After a year of building and growing and falling and learning and anding, we’re finally ready to say hello. And to celebrate our first turn around the sun by giving you some free business advice.
Yep. Free. Because lo and behold, when you’re starting a business, half your time is spent walking clients through your own process of business-building. That’s just one thing we learned in the first year of Avenir. And because everyone loves a good ‘how did you get from there to here’ story, here’s a few more:
1. When you don’t have a niche to focus on, it’s a helluva lot more work. We started with broad – very broad – strokes, taking on clients in the nonprofit sector, the yoga world, high technology, real estate, interior design, and more. Along the way, we’ve had to learn everything about each industry that came through our door. Which takes time. Which cuts into the cost. Which inevitably leads to some clients getting a much better deal than they originally thought.
Over this year we’ve thought a lot about the niche, who we ultimately want to serve, and how we can do our best work at the best price for everyone involved. And while it may feel limiting, focusing on one industry, type of client, product, or skill set, the opposite is actually true. To really understand our clients involves such a deep dive that coming out the other side means we’re even more equipped to serve a specialized set of people, allowing us to do even better work and attract more of the right clients. Yes, it may – it will – take a bit of time to determine just what that niche is, so this first year of exploring and spreading ourselves out over a larger canvas has been crucial in that regard.
Bottom line: Take time to navigate who you want to serve, and as soon as you figure it out, go all in.
2. WHITEBOARDS. Whiteboards are golden. They’re the ticket, the answer, the key we didn’t even know we’d lost to a treasure chest we had no clue existed! Seriously though, if you have ideas, or if you want to have ideas, go get yourself a whiteboard (yes, the bigger the better), a handful of dry erase markers, blast some music (we recommend the monthly playlist from Hotel Costes), and go. No editing. No particular order. The beauty of a whiteboard is all that space to play – to write, draw, create connections, cross things out, make lists, build groups, circle things, and see it all in one place in front of you. There’s no shuffling of papers, no searching of documents, nothing lost.
Avenir Insight: While digital productivity and organizational tools are instrumental in keeping everything organized (I mean, hey – we’re a digital agency ourselves), there’s nothing quite like going analog in the brainstorming phase.
The cool thing is that this isn’t just a personal preference. There are actually studies that show the importance of things like using your hands, writing things down on paper, and seeing the contents of your brain on tactile, physical surfaces. It’s a lot easier to feel connected to your ideas and build on them in other digital spaces when you’ve first had a physical interaction with them.
In the last year, we’ve had some incredible whiteboarding experiences as we’ve set goals for ourselves, come up with plans for our clients, and checked in with what we’ve learned along the way. We’ll say it now: digital is awesome, but whiteboards aren’t going anywhere.
Bottom line: The next time you have a project coming up, a problem to work out, or a trip to plan, get yourself to Staples and buy the biggest whiteboard you can. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and let your brain run wild.
3. Along the same lines as whiteboarding, having something BIG to write was also a revelation to us. We allowed ourselves to really go for it when it came to painting a vision for Avenir. Scary as it may have seemed to blue sky and write down ideas that may have been out of the scope of ‘possibility,’ here’s the truth: some of those ideas have already come to fruition, and we’ve gotten closer to others than we would have originally thought.
The only limiting factor at the onset – aside from time and accessible finances, truly would have been ourselves. And so letting go of doubt and going for it – even if going for it only meant writing it down – has paid off in some big wins, great learning opportunities, and steps forward of any size.
Bottom Line: Especially at the beginning of creating something, it’s important to dream big, to not limit yourself, and to let the ideas flow freely.
As we continue to learn, grow, and have fun, we’ll share more stories from our side of the drawing board, fun before-and-after snapshots of our clients, and even answer your pressing questions about branding, design, and building a business from the ground up.
And as it happens, we actually have a question for you now:
In the last year of your business or career, what’s one lesson you’ve learned that surprised you, or that you weren’t expecting? Having just thought about this ourselves, we’d love to hear about your experience, so go ahead and comment below!
In good health, and even better design,
Jere and the Avenir Team