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Freemen Of Altrincham - Alex McCann

This weeks blog is about 11 Lessons From 11 Years In Business

The lessons I’ve picked up over the years and why

In your 1st couple of years of business?

My biggest business tip for those in their 1st few years of business

Learn from those several steps ahead of you

In those 1st few years learn from people 5-10 years into running a business

When you get to 10 years, learn from people 20 years into running a business

Obviously do due diligence – check their social media, check their testimonials, see examples of their work

Your peers are your cheerleaders and support network, but learn from those more experienced

I’ve learnt a lot over the years by reading books from the founders of Nike, Leons and many others. As I hit 11 years in business I’d impart my wisdom to those starting out. If it inspires one person in those tough few years of starting up a business then it’s job done

11 Lessons From 11 Years In Business – I hope this inspires

1. Be Kind
Before I started my social media marketing business Altrincham HQ, I thought that I would be working in the music industry forever

I’d been a music journalist and events organiser from leaving college and university and knew no different

Whether this was a strength or a weakness is up to you, but I always treated people kindly. I always thought if I’m going to be doing this until I’m 65 then I don’t want scenarios where i’d have to cross the road to avoid someone

When I started Altrincham HQ I had the same mentality. Regardless of whether someone was a business owner or an individual who followed me I’ve always tried to be kind and positive

I’m not saying I’m a saint and I’ve never had a bad day or a rant, but 95% of the time it’s positive vibes

11 years into this business, and 20 years of working for myself, I still have never had to cross the road to avoid someone

2. Visibility
If people don’t know about you then they can’t buy from you

I now work all over the UK helping everyone from small businesses to multinationals, but when I 1st started I had a mission to help businesses in my hometown. Hence the business name.

In 2009 not everyone was on social media in this small town and it was my mission tfor everyone in the town to know the name Altrincham HQ. I didn’t even put a face to the business when I 1st started it, but building the brand itself was important

11 Years on with 36,000 followers across the social media platforms I still feel that visibility is important. There are still people who don’t know Altrincham HQ exists and visibility for myself and my circle is always the mission

How can I add so much value to people on social media that my message reaches more people and I help more people?

3. Networking
I realised early that I would have to meet people face 2 face as well as on social media

I’d worked in the music industry for years so apart from Tony Wilson’s In The City Music Conference and MIDEM in Cannes I’d never had to network in the traditional way

But when it came to establishing my social media business, I knew people had to meet the face behind Altrincham HQ to Meet Like Know Trust

6.30am meetings were never going to happen so I found events that started at 8am. I started attending 2 networking events a week for the 1st 12 months of running my business

2 events a week was enough to establish my name and become a regular on the networking circuit

Take note that I only attended 2 events a week and not 5 or 6 events – there’s a point when networking becomes notworking or ticking a box

Now I’m established I only attend about 2 networking events a month

4. Work Ethic

Now this isn’t healthy and I wouldn’t recommend it

When I started my business I was working 80 hours a week as I still had an events business to run as well

I never switched off

I didn’t have a rich family or partner to fall back on, so the only way I’d achieve success is by working on the business

You need to find a balance though

On the flipside I saw businesses close, because the owner only wanted to work between 11am-3pm on a Wednesday-Saturday. You don’t get a full time wage by working part time hours

I’m not sure if it’s my working class upbringing, but I’m always drawn to those people in business who aren’t afraid to graft and work hard to make their business a success

5. Retainers & Business Models
I realised the need for retainers in the Summer of 2012

We have 2 sides to our business – the social media training which are predominantly one off’s and social media management clients which are on monthly retainers (and generally stay with us for years)

The Summer of 2012 I went to Australia for a few weeks and then spent about a month suffering from jet lag and feeling exhausted

I enjoyed the holiday, but over those 6 weeks I was out of action I lost thousands in having no training clients for that period

It was then that I realised how important it was to have at least 50% of the business as retained clients where we could keep working remotely regardless of holidays / trips away etc

Have you got part of your business model you could set up for retained clients or recurring payments rather than one offs?

6. Testimonials
I honestly credit most of my business success down to a lesson I heard at my very 1st networking meeting

A speaker was talking about the importance of getting testimonials from happy clients

And I looked back at 10+ years of journalism and events and realised despite people giving great feedback face 2 face or on email I’d never had a testimonial strategy

From that point on I realised every time I worked with a client and they said positive things about our work I would ask for a testimonial on LinkedIn

I now have 460+, which is around 10x the industry average, and those testimonials win me business on an almost daily basis

If you’re delivering great service and great work, then you’d be a fool not to get testimonials for it

7. Charity
CSR or charity is something I’ve never had to have a meeting about or a CSR policy about

My charity work has nothing to do with my business success

I just feel that business has got to more than about pure profit. If you’re doing well and can spare the time you should support others

I use my audience on Social Media to help raise money for the Christie each year

In many ways I’m more proud of setting up Altrincham VS Cancer than all the success in my business over the past 11 years

If you want to support us with Altrincham VS Cancer email – the more the merrier in terms of fundraisers for The Christie

Social Media Agony Uncle
8. Scaling

My mission is how can I help as many people as possible

Over the years I moved from 121 social media training only to offering group workshops as well

This kept with my values of helping as many people as possible and allowed me to achieve that

In my most successful year I was able to help over 1600 individuals with our social media training

At some point in your business you have to ask the question how can I scale what I do to serve more people

Is it adding group workshops to your 121 offering?
Is it teaming up with a trade organisation to serve more people?
Is it that you’re happy to provide content like this blog that allows me to educate people at scale?

9. Paying It Forward
If you were educated in the 90’s it was a bit naff wasn’t it?

Battle of Hastings and Algebra said nothing to me about my life

Schools aren’t perfect now but there are a lot more exciting initiatives for young people right now

Over the years I’ve worked with Young Enterprise and NCS helping young people find their way in the world

Find someway in your business of paying it forward and helping others in your community

Be that young people, people from disadvantaged backgrounds or work in diversity and inclusion

We can all play our part

10. Thinking Big
I look back to 2009 and our initial mission of helping as many Altrincham businesses as possible

And then I read out loud the list of clients I’ve worked with – the BBC, Manchester City, NHS, Selfridges, Costa Coffee, United Utilities, Manchester Arndale and so so many more

I’m experienced and have the testimonials to back up the knowledge, but self doubt gets us all

Every time you submit a quote

Every time a big client gets in touch about potential work

If you have the ability – think big

DON’T Fake It To You Make It

DO Educate Yourself To You Make It

The problem with social media is people want to hype themselves up before doing any work, but if you’ve done the work and got results hype yourself in a big way

11. Confidence + Resilience
2020 has been a strange year

Our 11th year of business and we’re in the middle of a pandemic

But after the 1st week of absolute worry and depression I knew I had this all sorted (at least in terms of business)

With time comes an absolute confidence and resilience to weather any storm

In my last business I rode the last recession and started this business in the middle of a recession

Having the right attitude and being confident (not arrogant) is a winning move

Subs Altrincham

11 Lessons From 11 Years In Business – Further Conversations

Over the next few months we’ll have conversations about these 11 Lessons From 11 Years In Business

We’ll be speaking to the great and good in the business world. We’ll be delving further into each subject. Exploring indepth and giving more tips

Help us frame these conversations by commenting on this blog and giving us feedback

11 Lessons From 11 Years In Business – Further Reading
If you’d like to explore any of the lessons above check out these 5 blogs

1. Networking ::: How to get the most out of your networking group

2. Reviews ::: Everything you need to know about getting more reviews for your business

3. Paying It Forward ::: What I learnt working with over 1000 volunteers

Chat to us about Social Media Marketing for YOUR organisation , so we can better understand YOU and what will grow your organisation

We can only find out what is unique to your business by chatting with you

Look at our Social Media Training and Social Media Management services

We offer Social Media Training on
* LinkedIn
* Instagram
* Facebook
* Twitter
* Blogging

We can do this
* 121
* Corporate Workshops
* Group Workshops
* Face to Face or Via Zoom / Skype

Please call Alex on 07806774279 or email

Alex McCann

Author Alex McCann

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