Sally Baker, co-founder of Wondrous, the branding, creative and digital marketing agency, talks to Growth Works about the challenges she faced in taking her business through growth phases and gives her tips for how she overcame them to achieve their growth trajectory……
As co-founder of a scaling business I’m often asked if there have been any defining moments that have had a big impact on our growth. The truth is that there isn’t one major thing, more the incremental effect of lots of small things.
Wondrous is a branding, creative and digital marketing agency that’s into its seventh year of business. In that time, growth has been strong and steady at an average of 43% each year. We’ve outgrown three premises (one being the dining room table) and increased the team size year on year. We’re doing something right, but that’s not to say it’s been easy. Far from it.
Here I’m going to share factors that have positively impacted our growth:
One thing you lose when you start your own business is having a boss and that’s not easy. Whether because there is no-one to be accountable to, or perhaps because there’s no-one to discuss ideas or challenges with. It can be lonely up there.
For the vast majority of our time in business, we have taken support in various forms.
The fact is, we’d have struggled to make certain decisions or move as quickly without having a mentor. We would not be where we are, maybe we’d have got there, but it would have taken longer and been more painful. Much of the time, we knew what needed to be done, but we needed the confidence to do it.
Increasing the size of the team is a good example of this; it makes sense that the size of your team can dictate the amount of work you can deliver, yet when is the right time to recruit? This is something I have always found challenging. I know that our growth would have been impeded had we not made certain hires. Only having our mentor has given confidence around this and I’ll share more detail in the section Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling.
A good mentor or coach will also make sure you know your numbers, have targets in place and a plan of how to achieve them. It’s very easy to be so lost in the delivery of work that you neglect to look at the bigger picture and if that’s the case, you will not move forward.
In 2020 I was invited to join a Creative Enterprise Scale Up programme, which was government funded. It’s no coincidence that in the following 12 months our turnover doubled.
As part of this programme I was fortunate to have access to a vast number of workshops covering all manner of topics from access to finance through to value-based pricing. The contacts made in these workshops and knowledge learned were a turning point for me and again, I share further below some of the tools that I successfully implemented in my own business as a result.
Breaking through the glass ceiling
One of the standout workshops I attended covered reasons that prevent businesses from growing. At that time, capacity held us back. We had too much work for the size of our team (there were four of us, three directors and a graduate designer we’d nervously hired on a short-term and part-time contract).
We couldn’t keep going with the amount of work we had, without adding resources to the pot. Yet we lacked confidence to take the step. The message that I took from this workshop was that we were holding ourselves back and if we only made the move, we would achieve the growth we sought.
We made that hire and we broke through the glass ceiling. We filled that person’s time and our mindset on recruitment changed. Instead of “do we have enough work?”, we now ask ourselves, “can this hire allow us to take on more work”? Either because we’re already stretched or because it will help efficiency in the business, thus freeing up more time for delivery.
Closing sales, efficiently
Never being one to be particularly comfortable selling, I attended as many sales and pricing workshops as were on offer. The culmination of which motivated me to combine my learning into my own guide. I could write a whole article on this, but the key incremental bits I took away and implemented were:
- How many touchpoints can you add to your sales process? Whether B2B or B2C, a new prospect is going to need time and interaction before they’ve built up enough trust to decide to buy – usually at least six or seven contacts with you. Can you add additional touchpoints into your usual process that allow you to make that extra contact?
At Wondrous, we filmed a short introduction video that we now send before a meeting with a new prospect. This lets them see us before we’ve even met for the first time and makes the meeting less cold.
Following the meeting we’ll send a relevant case study to keep the conversation going and add in an extra interaction. By the time we’re at proposal, we’ve likely had four or five contacts with the prospect already.
- Another crucial learning for me was to always, always speak your price and never send via email to someone you’re new to working with. Only by telling someone a ballpark price verbally will you understand their reaction. This will avoid them ghosting you in the event it’s not what they expected.
If price is an issue for the client, having the conversation can help to overcome barriers they might have. Ask them why and don’t be afraid to have a pause to let them think how to answer. Depending on their answer, you could look to reiterate the value your solutions will bring. Alternatively, there might be an opportunity to reduce scope to bring the price down. In some cases, it might be best to walk away from the deal altogether. Best to know before spending time at length preparing proposal documents without the subject of price being raised.
There is so much to effective selling, if I could leave you with one piece of advice on it I’d say look back at two or three recent wins – what clinched the deal, and is it a process you can replicate? If so, nail it down and train your team.
If you found this article useful, you can follow my founder story on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sallybaker/ and see what I uncover this year.