Reflecting on

10 years in business

– how it all started!

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Mark Coster

Founder of Pixooma

Cast your mind back to March 2014. David Cameron was Prime Minister, Prince Harry launched the Invictus Games, same sex weddings in the UK were given the go ahead and in a tiny village near Kettering called Little Cransley, a new business was born.

Live a better life

On 24 March 2014, Pixooma was established. Like many other small business owners, I’d grown weary of the corporate world and wanted to put my graphic design experience, skills and knowledge to the test and work for myself instead. My ambition was to earn more money, work fewer hours and have a better work-life balance.

As the business celebrates its 10th business birthday I wanted to update you on whether I have achieved my lofty goals. To put it simply, one of three ain’t bad, as myself and Jo now have a far better work-life balance. But as for the other two, well owning and running your own business is challenging. I work similar hours to before, but can choose when I want to work them, which is great. Plus, the business earns more, but it has lots of bills to pay. But having said that I have zero regrets and I remain happy about what has been achieved in the last 10 years.

… 20% of small businesses fail in their first year. 60% fail within the first three years and only 33% reach the 10-year mark.

Not plain sailing

As a business owner, you are faced with many challenges that you may not experience as an employee. This includes such things as cash flow/financial management, project scoping and quoting, strategic planning, sales, IT, HR, research and marketing, including building a trusted and well respected brand. You also need to dig deep and draw upon a fairly impressive range of personal traits. You need a mix of discipline, belief, courage to take risks, time management and organisational skills, perseverance, communications, and a solid work ethic. Most of all you must not be fazed by having to do plenty of hard work.

Success has a price

But it’s not all about the high quality work you do in the office, Pixooma would not still be here today were it not for networking and my tried and tested approach to it. It’s not just about turning up regularly and being yourself. There is so much more that needs to happen which includes excellent communications, good manners, and following up after events. You must also do what you say you are going to do, do it well, for the amount you quoted, AND by the date you promised, so that clients remain happy.

We also owe our success to other factors too. This includes our ability to:

 Prepare, plan and action things quickly and efficiently.

Use technology and create systems that either automate or improve our processes.

Build a network around us of people we trust, so when we need help, we can quickly call upon their services

Ensure prompt invoicing

Undertake regular communications

Build it and they will come

In 2014, the UK was in a period of slow economic growth. Money to set up the business came from our savings and over the first couple of years we used more, until eventually there was none left. Fortunately, we picked up two contracts to do a day or two per week at two large Northamptonshire businesses, which gave us a consistent income for a period of time. This gave us time to focus on building our sales pipeline and work on improving the quality of our service offering.

Over the years we have also learnt plenty of lessons:

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, several smaller clients are better than one big client.

Pricing is key – be fair and transparent, but don’t forget to build in your profit margin.

Ensure that your terms and conditions are robust and protect you and your clients.

Invest in your own business as and when you need it.

Collaboration not competition.

Bucking the trend

And now ten years on, we can congratulate ourselves on surviving a global pandemic, a cost of living crisis, an unstable world economy and we’ve just slipped into the midst of another recession. But despite all of this, we are still here. Statistics vary, but the latest ones I have found say that 20% of small businesses fail in their first year. 60% fail within the first three years and only 33% reach the 10-year mark.

All I can say is that we’re happy to be where we are and delighted with all the support we have had and continue to receive. A big thank you to everyone who has helped us in the last decade. Here’s to the next 10 years!

Over the coming months, we will be producing two other blogs to highlight our ten years in business. In June we will be focusing on the here and now of Pixooma’s operations, whilst in September we will be looking to the future and sharing what’s next for our business.

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