No matter how hard you work to prevent them, you will make mistakes while running your own consulting firm. I know I have in the six years since I launched my shop. The key is to learn from those mistakes and embrace them as lessons.
That can be difficult for seasoned campaign veterans who are used to packing up and leaving town after a loss rather than staying to do a hard analysis. Running a business requires that kind of analysis.
It’s a long-term endeavor wherein you need to learn and adapt if you want to be successful. To help you avoid some of the mistakes I made, here are 10 things I wish I knew before launching a consulting firm.
1. The first year is not the hardest.
You start a business with a ton of energy and drive, but you need to build and grow for the long haul. Maintaining and developing relationships for the long term is the key to building a successful business.
2. Your friends will not always hire you.
You may hang out with potential clients all the time, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be a source of business. While it can sometimes be hard to accept, having a friendship with someone doesn’t always mean that they’ll hire you.
3. What you do will change.
The way we communicate is changing and so is how we communicate with voters. If you’re in politics for a long time, it’s important to know that what you do will change and evolve over time.
4. Being a freelancer is different from running a company.
When you run a small campaign, you are, in many ways, like a one-man band. But when you run a company, you have to be more like a conductor. Yes, you can take on a few projects on your own, but it’s not a real company when you’re doing all of the work alone.
5. Consistency matters.
Anyone can write one mail piece or one TV spot. But try making 400 good ones. Consistency is not easy, but it’s important to creating a real, long-term business that your clients can count on you to deliver a quality, product over and over again.
6. Systems can make all the difference.
Building a business means developing systems that can be replicated in order to create a consistent product. Spend time building your systems; it will pay off in the long term.
7. You can learn from other businesses.
Many folks think that their business is completely unique, but you can learn a lot from other businesses, even if they’re not in your exact field.
8. Make sure you really know your partner.
Business partnerships are hard to build for the long term. Make sure you’re building partnerships for the right reasons and that you both have similar goals.
9. It will cost you more money than you think to start.
You’ll always need more money to build the business that you want. Make sure that you budget accordingly.
10. Your staff will know more about your business than you will.
As your business grows, you’ll realize that your staff will have an in-depth and unique understanding of your business. So be warned: Staff will leave and so will clients if you don't treat people well.
Joe Fuld is the President of The Campaign Workshop, a political and advocacy advertising agency in Washington D.C. that provides strategy, digital advertising, content and direct mail services to non-profit and political clients.