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Lessons Learned from Starting a Business

02.25.21

by Mark Ridley

 

GreenShootsFX is a fairly new endeavor. And now that we have months of business-launching experience under our belts, we want to share what we’ve learned.

 

Don’t assume.

When we were investigating several platforms to support our business, we made some assumptions about platform capability based on what we knew certain vendors could provide. Thankfully we didn’t get caught out, but the exercise DID emphasize the need to ask the most basic of questions. And to ensure consistency, the need to ask the same set of questions to each prospective service provider, no matter what we knew or thought we knew each could do.

 

Don’t rush to launch.

The excitement to do so – or maybe the need for income – can be overwhelming. 3 a.m. finishes, as we balanced what clients wanted with what we knew they needed, were regular. (Often, six nights (or mornings!) per week.) But we were fueled and buoyed by what we knew we could deliver, and the difference and impact we could make for US businesses.

We were eager to press the button and get out there, which could have backfired. What we know now is we weren’t ready then, so it’s great we had advice on tap to slow us down just a bit.

When we finally launched, we had the right product, the right marketing plan, and a thorough and well-thought-out business plan.

 

Don’t be all things to all people.

A few of our marketing buddies asked the consistent question: “So, who’s your target audience?” I’ve been in sales, of sorts, since I was 12 and my natural response was “EVERYBODY!” I still see the shake of each head and the slow closing of eyes during the Zoom calls.

Despite being able to service every unsanctioned industry, we realized our blog posts and marketing materials would be largely ignored if what we put out there didn’t resonate and speak directly to the right individual.

Learning this early allowed us to refocus our efforts on more focused demographic, regional and specific industry verticals. This was incredibly exciting because it also allowed us to really get to understand our clients’ businesses much faster and with a higher degree of (WHAT???…empathy….)

 

Create a marketing plan. Scratch that: Create a SOLID marketing plan.

Is this a “Duh, yeah” moment for many of you? Well, I did kinda know it at the back of my mind but at the same time I’d been successful in each of the banks I’d worked at. So, how could I fail?

In the past I’d built portfolios from scratch, restored bad reputations, and put the team back on the map. So this would be easy, right? What I failed to remember was that it was the logo on my business cards that pretty much opened those doors. The fact that the products and services weren’t always ‘the best’ wasn’t necessarily an issue and there was still the effort required in order to close the sale, but the reputation of the bank(s) I worked for at least allowed the initial conversation to take place.

Somewhat ironically, I can now say unequivocally that our product is better than that of any bank I worked for. But, our logo wasn’t initially opening any doors! So, I’ll repeat: ENSURE YOU HAVE A SOLID MARKETING PLAN in order to get your brand out there. Take the time to thoroughly research external marketing companies who can provide you with expert guidance.

We are a relatively new company, but our bones are hyper-experienced, and we have phenomenal product backed by global investors. But this counts for nothing if we’re not letting the world know who we are, why we care, and how we can solve the problems they often don’t even know they have.

 

It’s OK to leverage connections.

I was worried about calling in favors. But I threw myself into it and the response was overwhelming. The proactiveness of many has been humbling.

Connections, new and old, agreeing to act as Referral Partners, former clients willing to give us a shot, friends introducing us to companies they are connected with, and in some cases entrusting us with a family business.

This is when you see people’s true colors and appreciate who your real friends are.

 

Don’t be afraid of being a beginner.

Learn, learn, and learn. Oh, and listen. Read. Ask questions. Research. Question. We know FX and payments, but we didn’t know specifically how to start a business.

Months of research and meeting experienced people really paid dividends.

 

Don’t expect what you start out with to be the final ‘product’ or ‘version’ of yourself.

This includes everything from website design, copy and images, to the product and services you offer. I would recommend getting your logo right the first time, although there’s examples of this not necessarily having to be true.

Before we officially launched, we went through more than 20 iterations of our website and on the launch day we were perfectly satisfied with the design, the copy and the content. But we also knew it was going to be a living document that would adapt as we learned more and therefore change and grow in tune with the overall business.

We’ll expect to have changed our site content several times before the end of 2021 but in a way that is consistent with our branding and messaging. Clients and prospects will receive more information and in a more succinct way. We also know our products and services – which are great, by the way – will also continue to improve. And a financial services provider NOT thinking this way will become yesterday’s news.