Sink or Swim? 6 Tips to Survive Your First Year as a Kansas City Small Business
Starting something new is challenging. From learning to ride a bike to starting your own business, know that obstacles will pop up. But perseverance (and a little knowledge) is key. So we’re here to pass on a bit of that first-hand knowledge from our first year as entrepreneurs.
Our names are Brandon Ogle and Emily Brown, and we run a Kansas City-based marketing agency called Ogle & Brown, which we started in 2019. Before then, we were entrenched in the small-business world our entire professional careers, and we’ve seen teams of individuals accomplish their dreams through hard work and determination. Given our small-business background, we decided to open the doors to our marketing agency with one goal in mind: Use our curiosity, experience and determination to help small businesses reach their full potential.
Fast forward one year, and we can’t believe how much we’ve learned—namely that starting a business also presents its own set of challenges. Having just gone through the beginning stages, we’ve learned a few tips about business partnerships, financials, avoiding burnout and more that we’d like to pass onto you.
1. Beware of burnout
We started Ogle & Brown because we loved marketing and helping small businesses. I’m sure doing your passion is a reason many other entrepreneurs start their own business. Having said this, know that you can burn out doing something you love.
Running your own business means a lot more pressure and responsibility. Answering client requests, navigating a demanding schedule and just feeling like a prisoner to your own business can affect your mindset. All of a sudden, what you loved can transform into something you hate.
The solution? Relax! You didn’t quit your old job for another job; you quit it for a new life. Plan time to relax and figure out how you could ease some of these worries. Consider delegating or outsourcing the duties you’re not passionate about. Chances are, these types of jobs cause the most worries.
2. Know your numbers
As you might guess, a business is in trouble when it runs out of money. Failure can be as simple as that. No matter what industry you’re in, thoroughly understanding overhead, cost of goods sold, projected sales, cash flow, margins and expenses is critical from Day 1.
Depending on the size of your business, you’ll need to incorporate some form of bookkeeping and produce monthly reports to analyze trends or inconsistencies.
(If you don’t already have an accounting or financial background, you might consider connecting with a finance professional.)
3. Establish a routine
Upon starting a business, it might seem like a million things need to be done. And now that you’re the boss, you’re not punching a clock each day. While that might seem great, time management now becomes important. For some, this could mean trying to strictly schedule your entire day and week. For others, third-party project management apps work best. In the end, certain jobs have to be finished. Whether you get those done by 2:30 in the afternoon or 2:30 in the morning, the end result will always be completion.
In our experience, the best way to plan a productive day is to have part of it be routine. Whether that means a quick 30-minute phone call where we debrief on upcoming tasks or something as simple as some meditating after waking up, the key concept is routine. It should energize you and get you started on the new day. Feeling energized and in the right mindset from the get-go can ensure you’re not caught daydreaming hours later.
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4. Invest in yourself
Starting out, one of the best investments you can make is investing in yourself. When you invest in yourself, you’re sending a message that you’re in it for the long haul. Whether it’s learning a new skill or hiring a coach, it’s important to develop your own talents. This will lead to better results for your clients, increased confidence for yourself and more success for your business.
When it’s time to scale and start hiring employees, how does this change? Your focus should shift towards not only investing in yourself, but also investing in your team. Show that you care about their growth personally and professionally. Having seen both sides of this situation, we can’t stress this one enough for growing businesses.
5. Work ON your business
If you want to scale a business, it’s not as simple as pushing yourself to the limits every day. In fact, there’s a common phrase in the business world: “Work on your business, not in it.” Yes, working on and in your business is critical to growth, but there simply are not enough hours in the day for one person to tackle everything.
As the leader of your business, one of your primary responsibilities is defining the big picture. You need to know where you can make improvements and the steps necessary to achieve them. Remember, you’re the visionary behind the organization. No matter if you have one employee or 50, your direction will lead everyone toward the same goal.
Personally speaking, our goal in Year 1 has largely been focused on keeping things lean. However, over the past few months, it became apparent we need to utilize our resources to work ON our business. This can mean we need to outsource certain tasks and ultimately get systems and processes in place to streamline operations.
6. Stay curious
“Curiosity is the engine of achievement.” This quote comes from world-renowned author and speaker, Sir Ken Robinson. If you look at the successful innovations across history, a spark of curiosity helped get the ball rolling. Steve Jobs envisioned a “computer for the rest of us” when he started Apple. Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook to help people connect in college environments. They had a vision. They were asking questions. Steve Jobs didn’t just wake up one day and come up with one of the greatest brands of all time. It all stemmed from an idea.
“What makes a business owner successful?” Our answer is the willingness to ask questions.
You must be consistently curious about finding new ways of doing things. Building upon this curiosity, you must then have the will and drive to turn those visions into realities. All of this can not only help you decide if you should start a business, but also can be a backbone to any future hiring decisions you make.
Have a plan
Starting a business is filled with ups and downs. While we at Ogle & Brown have been business professionals for years, 2019 was when we became full-time entrepreneurs. Having a plan and being willing to adapt to market changes is a skill that’s critical to starting any business.
To all of the entrepreneurs out there, our best advice is to stay curious and chase your dreams!
Brandon Ogle and Emily Brown serve as the founding partners for Kansas City-based marketing agency Ogle & Brown LLC. Brandon graduated from the University of Kansas in 2015 with a degree in business administration. Emily graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2015 with a degree in marketing. Having met as coworkers at a previous business, they formed Ogle & Brown in 2019. Ogle & Brown is a marketing agency focused on creating unique and valuable content, while providing the feel of an in-house employee. If you want to chat marketing or business, reach out on the Ogle & Brown website.
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