TW2 is celebrating our 30th year! I started my beloved company when my two sons were quite young and my husband had a demanding career with a chaotic schedule. I wanted my career to provide flexibility, so I had time for my family while doing what I loved.
Thirty years later, those boys are now grown men, my husband is retired and my boxes are checked – I have created many wonderful family memories and have had an amazing career, which I have adored.
For three decades I have built and managed a successful business, making all of the decisions, sometimes with the help of a few trusted mentors, advisors and friends. Looking back, there are so many things I have learned.
Here are my top 10.
- Trust your instincts. Of the relatively few business problems I have experienced, if I had listened to my gut, I probably would have avoided most of them. If you aren’t sure you can work with a potential client, you probably won’t be able to. If you know better but do something anyway, chances are it will come back to haunt you. Listen to your inner voice and follow it.
- Be loyal. TW2 has clients who have been with us for more than 25 years. We have outsource partners who we have worked with almost as long. Could we have replaced them with clients who might have paid us more and partners who billed us less? Yes, but we haven’t. There’s more to business than just making money and building long-term relationships is one of them. These relationships not only resulted in a lot of work and referrals over many years, but also forgiveness when something went wrong. Extra effort when a deadline was coming up fast. And life-long friendships.
- Don’t apologize for wanting to make money. A mentor told me this a long time ago and it still rings true. All businesses need to run in the black and all business owners and their employees should be fairly compensated. You charge what you need to make a profit that you determine. If someone thinks your fees are too high, then they won’t appreciate the value you bring. (See #1 above for what to do next.)
- Everything costs more and takes more time than you think. Always have a 20% cushion for when costs exceed expectations. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need, whether it’s one hour or one month.
- Be ethical and tell the truth. Karma is a b***h and she’ll come for you if you aren’t completely transparent and above board. As my background is in the law, from day one TW2 has operated on a strong set of ethics and we’ve tried never to waiver. I learned a long time ago that when you lie, it always comes back to haunt you. (Sorry, Mom!) So, don’t.
- Be yourself. A friend once told me that when interacting with clients I shouldn’t be so personal. But that’s who I am. I’m a storyteller and some of my best stories are about things I’ve encountered in my life. I’m not afraid to share. It’s my personality shining through. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. People don’t want to do business with posers. And if they don’t like me as I am, I don’t want to do business with them anyway!
- Be accessible and responsive. This doesn’t mean being available 24/7. It does mean responding to emails after hours if the situation is urgent or someone needs information or reassurance right away. Or it means letting a client know that their Friday afternoon request will be worked on, starting Monday morning. At TW2, you are a ‘rulebreaker’ if you work weekends. From time to time, all of us are rulebreakers because it’s needed, but we don’t make a habit of it. And if a client has a problem with that, see #1 above.
- Give guidance and expertise. Don’t just tell clients what they want to hear – they are hiring you because you have the skills that they don’t possess. (If a client doesn’t want your input, see #1 above.) Teach your team and then watch them soar. Share your knowledge with anyone who wants it.
- Keep things in perspective. Work is often stressful and demanding. Problems happen and you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. When I find myself in a dark place, I think, “Will this matter one month from now?” “Or one year from now?” Almost always, the answer is no. What TW2 does is vitally important to our clients and to our team. But we’re not curing cancer or making life and death decisions. Keep in check the significance of what you are up against and don’t let yourself be overwhelmed.
- Laugh and have fun. Anyone whose been in a meeting with me knows that I often say funny, silly things – or at least I think they’re funny. (See #6 above) So much of our days are filled with tedious tasks. When the opportunity comes to make something enjoyable – even for just a few minutes – why not do so? And don’t forget to laugh often, especially at yourself!
Teresa Y. Warren
Founder & President
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