As entrepreneurs, we all remember our first paying client. That moment means so much more than a sale. It validates your product offering, your start-up’s mission and it somewhat shuns any doubt you or your peers may have about your business venture, even if for a short while.
The birth of The Concept Stadium.
I remember clearly when a contact I had known in my previous career, approached me for Marketing & Product Positioning advice. When the project developed further to include Brand Development, I immediately got my friend, and now business partner, Jonathan Chetcuti, on board and we started devising a plan for our “client”.
This was the first time we were collaborating on a project together, outside the remits of our full-time jobs. Needless to say, the learning curve was steep.
The invisible client.
We delivered the project on time and within budget. However, things soon went horribly wrong. Our first client was Libyan and at the time, the Arab Spring had just began. Long-story-short, we never saw the client again and seven years down the line, we’re still waiting for the cheque! Left with no other option, a couple of years ago, we wrote it off as bad debt!
Great! Just when we thought we made it, The Moment turned into a failure from a financial perspective. But, here is the crux of the story, we didn’t waste time chasing that one payment. We did not cry over spilled milk.
Being a true entrepreneur.
Luckily, entrepreneurs tend to be more optimistic than others, a trait that allows us to keep pitching for business on a regular basis and looking for ways to prove our value as a boutique marketing consultancy firm.
We didn’t get our fee, but we earned a whole lot more than that. Here are 5 things we learned from the first client that never was.
1. Jonathan and I learned that we whilst we succeed independently in areas, we need to depend on the other in others. I feel confident at planning and executing a marketing strategy, but I can’t design to save my life. It’s fine to admit that!
2. We learned how to listen carefully to clients, identify what excites them and what’s sacred for their business, way before you share our ideas.
3. We learned not to be afraid to pitch to large companies. This gave us the confidence to pitch (and win!) the Unilever Malta account a mere three years later. Unilever, the world’s second-largest consumer goods maker by revenue!
4. We learned to stick to deadlines, even if it means doing a couple of all-nighters. If we promised the client to deliver, we do it!
5. We also learned to bridge our credibility either from past projects or through contacts we have in the industry. Malta is small. You’re bound to know a friend of a friend or a long-lost cousin. Ask for introductions, why not?!
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