Five Lessons, 10 Years On …

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I started my current business 10 years ago next month. That’s a pretty amazing achievement — to last a decade in any business, let alone in a fast-moving industry such as website development.

You’ve heard about the idea of time capsules, where you bury a letter to your future self and open it a decade or two in the future? Well, a decade ago, I was more focused on just making ends meet that month to be so visionary, so I don’t have one to share with you today.

Instead, here’s the reverse: a letter to my former self, the starry-eyed freelancer who was starting his web design business in October 2002. I hope you can take something away from these five points.

Hi Miles

It’s your future Miles here, all the way from 2012. I want to share five thoughts with you, to help you out in the early days of your business.

Don’t try to do it all yourself. I know times are tight starting a business — however, there’s no point in spending the entire weekend sorting out the accounts or building that new web server when there are plenty of people who can do it in a tenth of the time for a lot less than you think.

Understand opportunity loss. Sure, it’s great to get any money through the doors, but when you land a project and end up spending twice as long as you should on it, you lose those precious billable hours in the process.

Focus on building profit, not turnover. Sure, having a six or seven-figure turnover is great, but if you are only making 2% in profit, there’s no big paycheck at the end of the year. Do the math; there’s more money to be made at 10% of $100,000 than 2% of a quarter million.

Talk benefits, not features. Nobody wants a website, they want a solution to a marketing or business problem. Stop talking databases and web-safe colors (who is old enough to remember those?), and start talking improved communications, cheaper marketing and inventory control.

Remember to enjoy life too. I know you’re focused on growing a successful business, but don’t burn yourself out by never taking a break (I didn’t take a holiday for the first three years). There are many good reasons to have a few days off now and then, such as your productivity and your health.

I hope these help you Miles; I know from experience you’ll learn these along the way, but having a head start will certainly place your new enterprise in a better position.


Future Miles

PS: Now that the first 10 years are down, I look forward to showing you even more lessons in another 10 years from now! Perhaps you already have them from my future self?

You may only have been in business for six months, or perhaps you are lucky enough to have been in business for two decades or more, yet I’m positive you’ve also got some lessons for your former self. Write them down, perhaps share them with us as a comment below, and take stock of what you’ve learnt along your business journey.

Miles BurkeMiles Burke
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As Director of Bam Creative, and Chairperson of the Australian Web Industry Association, Miles spends his time managing his business or speaking about managing businesses. Recently awarded as one of the top Western Australian entrepreneurs under 40 years old, Miles can also be found writing at his blog.

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