How Mentoring Others Helped Grow Our Business
Creative Solutions started its life as a small startup in a local incubator. We began as a two-person team with lots of technical knowledge, but barely any sales & marketing skills. Our journey began with a startup program, designed to teach you the basics of running a business and lean development.
For those who do not know the term, lean (or agile) methodology, is a philosophy that is based on continuous improvement and respect for people. The first one ensures there is no (or as little as possible) waste in development. This shortens development cycles, keeps the costs at bay and ensures optimal productivity. The second one makes sure every person’s opinion gets treated equally. It encourages clients to voice their opinions on the product, helps gather feedback and ensures great ideas are brought to life.
We still adhere to those same basics to this day. The lean methodology helps us optimize our development and keeps our focus on the client and their wishes.
The second philosophy we always try to stick to is the »get out of your comfort zone« mentality. Being outside the comfort zone is where all the fun is and where all the best stories are written. Our biggest project so far was way out of our comfort zone. Trying something completely new brought the best out of our team and we were rewarded not only with the client’s massive gratitude but with a high-end award as well.
After finishing our initial startup program, we realized the knowledge we gained was extremely valuable. It was helping our business grow, our conversion rates improved, our client relationships flourished. So we started taking specific courses and workshops with specialists from different fields. We learned A LOT. And I mean A LOT.
Marketing, sales, growth hacking, Facebook advertising, Linkedin advertising,… We absorbed a lot of knowledge that is crucial when running a business.
Skip a few years ahead. A couple of months ago we received a call from the incubator that we started in, inviting us to a meeting where we would discuss the possibility of us being mentors for younger startups. We did not know what to think. We never worked in education before, so we didn’t have any experience of mentoring others. But,… we did have the knowledge, so we decided to try and seize the opportunity.
And get out of our comfort zone again.
And once again, we were rewarded for it. We didn’t really expect much from mentoring others in the beginning. Sure, a little money on the side never hurts, but we assumed we would stop pretty quickly as our schedule is already full with VR and AR projects, as well as with Kobi The Texthopper — a mobile app that helps dyslexic children learn to read.
But, mentoring gave us quite a bit more than initially expected.
Firstly we met a lot of new people. Some in initial stages of development, with idealistic ideas that would be very difficult to implement in the real world. Others were more advanced. People who already had their business just needed a little push or a confirmation that they are going in the right direction. But we did learn a lot from almost every single encounter we had with these prominent young entrepreneurs. One of them even became our latest client.
Every person who runs his or her own business realizes how important networking is for growth. The more people you know, the more chances you have that somebody will be able to help you with the challenges your company faces. By mentoring others, we also found people who provided solutions for our challenges.
Another consequence of meeting new people was that we started to see our challenges from different angles. When you think about a challenge — any challenge — you can only see it from your perspective. Getting a »second opinion« helps in that respect, as others might see solutions that you do not.
So by mentoring others, by advising them on how to solve their challenges, we seldom realized, our challenges could be solved in similar ways. We would come to the same conclusions ourselves, I am sure, but it would probably take quite a bit more time. And as you may well know… time is valuable.
Talking about different perspectives… The incubator we are connected with also started a business support group that we regularly attend. The group consists of local businesses who present their challenges. One of the attendees poses a challenge and other attendees try to help with their opinion. In the Lean methodology’s spirit everybody gets to contribute, every opinion is considered.
This has two positive effects.
Firstly, the group is a very quick way of getting the »second opinion« we talked about in the previous paragraph. Maybe somebody had a similar previous experience and can help, or maybe knows somebody else who can help.
Secondly, by stating your opinion and helping others, your own confidence grows. You realize you are there for a reason and you do have the skills to help others. So by helping others, your own problems shrink a little bit.
It is very easy to understand mentoring others had a profoundly positive effect on our business development.
It helped us solve our challenges faster, it helped us meet new people who could help us in one way or another, but it helped us develop as people as well.
We have improved our sales numbers and the amount of revenue per client. Client relationships improved as well.
When we started gathering client feedback (a thing we learned during previously mentioned business meetings), we learned that in the beginning, our clients chose us because we were cheap. A few years later, we work with clients who chose us because of our professionalism, creativity and because we represent the best value for their money. I cannot overstate how much easier our working days are because of this change.
Our jobs got more creative, more comfortable and more fulfilling then ever. And it all started with a simple ‘yes’ to answer a question, we would normally answer with a ‘no’.
Who would have thought?
Andrej Persolja is a VR artist and a co-founder of Creative Solutions. Creative Solutions partners with creative agencies to help their clients raise the presentation of their products to the next level.