Two Things I’ve Learned in Two Years of Running a Startup

Today marks Hire For Hope’s Two Year Anniversary!

One employee, two years, three awards, and countless glasses of wine later (you can do the math), I’ve climbed and clawed my way to the top as one of the leading executive search and recruiting consultancies in West Michigan.  The idea transpired when I couldn’t contain my entrepreneurial itch any longer, and the thought of running my own business, providing a better service, and making a profound name for myself in Grand Rapids presented itself as the only acceptable option.

Another intrinsic motivating factor in the desire to quit my day job and fly solo, was the idea to partner my recruiting firm with a nonprofit agency to make an impact in the community. Don’t get me wrong, my company is very much for-profit, but I knew it needed a sustainable, mission-driven purpose behind its work.

It seemed like a natural fit to partner with a nonprofit domestic violence agency in Grand Rapids called Safe Haven Ministries, which provides services to women experiencing relationship abuse. The passion on my heart to give back to this gracious cause stemmed from the fact that I’d utilized Safe Haven’s services many years prior. I have since been very vocal about my experience and knew I wanted to use my business as a platform to generate awareness and donate funds to support Safe Haven.

We are proud of our continued success, not only by doubling revenue year after year but the impact we are making in the community. We’ve received recognition as the American Business Award’s Startup of the Year and Local First’s Good for Grand Rapids Award in 2018.

Cue one of those: “If I can do it, you can do it” pep talks. Are you thinking about starting a business? Let me share two of my  B I G G E S T  entrepreneurial takeaways in celebration of Hire For Hope’s two year anniversary.

Top Takeaway #1 – Scale Wisely

“Scale, but how?” That was the burning question keeping me up at night after meditating on whether or not I should scale my business or remain a one-woman-show. I have not raised funds, consulted a venture capitalist, or entertained partnerships to give Hire For Hope legs. This company has been developed with organic growth.

I would compare growing a company organically to growing an organic plant; it takes a lot of nurturing, watering, and most importantly: PATIENCE. There are pros and cons to an investment play, but I will tell you there are no GMOs in organic growth.

Patience is the key, but also the catch. The revenue may not flow as steadily in the beginning, making it difficult to track if/ when you can begin to grow your team. However, in the interim, there are plenty of creative resources to help you grow your business, such as your local Chamber of Commerce (shout out to the Grand Rapids Chamber!), the SCORE mentorship program, commission-only sales representatives, interns, or freelancers.

The most important piece to scaling is having the right objectives and processes in place that allow for growth. This may take a lot of trial and error, but the most fool-proof and well-loved system for running a business can be found in the book Traction. This book’s processes are wrapped into an easy to follow guide called the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). Grand Rapids has its own EOS Implementor named Ken Bogard who consults businesses on streamlining their processes, and he has been a great resource for me personally.

Basically, when it comes to scaling, a plan equates to action equates to growth.

Top Takeaway #2 – Pay Attention to the Naysayers

Critics can be your friends. Not realistically, but objectively. I have made some momentous pivots in my business based on solid, old-fashioned criticism. And other “advice” from critics that I thought was laughable, I still paid attention to. Why is it important to pay attention to the Naysayers? They are mirroring your brand back to you whether you like it or not. Whether you want to take their critiques into consideration, they are ultimately individuals sharing their opinions about your brand. And every opinion counts. Nothing has meaning without human perception, whether you agree with that perception or not.

I had a friend who watched me transition from quitting my day job to starting my business and he would constantly play devil’s advocate. “Don’t become greater than great,” he’d say to me, meaning I should reconsider leaving the well-paid career that I enjoyed for the risky road of entrepreneurship. I politely disagreed with him, but that motto always stuck. I enjoy the challenge of criticism – maybe it’s proving people wrong, appreciating another perspective, or simply adding fuel to your fire, but make sure you pay attention and do something with it! It can be turned into a positive experience.

I look forward to continuing the entrepreneurial evolution and can’t wait to see where we bring the company in the next two years.

This year we will be adding more team members and new offerings to our consultancy suite, one of which will be one-on-one Career Coaching for our candidates.

Thanks for following Hire For Hope’s journey and cheers to Two Years!

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