intentional legacy

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journal topics




The One Thing I Tell Every New Business Owner

The One Thing I Tell Every New Business Owner

Lindale Studios Hand Painted Styling Mats, Sarah Bradshaw Photography, DC Wedding Photographer

There is one piece of advice I always give to new business owners:

Start as you intend to go.

What do I mean by this? I mean I want you to think about scale.

Most new business owners are so excited that people actually want what they have to offer that they forget to consider scalability. What is possible with one or five or ten customers may not be possible with fifty or two hundred or six thousand.

Of course there’s always space for business to evolve and grow over time (and I think we should always be growing!), but it’s still important to keep scale in mind when establishing your brand and systems.

Here are a few examples from real life:

Business one: Jane just launched her brand three months ago. She’s so excited that people are reaching out to her that she responds to emails and texts within 5 minutes every time they’re received. Her clients come to expect that of her, and she begins to expect it of herself, as well. Within just a few months she finds herself working until midnight every night, responding to emails that came in between dinner and her kids’ bedtime.

What she could do instead: Set realistic expectations for herself and her email inbox. Set a reasonable response time (24 hours, 48 hours, limited/no email on weekends, etc) and educate clients on her boundaries.

Business two: Kellie launched a product that has generated a ton of interest in a short amount of time. She has people clamoring for collaborations. In her excitement, she offers to deliver her product (for free, for collaborations in exchange for marketing) all around the city where she lives. That might work one time, but pretty soon she’s inundated with requests for collaborations, and spends more time sitting in traffic than she has to spend on product creation.

What she could do instead: Agree to collaborations, but in exchange for shipping costs. Alternatively, the other party could drive to pick up the products if they’re local.

Business three: Audrey developed a product that she sells online. Her first collection launched, and in her excitement, she guaranteed next-day shipping. That worked fine when she only had 5 or 6 packages to drop off, but her second collection launch with 25 sales— an impossible number to package and ship next day while managing her three small children.

What she could do instead: Set a realistic shipping time early on that allows for the potential of growth without punishing her family or herself.

Again: start as you intend to go.

Don’t merely think about what is possible today. Think about what might be possible in six months or a year. Set yourself up for success! Expect it, and design systems that are built for it!

One additional note: Newer businesses and brands frequently put energy into special touches and over-the-top customer service— as they should. But watch your motivation. Make sure your “surprise & delight” mentality is focused on the customer, and not a substitute for original product quality or to bolster your own confidence in your prices.

You never want a customer to think, “So did I pay this much because the product is worth it, or did I pay this much to get five surprise gifts along with the product?” Yes, you should certainly serve your customers well, and I’m a firm believer in the “surprise & delight” mentality. But don’t overdo it. Let your work/service/product speak for itself.

Remember: Intentionality results in sustainability. In other words, take time to be thoughtful in your decisions early on and you’ll set yourself up for long-term success.

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about sarah

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With nearly 20 years of experience behind the lens and a portfolio that spans four continents, Sarah brings a refined, story-driven approach to the events of a wedding. Her work has published in Brides, Martha Stewart Weddings, Southern Living, as well as print & digital outlets around the globe.

Sarah Bradshaw is an internationally recognized wedding & event photographer. Combining a background in international photojournalism, a love for classical art, and a genuine interest in people, Sarah creates images that are at once iconic and intimate, effortless and intentional, in the moment and intended for a lifetime.