If you told us that we would be launching a business during a pandemic five years ago, I don’t think we would have believed you - the business part or the pandemic part. But as the world quickly and radically changed, it changed our situation as well.
Five years ago both Kristina and I held executive positions at the same company - her in marketing, and me in operations. We also shared an office which made the job infinitely more enjoyable. The hours were long and hard, and although rewarding - we were aware that we were building an empire for someone else. We dreamed about creating a company that would be ours, that we could grow our way, on our terms.
But we always had an excuse for why we didn’t and Covid pushed through all those excuses. Suddenly nothing was guaranteed or stable. Kristina was working freelance and a previously planned move was now up in the air, making finding a job locally impractical. I had been working 25hour/week until Covid layoffs pushed it to 45+ hours/ week which was just incompatible with taking care of a then 9 month old. In the unstableness, we decided that the only stability we would ever hope to control would be something we created for ourselves. So we came back together and started Larkspur Creative Inc.
Are you thinking about starting a company during Covid? Well here are a few things to consider.
What are you doing?
We knew what we wanted to do in the general sense - offer digital marketing services. But what did that mean specifically and what role would each of us play in executing it. We sat down and discussed the services we would be able to offer, and were honest about the services we felt were a bit beyond our current skill set, to figure out the market we wanted to target.
Between the two of us, we had a good deal of experience creating and managing online assets. We decided that we could offer web design, graphic design and email marketing with a high degree of expertise.
Why are you doing it?
It was important for us to define why we wanted to go into business for ourselves and how we would define success. We agreed that neither of us needed a multimillion dollar corporation that required us to work crazy hours. What we did want was to do what we love and are good at doing in an environment that we controlled. To take on projects that we found interesting and would push us to grow. To build something that was ours.
Understanding each other’s motivations and goals helped us determine that we were on the same page. It also helped us determine what our collective goals were, how we would determine if we met them, and when we wanted to meet them by.
How are you going to do something different/better?
There are a zillion digital marketing companies out there. Right off the bat we challenged ourselves to be different. The thing we kept coming back to was a holistic, business analysis driven approach to digital marketing.
We thought back to when we worked together and shared an office. We both spit our time between the office and work from home, so we ended up sharing an office even though we ran different departments. A simple “what are you working on” often bloomed into an understanding of something the other could be doing in their department to support the other. For example, I would say something like “oh, we’re developing a new process for estimation, and she would say “oh, let me know what you come up with and I’ll update the process flyers for the sales department to match”. Or she would say “I’m just working on invitations for an event the Arizona office is having” and I would say “oh, I didn’t know they had an event coming up! I should let the centralized reception staff know so that they’re prepared to take inquiries regarding the event”.
From there, we realized that even companies that advertise cooperation don’t usually have a systematized way of identifying what information needed to be shared or sharing that information in a timely manner - and that’s how we wanted to be different. I’ve seen too many companies put together expensive marketing campaigns only to have them fall flat because they didn’t have the supporting infrastructure in place to handle the influx of business or stakeholders had been misidentified at the beginning of the process.
So yes, we’re a digital marketing company, and yes, we offer web design, graphic design, email marketing and all the services that you’d expect, but we do it from the lens of a business analyst to ensure our efforts succeed in the way you need them to.
Things to consider in a partnership.
Kristina and I started this company as a partnership, and as such, we had to be sure that we would work well together. Fortunately for us, we met at work, shared that aforementioned office and knew we would work well together. I have seen too many people go into business with family or friends and have it fall apart. Working together is a completely different relationship to a friendship. There are many behaviours that I don’t blink an eye to in a friendship that I would have serious issues with in a coworker and definitely in a business partner.
So, If you haven’t worked together before, I would strongly urge you to try and do a project together. You’ll get to know each other’s work styles and hopefully work out any kinks in the way you communicate, set expectations, and deliver the work. Don’t have a ‘real’ project? They create a mock one to work on. This is a great idea anyway to help you develop your service/product and create your process in a concrete way.
I would also suggest that you hash out any potentially awkward questions early on, and do it intentionally. Think of every complaint you’ve had about a coworker and write them down, then have one big (or several big) conversations about what your expectations are. Also set clear expectations about how your partnership will work. Kristina and I worked together for 5 years and still had ‘the talk’. We put in the foundation to save our friendship and hopefully avoid future “I know this is awkward, but I have to talk to you about XYZ”. So before you incorporate a business, there are a few things to ask each other:
- What hours are we going to work? Is it ok if they don’t necessarily overlap? How many hours?
- Who is responsible for what?
- Is there an organizational structure for storing and sharing internal documents?
- What happens if one person gets sick/becomes disabled?
- How will you both get paid?
- Did we want to be risk adverse or gamble?
- What happens if the company needs money?
- How are hiring decisions made?
- How will you handle holidays?
- What’s your timeline? Do you prefer to delay launch to make sure everything is the way you want it, or are you ok launching earlier and developing as you go?
- What are our hours of operations?
- Who is in charge of responding to clients?
- What happens if one of us becomes disabled (short and long term).
- How much should we reinvest?
Going into business yourself? Well then have that conversation with yourself. I know it seems silly, but it can be way too easy to veer off path if you haven’t set clear boundaries and expectations for yourself. If you’re working from home and haven’t done so before, you should also consider how you work and if working from home is a suitable option.
So, would I suggest opening a company during Covid? Yes, I would! But only if you’re clear on the what, why, who and how of it all. So if you always wanted to start your own businesses and you feel the pull to do it, then I hope you found this post helpful in your journey to get there. And if you need a little help, then check out our services. From business analysis and roadmapping to branding to website design - we have something for whatever stage you’re in.