I’m growing me a company. It is a bit of a seedling at the moment, but by golly, it will be an amazing tree or even forest before you know it.
The truth is, growing from a company of one to a virtual team of 9 has been exciting and painful at the same time. I brought on a business partner earlier this year, emphasis on business. She’s savvy, financially intelligent, ambitious, motivated, seasoned, all the ingredients of a great business partner. Plus, we really like and respect one another.
Why did I decide to grow from an easy peasy single employee consultancy to a fast-growing virtual team? Because I felt I was on to something. Last year, I approached my friend/now business partner with this revelation:
I feel right now the exact same way I did when I started Cybergrrl, Inc. back in 1995. There is something happening with social media that hasn’t been seen since the introduction of the Web, and I want to ride this wave the right way instead of making the same mistakes I made back in the 90s.
Back then, I was naive about business and naive about going into business with a boyfriend. A controlling boyfriend. I spent the next five years in utter misery while all these amazing things were happening around me. Some might say that the amazing things were because of me and some sixth sense for business and marketing that I had inside of me. But I have to admit out loud that it was all quite accidental. What I brought to my Internet company was a passion for the Internet and a genuine personal belief that I could help other women gain both personally and professionally from going online.
To say I made all the wrong business decisions back then is putting it mildly. There was a time - and some of us do remember this - that the two biggest “underground” brands on the Web were Yahoo and Cybergrrl. I even started the first searchable database of women’s web sites, Femina, to offset the mishaps of searching for women’s issues on Yahoo - all you’d get at that time was porn!
When my company was offered a million dollars funding - even $3 million - my business partner/boyfriend said no, all we really needed was $300,000. Then iVillage and Women.com came onto the scene, a year after Cybergrrl.com, Webgrrls.com and Femina.com, and they were well-funded with smart businesspeople at the helm. I watched them zoom by us with less passion and less mission but it didn’t really matter - they had money.
Fast forward to my Internet marketing consultancy that was going along quite nicely, clearling six figures the last handful of years and affording me flexibility beyond my wildest dreams. But then social networks exploded. And blogs. And Twitter. And I was far from the rat race in Alaska but able to tap back into the scene because I understood all the tools. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, for God’s sake. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t learn something along the way.
The biggest lesson of all for me has been admitting that I am not a business person. I am an evangelist. I am a strategist. I am an ideas person. I live this stuff and must admit it’s kind of eerie how I can just get what others (clients) are trying to do online and can come up with effective and compelling ways for them to do it. And I still hold on to my core values and beliefs about how we should use the Internet and honor the spirit of the ‘Net as a powerful tool to do good things.
Since I’m not a business person, I did the smartest thing I have to date. I brought in a fantastic business partner to handle the business side of our company, and she’s going gangbusters. I joked with her yesterday that since we’ve brought on such a capable, talented team, I feel almost…useless. Who am I now? What am I supposed to do? Everyone seems to be able to do the things that I used to do all by myself. Sure, that means I’ve picked good people and also am providing enough guidance to make sure they get it right. But it can make me feel like I’m no longer needed.
Of course, my business partner reminded me that I’m the strategist, the one that comes up with the creative, social media road map for everything we do and everything we recommend that our clients do. What? Do you mean all I have to do every day is write and come up with great ideas?
Damn. How lucky can I be?
What kind of growing pains are you going through with your business?
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