The lessons I have learnt after 16 years in business


2022 sees Five by Five celebrate 16 years in business. Reflecting on the journey, I’ve learnt countless valuable lessons and here are my top five:

1. Leverage your team

The biggest leverage point that any business owner has is their team.

For almost seven years, I was a one-man show working all hours. My wife finally encouraged me to hire my first employee, I was scared and ultimately self-sabotaged it. They left after one year but I learnt some important lessons and tried again.

A big part of this was learning how to be a leader, shaping myself into someone that other people felt inspired to be around and wanted to follow. Since I have devoted myself to finding people who are smarter than me in most areas. I mentor them to be leaders and I now go to them for ideas and inspiration. Letting go of ego and trusting people to work their brilliance is key to building a scalable business.

2. Productise your offerings

Early on, Five by Five would do everything for everyone. Initially, this worked but it was hard to gain efficiencies or build standardised systems.

We needed to become more like a Mcdonald’s, with a standard menu of items, productising our offering and building a team that follows a standard process for delivery.

We still customise digital solutions but work from a menu that achieves the expected outcomes for our clients. Our sales process means saying no more often, but in doing so we are more creative thinkers. This means satisfied clients, better project delivery, and a happier team.

3. Become a sales and marketing organisation

For many years, I was the sales department. I thrived on building client partnerships, digging deep into their business and proposing digital marketing solutions. But without a sales team, we were lacking new business (it was one of the last functions I let go of and it was tough!).

I invested the time in building a ‘sales suitcase’, and we now have two sales employees and also a marketing department. This has built redundancy and allowed us to reach many more prospective clients en masse, and turbocharged our growth.

4. Get out of the way, asap

Tony Robbins talks about the “Six Human Needs” which we all use to drive our decision making. One of these is ‘significance’, which is about feeling unique, important, special or needed.

When you build a high performing team responsible for your product, it means you, as the business owner, need to let others do their jobs and have their glory. Failure to do so means inhibiting business growth. I get such satisfaction from seeing the team kick goals while I cheer loudly from the sidelines. A byproduct of this is the speed of implementation and growth has dramatically increased.

5. Have a marathon mindset

I’ve done a lot of distance running and know that when you’re standing on the start line of a 100km race, the task ahead seems insurmountable. To be a good distance runner you need to break the journey down into small incremental phases – each milestone is another step towards the end goal. Growing a business is no different.

No one would start a business knowing what issues and problems may need to be solved, but small, consistent tweaks and improvements compound. Momentum kicks in and the end goal nears. Know that there will be challenging times ahead, but trust yourself enough to keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you persevere, success will follow.