In the technology industry, professional services companies are often overlooked in comparison to SaaS or technology-platform companies, especially in the eyes of investors and public relations. This paradigm has always seemed odd to me.
Of course, I understand why investors may seek out technology-based companies over service-based companies as the return on investment has the potential to be much higher. On the flip side, the percentage of service-based companies which actually succeed has to be much higher. I’m not sure if that is true, but I’d bet on it.
Over the past three years, my team and I have grown our professional services business, DigitalCrafts, into a top-ranked global brand within our niche industry of coding bootcamps. In 2018, DigitalCrafts was ranked as one of the top coding bootcamp programs worldwide by two industry-leading publications.
Here are 5 tips on how you might do the same with your idea:
1. Get Your To-Do List Done
Create a to-do list and get started. Launching a new company isn’t rocket science, but you do have to start somewhere. Both companies I’ve successfully launched, NetNotes and DigitalCrafts, started with a to-do list. I am a firm believer in this tried-and-true recipe for success: Make a thorough to-do list, check off each item as you accomplish it, and repeat. Over and over again. It’s not easy, but if you have the entrepreneurial drive and believe passionately in your idea and company, you won’t give up.
2. Do the Hustle
This one is applicable to all startups. I didn’t fully understand the term “hustle” until after about a year of running and growing a company. Depending on your exit plan or long-term goals, expect to hustle for a minimum of five to seven years after launching. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Of course, I’ll work hard.” The reality is, everyone says that. Here’s what my real-world hustle looked like last week:
- 8 am breakfast with mentor
- Weekly operations touchpoint
- Weekly team lunch
- Weekly strategy meeting
- Weekly sales touchpoint
- Client lunch
- 8 am coffee with a potential hire
- Weekly team standup
- Lunch with Wife
- Company-wide event in Atlanta
- 9 pm flight to Houston
- 8 am networking event
- Client meeting
- Lunch with Houston team
- Company-wide event in Houston
- 8 am client meeting
- Weekly team standup
- Lunch with key employee
- Meet with real estate agent
- 7:30 pm return flight to Atlanta
Now, not every week is that crazy-busy, and I do come from a management consulting background, so I’m used to long hours. Weekly schedules like this combined with the other various responsibilities of leadership are the essence of hustle. Personally, I love it.
3. Prioritize Customer Service
In a professional services company, customer service is the most important aspect of your business, especially early on. At DigitalCrafts, our motto is: “Treat every customer like it’s our last”–and we mean it. Every time we receive customer feedback, we react. Every time a customer is happy or unhappy, we know why. And, most importantly, we treat all of our customers with humanity and honesty. We would rather be honest and have a potential customer not buy our service than mislead someone who will ultimately be unhappy.
4. Curate Company Culture
Company culture must be a priority. When I started DigitalCrafts with one of my best friends, we casually thought to ourselves, “We’re cool, so why wouldn’t people enjoy working here?” Wrong mindset. Company culture takes thought, time and money. Roughly a year ago, we created a budget and assigned a team member to focus 25 percent of her time on company culture, and we have more than reaped the benefits of that strategy. Company culture is why you enjoy coming into work every single day, and it ultimately shines through to customers, making a lasting impact on their experience.
5. Be Quick to Adapt
Often, service-based industries have a low barrier to entry, therefore you must be quick to adapt and aware of your competition. I’m not saying, “Spend your time worrying about the competition,” as that can be extremely unproductive, but stay aware of your competition, industry trends and business models that have the potential to disrupt your livelihood. Adapt quickly to remain relevant and always stay one step ahead.
Starting a business is hard work, rewarding and fun. Regardless of your business type or industry, employees and customers are always your most important priority. Always.
If you start a professional services company, don’t get upset if it’s tough to raise capital, land good PR, or gain the attention of customers. Stay true to who you are, work hard and success will come with time. On a daily basis, I remind myself of how we got to where we are today so we don’t lose sight of the core business practices that can keep our company’s brand as one of the top in our industry.
Post by DIG SOUTH sponsor Jake Hadden, an Entrepreneurs’ Organization member in Atlanta, Co-Founder and CEO of DigitalCrafts, a top-rated accelerated software training company with campuses in Atlanta, GA, and Houston, TX. DigitalCrafts provides full stack coding bootcamp programs as well as custom corporate training and staffing solutions.
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