way even if we just landed one website project per month, we’d be able to keep the lights on.
We rented office space above a Starbucks in a strip mall area and made a lot of our furniture and office decorations ourselves. I wasn’t too sure initially about the location but turns out – having a Starbucks below you makes your office look busy, and there’s always the perk of treating a client to some coffee.
TIP: Be sure the office space you choose is not off-putting or in a dirty space. People want to feel at ease when coming to visit you - not like they need a bodyguard or a tetanus shot.
I am a control freak. Relinquishing tasks and delegating is not my strong suit. Nevertheless, I hired our first subcontractor a few months after we opened and I’ve come to grow our team to include over ten reliable, outstanding individuals with creative brains that have taken our company to the next level. We found them all sorts of different ways. Some came from Craigslist. Others were added by networking locally, trying out different interns, and two are currently with us after graduating from our classes.
TIP: Start your exapnsion by hiring subcontractors first. By not having to “hire employees,” you'll keep your overhead low, thus eliminating employee tax and benefits.
One major lesson I’ve learned over the last three years is while dreaming big is always good, stay humble and grow over time. It’s not about looking fancy and trying to impress with big screen computers and a 10,000 square foot office space. Clients will hire you first because they trust you, and they’ll stay with you because of your great work – no matter if you’re on your couch or running a million dollar design firm.
The New Clients
So now that we had the office space, how would we get the phone to ring and clients to come knocking? That’s always the fear any entrepreneur has – where do the customers come from? Initially for us we went back to our existing client base and asked them to refer us to friends and family. We built a few websites for free. These were larger businesses here in our local area that had recognizable names that would look great on our portfolio. We also offered free classes for start up businesses teaching them about social media – and it turns out they all needed websites.
TIP: Your portfolio will reflect your enthusiasm, and others from those same industries will hire you.
Don’t start your company because you don’t like working for someone else. If that’s the case – stay on your couch.
Don’t start your company because you want to make millions. If that’s the case – play the lottery.
Do this – and you’ll find your passion. Do this – and you’ll never miss your couch.