As a small business owner – even with the best intentions – it’s easy to forget to celebrate key milestones including the fact that you and your team have ‘survived another year’.
Apart from our 1st birthday, where I excitedly ordered a logo-ladened cake for my then much smaller Hoole Marketing team to enjoy over a fancy lunch, most years have come and gone unmarked.
It’s especially hard for us at Hoole because most team members work remotely, hundreds of miles apart, so it takes a big effort to drag everyone away from their homes, to a single location. Hence, our get-togethers only happen at best once a year.
However, last month we hit our sixth year in business, which was oh so sweet. So I decided to pull out all the stops and not only bring us together but take our core team away for a couple of days, to strategise!
Here’s why I believe this year, more than any other year, business owners should pay special attention to the health and wellbeing of staff, and finding ways to reboot and reenergise.
The highs and lows of running a business
I’ll be frank, the last couple of years have really taken their toll, and even though financially my digital marketing agency has been on the up, a few weeks ago I was feeling pretty bloody flat.
2020 had started on such a high for me, I was fitter than I’d been in years, having trained for the Digital Live Bike Ride. In February 2020, I visited Social Media Marketing World in San Diago with my colleague Merrin, and then cycled 500km across Thailand with Steve Carroll and 30 real estate agents in support of the children’s charity Hands Across the Water.
Within hours of finishing the bike ride, instead of soaking in the highs of this life-changing experience, I was racing home to Australia trying to beat border closures. Stepping off the plane in Sydney, I walked straight into two weeks of quarantine, followed shortly by school closures and homeschooling.
When your business bombs out, overnight
As the first few weeks of the pandemic set in place, I took call after call from my real estate clients explaining that they were so uncertain about their future that they’d be unable to continue to use our services. Even with signed contracts in place, it wasn’t worth forcing clients to pay us in a situation that was so new and unknown. Within days, the business I had spent 4 years building was clientless.
What to do now? What was next? The good thing was that my experiences gained through the bike ride had really put life into perspective. Having just spent time visiting the slums of Bangkok, alongside several children’s homes (where families had been forced to hand over their children to others in order to ensure they survived), I was extremely grateful for the life I had made for myself and my children in Australia, irrespective of the pandemic.
Picking yourself up and starting over
Not being someone that sits on her laurels, I threw myself and my team into some blue sky projects that we’d struggled to find time to work on. For us that included building a courses arm to the hoole.co website, and producing more content for our low cost DIY marketing program. Focusing on upskilling ourselves, we also decided to offer a solution for real estate agents to improve their own marketing skills whilst dealing with lockdowns.
Little by little, the restrictions eased, the real estate market boomed, and before we knew it, my brand marketing team and I were sailing through 2021 with more property clients on our books than we had ever had. But, then along came the Coronavirus Delta variant, and we were flung back into lockdown, working from home and homeschooling again.
Yasss, real estate finally wakes up to digital marketing
Thankfully, the real estate industry continued to take lockdowns in their stride, and the property boom carried on whilst most other industries ground to a halt. What was evident was that real estate professionals finally recognised the importance of incorporating social and digital marketing into their agencies’ brand marketing plans, and our client roster grew two-fold a second time.
Whilst this exciting growth phase in my business meant a goal of mine had been achieved, it came with the immense struggle of juggling client work with homeschooling responsibilities. And, I like so many others found it draining.
Is business a game of snakes and ladders?
When 2022 arrived I was hopeful that we’d resume some semblance of pre-pandemic life, but alas it came with a new set of business blows starting with frozen Facebook accounts and a major lack of international Facebook support staff. At the start of this year, I honestly thought that Facebook was trying to put advertising agencies like mine out of business. It was like taking two steps forward then one giant leap back.
Next, staff shortages become not only my but most businesses’ biggest issue – initially, everyone was either sick or isolating. Then the great resignation hit. Younger employees were drawn away by impressive offers from corporate juggernauts that, as a small business, I just could not match.
The task of finding and training new production staff began. Adamant that I would use this opportunity to improve our production processes, we were able to maintain our high standard of service whilst putting in place workflows that would enable our marketing agency to scale up more easily in the future.
Yes, business burn-out is real
Although, I have once again landed on my feet and couldn’t be more pleased with the new staff joining our Hoole family, in the last few months, the prolonged stress of all these events (leading up to our sixth birthday) had left me totally worn down and demotivated. Not only did I need to re-energise and recalibrate, but I recognised that my team did too.
Most importantly, as the business leader, I knew I needed to model the enthusiasm I wanted the entire business to bring to the table. So, removing ourselves from our day-to-day activities and kick-starting some fresh momentum was just what the team and I needed. It was time to get inspired and re-energise. More on this to follow, in part two, …
In the meantime, if you’re looking for help wth your brand marketing, such as content creation, social media and digital advertising we are experienced in helping many different types of property-related businesses – from proptec to real estate agents, architects to property developers, our industry knowledge and branding know-how is broad.