So, How Do You Build a Successful Branding Agency—Or Any Business, for That Matter?
The thing is, I can’t tell you what to do. There’s no perfect recipe with all the answers that applies across contexts, cultures, ecosystems, and industries. But, I can share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years along my journey in building Funktional into an entity I can be proud of.
Before I start, let me just say one thing. Before you think of anything else, you need passion—and you need a lot of it. Whatever you’re doing, you need to be doing it for love and not money. Then, you need to gear up and prepare to do the work. It won’t come easy.
Once you acknowledge that these two things are the most necessary building blocks along your quest for success, I have 9 “golden rules” to share with you as to how to get there.
Spoiler alert: they’re not about accounting, housekeeping, advertising, or administrative things. They’re about you. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned through all this, it’s that if you want to conquer a business, or anything at all—you need to conquer yourself first.
Keep in mind, these are based on the lessons I’ve learned in running a creative business—another entrepreneur or business owner might have 5, 9, or 20 different rules that worked for them. The goal is to experiment and find what works for you—your context, your ecosystem, and your industry.
9 Personal Paths to Success in Business:
- Learn how to adjust your mindset: don’t focus on the goals too much. Goals tend to slip away, especially if they’re ambitious. If you base your internal sense of success on achieving particular goals, you won’t feel that success at all. Instead, focus on the now. Learn to search for and find joy in what you do in the now. Observe the little things that are easily lost in the day-to-day chaos of owning and operating a business, and be happy with every small win that you come across.
- Try to feel and practice as much gratitude as you can. Feeling grateful activates the brain region that produces dopamine and simply makes you feel better and happier. It also helps to put things into perspective, especially when negative thoughts take over.
- Focus. Do one thing at a time. And do it the best way you can.
- Grit. If you don’t have it, build it. Without it, you will lose. A million things will happen along your journey, and half of them are going to be problems. You need to face them—but don’t look at them as roadblocks. They are an inevitable part of doing business and simply next steps on your road—mere obstacles that have been placed in your way in order for you to overcome them.
- Accept failure—not as a definitive label, but as an opportunity to learn. Don’t be afraid of failure—it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, as long as each time you do, you get up, shake it off, and keep doing your thing.
- Believe in yourself, and work tirelessly to provide value. Make this your mission and you’ll go far. Listen, observe, be curious, ask questions, solve problems, and make connections.
- Time is your greatest asset and resource—think about how you spend it. Be conscious of who you’re talking to, who you surround yourself with, what you’re reading, and what the general discourse of your day consists of. Make sure you’re putting in the time to build enough quality relationships, as these are what ultimately will enrich your life. Grow constantly and consciously. Don’t waste time doing stuff that doesn’t elevate your mind and soul.
- Look for diversity, adapt to constant change, and, most crucially: define your vision and get your people to believe in a common goal.
- Last but not least, don’t be afraid to make hard choices. There will be a lot of them.
One thing that has proven most valuable to me—above all else—is the change in how I perceive reality. The world is full of dualities: positive thoughts v. negative thoughts, positive people v. negative people, positive experiences v. negative experiences. Choose which side of the coin you want to focus on—it creates an amplifying effect in your life, as well as in the lives of those around you. This is generally pinned as the “law of attraction,” but you don’t need to put a name on it or read a bunch of books about it in order to see its effects. I truly believe this to be true.
I used to spend a lot of mental energy on visualizing all the possible negative outcomes that “could” happen. It’s often hard to escape these thoughts, especially when you’re in a bad situation. I still have moments of doubt, when negativity comes flooding in—but now, I accept those moments and the thoughts that come along with them. I no longer fight with them or try to repress or ignore them—and thanks to that, they go as fast as they come.
There’s an amazing TED Talk by Shawn Achor called “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” In it, he explains how happiness is the key to productivity, resilience, and being more likely to succeed. I see very clearly that besides these obvious advantages, there is one even more important element: if you think positively, if you find real joy in what you do, and put in the grunt work that’s required to make it all happen, good things will start coming to you on their own.
For that to happen, you need to synchronize the two levels of your mind: the conscious and subconscious. Your mind and soul need to be aligned—they need to have the same goal and have a mutual agreement between themselves that the goal you’re aspiring towards really is your goal, and that it’s the right one.
I’m allergic to the concept of conformity, so I’ll be the first to tell you to never adopt other people’s goals as your own. When you’re able to pin down your unique sense of purpose, go for it. Define your positioning, create scalable processes, and get the best people you can on board. Cherish them, and let them do what they are best at. That’s the recipe to building an agency, a business, and a happy life—if you really think about it.
To end this off, I have a strong inclination to tell you one thing: fight. Fight to be happy every day, more than anything else—and success will come sooner than you think. But, if I think about the period in my life I described where I was doing the most fighting, I was also the most unhappy—and come to think of it, that’s probably not a coincidence.
The way I see it, “fighting” introduces a lot of negative and volatile energy into your life, and like I said earlier, it creates a multiplying effect that can be less than desirable—to say the least. So, instead of fighting, if there’s one piece of advice I can give, it’s to take on a mindset that cultivates growth, support, and positivity—and that’s what you’ll get. And yes, success involves a little bit of blind belief—in yourself, in the fact that everything will be okay, and in the end, everything will work out—just as it should, just as you want it to. The important thing is to know how “what you want” looks—because if you don’t define that for yourself, someone else will do it for you.
So, don’t fight. Accept. Good and bad will come along your path, no matter how much you try to control for all the variables. It’s up to you to roll with the punches, and do your best to stay afloat in what can sometimes be unforgiving and violent waters. Sometimes, you can’t control what wave hits you, where it comes from, or how hard it gets you. As they say, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
To Be Continued.
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