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What I learned after 3 years doing business – part 1

People say that over 50% businesses fail after 2 years, and over 90% fails after 5 years. Given that Digital Envision Pty. Ltd. has been running for over 3 years, it’s time to look back and reflect on the lessons learned.

Tl; dr;

  • Start from scratch is a lot heavier than purchase existing businesses.
  • Building contacts and networks takes time, A LOT of time.

How did we start?

The journey begins in September, 2019. A friend of mine worked for a clinic and the IT company who supported the clinic went out of business. She asked me whether I knew another IT company. Coincidentally, I was planning to participate in an event called Startup Insider, which was a Shark Tank – like event. “Right now I don’t know, but give me a week and I’ll send you the details of an IT company.” – I told my friend.

In 1 week, my business partner and I created everything from nothing. We registered the business name, created the profile website, created a brochure representing our services, basically everything needed to present to the clinic. And we got that contract the week after. It was simply just maintaining and further developing a few WordPress websites, nothing too special. However, part of me was surprised of how fast one can build up a company just like that. All we needed was the will to do.

So we got our first client, how did we get our second one? This was difficult for both of us, but we managed to get 2 more small projects from the first client as well as the employer of my business partner. However, both of us were just working on this company part time, there was no commitment and therefore the sales became rarer and rarer. And because of a misunderstanding from within the company, my business partner got fired and we faced the first opportunity of having him doing full time for DE.

Everything changed.

He started doing full time for DE. I introduced him to BNI and we decided to join under web development category. We started the most difficult time of our company, survival. BNI has been really important for our growth, my business partner spent a lot of time making connections and joined meetings with business owners in BNI. I did a lot less networking than him due to working full time for Adslot still. I was in charge of all technical aspects and around this time we had our first staff, a general admin and a developer.

That was a lot of work for 2 amateurs trying to start a small business. Looking back on that, it was good that we started from scratch. We now understand what needs to be done to build the business from ground up. However, next time, we will look around first and try to buy an established business instead of growing from scratch.

Growing business networks

Like I said before, BNI has been a key factor for our growth. However, it took us a year and a half to finally see the fruits. Through the first and second lockdown in Melbourne, everything froze and we managed to get most of the grants, which were tremendously helpful. We had barely enough to pay our employees, while continuing to conduct meetings with more and more people within BNI networks.

After a while, we made some people think of us whenever their clients said they needed a website or a mobile application. And it all started to explode, especially in the first half of 2021. Before that, we had doubts on whether this actually works. We had a hard time discussing on whether we needed to extend BNI membership because we didn’t see anything fruitful at that time. But we persevered on that chosen path. Since then, we joined 2 more business networks, one being Victorian Chamber of Commerce, where we had the opportunity to meet with the politicians and listen to their plans ahead; another one is Club of United Business, which we found extremely helpful on our path of building a better business.

Zoom networking meeting
Me at the top left corner in a meeting from Victorian Chamber of Commerce

After talking to people who referred us business, I realized that it is crucial to keep in touch with the key referral partners, as they need to remember us first thing when they hear anyone talking about needing our services. If they don’t remember us at that time, most likely other company took our place in their mind. This aligns well with one of BNI’s principle: be visible. And we will continue to be visible in all of our networking events, by participating in the conversations, people will remember you and your services.

Summary

If someone asks me to sum up my experience on the above lessons, I have 2 words only: decisive and persevere. We saw an opportunity, we took the leap of faith. Business partner and I all agree that I have a lot of patience when it comes to business matters. And so far, it worked out for us.

In Part 2 I will discuss 2 more lessons about people management and work-life balance.

“Be decisive. A wrong decision is generally less disastrous than indecision.” – Bernhard Langer

By Tuan Nguyen

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