I previously wrote that our (admittedly ambitious) financial goal for 2018 is to increase revenue by 40 percent over last year (which was record-setting itself). Let me explain why I think we can do it, how I think we can do it, and why I think we need to do it.
Why I don’t think I’m crazy to suggest 40-percent growth is feasible
We’ve done it before. Twice in the company’s five years, we’ve grown 25+ percent, and last year we grew by more than 70 percent. I want to be as open and transparent as possible, but with keeping our clients’ (and own) privacy in mind. So, I’ll write generally, without talking hard numbers. Going forward, I’ll talk about specific monetary amounts in fabricated Hanscom Park currency; the almighty Token. As a baseline, in the studio’s first year (2013), we’ll say we earned a thousand tokens, or Ŧ1,000. Each year after can be gauged against that starting point.
Revenue increased by 71.8 percent between 2016 and 2017, which gives me faith that the trajectory, if not as steep, can continue into 2018. Given, 2016 was a down year (and 2017 was a banner year), but 2017 saw more than 36 percent higher revenue than the average of the first four years. We’re a very small and very nimble company, so the precedent for double-digit growth is there.
Over the first years, I minimally marketed Hanscom Park Studio. Most of the design work that came my way was via word-of-mouth, and it kept me busy and content for the first three years. Then, 2016 was a slow one for me, and going into 2017, I started making a more concerted effort to seek new work and grow the business side to shoot for a few long-term goals (more on that later). That marketing effort culminated in December when we sent out 200 promotional boxes to clients, potential clients and friends of the studio. I’ll write in more detail about that box and its response in a future post, but it’s opened a lot of doors for 2018 that I’m excited about.
I was also able to market some new and more efficient skills. The single largest contributing factor to our growth last year was increased capacity. I brought on the inimitable Ben Vankat to lend a hand. His skill set compliments mine (which is to say he’s better than me at just about everything). As former app-builder and editor of Omaha.com, he has web skills above and beyond mine, which has allowed us to expand the scope of services we offer. His man-hours have let us take on more projects and work more efficiently. His creative thinking and design talent has made our work better. You can see the increase in monthly revenues since I hired him in the last seven months of 2017.
How I think we can grow by 40 percent in 2018
The short answer here is hard work. It won’t be easy, but things are headed in a good direction. The promotional push we made in December is already paying dividends. The first couple weeks of 2018 have been spent in a half dozen meetings on new jobs. If we can lock up some of them, we’ll be on our way to a solid spring.
Why I think it’s important to grow, and this year
When I left my 9-5 and benefits behind more than five years ago, I had a particular vision in mind: I wanted to start a little studio with about a half dozen creative people selectively choosing the jobs we want to work on. I can’t express how liberating the feeling of working for myself, out of my house, after a career in a cubicle was. I wanted to build a strong foundation, with good clients and gain plenty of experience navigating the choppy waters of entrepreneurship. I wanted to know what I was doing before I expanded. And I wanted to be very selective with the first person I brought on. It was also important to me that I bootstrap this business. I wanted to live thrifty and stay out of debt. It took a while to build the capital and client base to feel comfortable trying to expand. Now’s that moment. With Ben on board, it’s time to aim for bigger goals for the near future — hiring more creative people, buying a studio space — and it’s hard to hit those goals without first hitting some lofty financial ones.
What does 40 percent look like?
Four us, 40 percent is the equivalent of six of our biggest jobs of 2017, or almost 20 of our smaller ones. That’s no small task. However, we’re not aiming for sheer bulk. We’re trying to position ourselves to land some bigger projects and develop some long-term relationships with new clients. That’s the key to real growth, and creative fulfillment.
So, 40 percent it is.