Have you ever tried to be too many things to too many people, and ended up being… not much help at all to anyone? This is a common trap for business owners, and one I haven’t quite climbed all the way out of!
This blog post covers:
- The moment we decided to dramatically expand our services while rebranding the business at the same time (and the logistics that go into that).
- Making the tough decision to actually strip all of that back and focus on what we were really good at and then grow from there.
- The plan for future growth and to eventually offer an expanded bank of services for our clients.
You might want to grab a cuppa – it’s going to be a real deep dive into the teething issues and growing pains of an ambitious business – and an example of how you can actually be a little too eager.
Having a go but failing
Stada Media is an agency that has created video content for brands of all sizes for many years now. It’s our bread and butter, and we’re really good at it. I don’t mind saying that – we’re proud of what we do, our reputation precedes us and we get really great feedback from clients.
We also have a lot of additional marketing knowledge in the business, which puts us at an advantage and always bleeds through to our video services. So, the unique aspect of what we do is that we don’t just create video and hand it over. We’re able to strategise, reverse engineer the end goals of that video and help the client build something to get a return on investment from.
However, at the time that this post is about to cover, we did get a little bit too enthusiastic. More and more clients were asking what else we could do, so we ended up doing a little extra stuff for them, such as social media management.
Hiring ahead of demand
As demand increased, we got a bit greedy. We began working on what our marketing offering would look like and hired accordingly. Not only that, but we hired ahead of having the work – which definitely increased demand on cashflow at the time. In fairness, the demand did eventually catch up, and we were doing quite well.
But, as you can predict, cracks did start to appear. It was less about the extra revenue this new service was generating, and more about the massive pressure it was putting on the business operationally.
An operational disaster
We had a whole new part of the business that was generating income, but we were not a marketing agency – and in the end, the work was ending up on my desk. I’d suddenly become a new member of our fledgling marketing team, which was taking away my focus from things that needed to be done. I was getting involved in social media strategising, creating posts and creative brainstorming sessions – things I really shouldn’t have been doing, given the size of the team at the time.
Not only that, but I was taking my eye off the ball on the side of the business that we were actually very good at and very well set up for: video production.
In the video production team’s defense, they did flag this up at the time, but I was super focused on what was too far ahead of me. I had bitten off more than I could chew, and I was definitely stunting our growth.
Obviously, I had good intentions at heart. I was super excited and a typical entrepreneur. Me being me, I was super optimistic with my glass always half-full. I’m also a big believer in being quickest out of the gate and getting things to market before the competition – and you know what? It doesn’t always pay off. Sometimes it comes back to bite me on the backside – and in this case, it pretty much did.
At that time, I didn’t have anyone that I was accountable to. I was only accountable to myself. I decided that this was the right move for the business, and I didn’t consider the consequences that were about to rear their ugly heads.
So, what went wrong?
Basically, we took on too much and tried to force growth.
It depends what personality you are. There are people who take their time, everything is well thought through and analytical and there’s lots of research and development. That’s fine, and I don’t have anything against that.
Meanwhile, there are those of us who do things and apologise later. You just get on with it, and if you make a mistake, fine – but you’re just rolling your sleeves up and making things happen.
A lot of entrepreneurs are very much of that latter mindset, and then they end up hiring people who are more reclined, focused and analytical in their decision-making.
It doesn’t happen overnight
I was adamant that we’d grow this part of the business – but these things take time. Growing the video company to the stage it was at at this point in time had taken me years of strategy, experience, knowledge, recruitment, marketing, sales, processes… and so much more. It didn’t happen overnight. And yet here I was, trying to set up this marketing department from the ground up.
So, we wanted to hit the ground running and we just weren’t set up for it. It wasn’t that the demand wasn’t there, and it wasn’t that we weren’t any good at it – because we were, and we still are. The infrastructure just wasn’t set up for us to succeed. In the background, we were struggling with a whole new batch of logistics that we’d never experienced before, and I was spreading the team too thin and adding way too much pressure and stress. It was hurting us – like, really hurting us.
Cracks under the ground
In these situations, you get so tunnel vision-focused on what you’re doing that you don’t notice the cracks that appear underground: cashflow, accounts and so much more. In accounting, you don’t see issues coming before it’s too late, and I’ve been bitten by that before, too.
This was coming from the head of the business, and when the head of the business (i.e. me) is clearly in the early stages of making a very big and incorrect decision, it has a massive knock-on effect. To the credit of my team, they rolled their sleeves up, got on with it and worked really hard. What’s more, they believed in what I was trying to achieve. As far as the efforts they were putting in and the compassion they were showing, they were 100% behind me.
The marketing work we were doing was being done by just a few members of the team, and it was a car crash waiting to happen. There was a rumble of things to come, and we were incredibly vulnerable.
We were also trying to grow the marketing side of the business organically, so we speculated and hired a couple of people on the gamble that it would work.
It was time to make a smart move
We hit a moment in which the business was struggling right across the board. This new marketing service that we were trying to push was making us vulnerable – issues with sales, cashflow, the team and clients all combined to put the business under immense pressure. Eventually, something had to give – and quickly.
So, I decided to scrap 95% of our marketing services and focus back on what we were very good at, which was video production. Here came another difficult bit – we were offering these new services to clients and they were loving what we were doing, and now here we were, saying that we were going to take that away.
We had to turn down some contracts, such as social media management, which was bringing in a reasonable amount of revenue. However, the infrastructure just wasn’t there and the payoff wasn’t quite enough to expand that department and continue providing those services.
As a result, we had to make changes to the team – some changes were unfortunately forced upon us when we were going through cashflow issues. This will make sense if you go back and read this post on dealing with debt.
We also decided to go through a rebrand to freshen up the look of the business. This is a bit confusing, but please, stick with me!
Rebranding and re-rebranding
We actually first registered our company as Stada Media. Then, we rebranded as Stada Video for a period – strictly an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) thing.
Eventually, due to our attempt to expand our services, we went full-on into a rebrand back to Stada Media. I was happy with the new lick of paint and tagline – ‘Your Video Marketing Toolbox’.
However, when we decided to scrap most of our wider marketing services, we decided not to re-re-brand. I was happy with the way the business looked, and it’s probably going to evolve into a fresh brand in the next few years or so anyway. Plus, we are still looking at the marketing side of the business.
For now, we are fully focused on taking our video services to the next level and we have a clear plan for the next 5 years. There was a massive sigh of relief in the business, and it felt really good to have made a solid decision that was having an instant impact.
Option A: Agency acquisition
Expanded marketing services are still on our radar, only this time, we’re being much more strategic on how to set up and launch them. Part of this might involve acquiring an existing agency. Ideally, we’d acquire another agency in the next 2 years or so. At this stage, Stada Media should be in a lean shape and we’ll be performing better than ever before, so we’ll be less desperate to acquire the first business we come across.
Option B: Expanding in-house
Alternatively, if we’re patient enough, we might actually be in a position to grow our marketing agency from the ground up. Surely then we’ll be able to use the marketing knowledge and experience that we’ve accumulated.
This time, however, we’ll firstly look at the foundations for building a whole new department, set of skills and infrastructure that we need to add to what we currently have. It’ll all be about how that dance is going to look and what we’ll need to do to achieve it.
This option might be slightly slower than acquisition, but it does come with its own advantages – we don’t have the heritage and legacy of another company that might be in trouble.
Video is at the heart of Stada Media
In the meantime, we are 100% focused on building the best video production company possible so we can provide businesses of all sizes with content that is effective enough to deliver a return on their investment.
Video is the reason why Stada Media is where it is at the moment. It will always be at the heart of everything we do, and it’s really important to stay true to your roots and those original goals and ideas.
Everything under one roof
That said, at the same time, I’m a businessperson – I have to look at how we’re going to keep up with trends and how the marketing and video industries are moving. Not only that, but I think it’s safe to say that clients are coming to a position where they’re expecting a little bit more from their suppliers.
From my experience – and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong – a lot of clients love the idea of everything being under one roof. They want a graphic design department, a video department, a marketing department and a social media department all in one place where they’re easily accessible.
Instead of clients having to go out and find 10,000 different companies and having to bring them up to speed with branding and who they are as a business, we’ve worked with clients for long enough to know them inside out. Plus, now we’re offering them a really good option that goes beyond video. So, I’m looking at that as an opportunity within the business.
We’ve got the tools
Now, don’t get me wrong – it’s not easy to set this up. I’m not saying that everyone can do this. However, we’re fortunate enough to have that knowledge in-house, but also to have the resources available to us to be able to grow that department confidently – especially now with the lessons learned from the first time around. I’ve been there, making the mistake of growing too quickly and not building those foundations properly.
Now, we’re able to do just that – and, hopefully, get that marketing department up to scratch without it affecting the video side of the business. I’m way more confident now that we’re able to do that than I’ve ever been before, and I do look forward to the challenge.
Right now, we are offering some extended marketing to some clients, but we haven’t rolled it out to anybody and everybody. First, we need to build that infrastructure and find the right talent that can provide that value to clients.
Having a business mentor
Finally, after this particular period in the business, I started working with a mentor – and they’ve really helped me stay on track. I’m accountable to somebody now, and it keeps me grounded! It means that I double-check and triple-check everything that we do, it’s really helped develop my leadership skills and it acts as a filter for my overactive and overenthusiastic brain.
So, there you go – a little bit of insight into some teething issues from a company who tried to grow rapidly in a very short space of time.
- Growing a business is an ever-evolving process. It’s not something that happens overnight.
- Making mistakes is fine and part and parcel of what we do – as long as they’re manageable mistakes, and we’re constantly learning and not repeating any of them. Doing too much of that will end up killing your business!
- Spend more time mapping things out before actioning anything. Think, review, think again – that’s my philosophy!
- Don’t ever be too scared to try something, or too proud to change things if your decisions don’t pay off. Act quickly, even if you have to take a few steps back – you’ll be thankful that you did in the long run.
- Work with a mentor. This is highly recommended for anyone in a similar position as the one I’ve described in this post. I talk more about having a mentor in my blog post about redundancies and dealing with debt – another difficult period in my business life – here.
If you want to hear more about my entrepreneurial journey, check out the Diary of an Entrepreneur podcast on all available platforms – I talk all things business in terms of my OWN journey and experience. It’s not one to miss!
Thank you for reading this chapter of the Diary of an Entrepreneur. I must stress, I’m not trying to teach you anything. I’m just sharing my journey, and if it motivates you, then great – job done!