Essential advice for new businesses

By: Matthew Phelan

Date: 7 June 2011

My business partner Chris Hyland and I are mates from university and we setup 4Ps Marketing three years ago. Now we employ 25+ people and service 40+ full-time clients. All good headline facts, but for Chris and I, it’s always about learning and improving our business.

We talk about the business seven days a week and probably drive all our friends and family crazy but we love it. I thought I’d bash out 10 really important lessons we’ve learnt.

1 Listen to experienced people

I don’t mean this to sound ageist or hairiest, BUT a major reason behind the success of our agency has been the free advice we’ve had from our friends. Successful people who have been in business for a while have probably encountered most of the issues you’ll face and they can help. Sometimes it takes 30 seconds listening to them on the phone and you are over the hurdle. Job done.

2 Listen to your team

They are the eyes and ears of your business. If you employ intelligent people, you should listen to them. Some of the best ideas we have implemented came from our employees.

3 Make your own decisions

Chris and I take a lot of advice. The people advising you no matter how long they have been in business will not be in possession of all the facts. Listen and then make your own decision.


There is a time for talking and there is a time doing. Make a decision and get on with it. As long as you are not risking the future of the business you will learn from it – win, lose or draw.

5 Know which customers to avoid

This sounds controversial, but from time to time the chemistry between customer and supplier just doesn’t work. We’ve done this only twice in our business life and it has been for the best for both parties. We would probably flag a client for this if they were:

a) Not profitable Even if a client is giving you nice monthly revenue, it can quickly become unprofitable for many reasons. If it isn’t profitable and you can’t find a resolution you need to act.

b) Abusive On the rare occasion you may get an abusive customer who is aggressive to your team. From our perspective, life is too short to be in this type of relationship.

6 Get your pricing right

Wining business is easy if you discount. Don’t compete on price or your new client will value you for only one thing. Price.

7 No matter how tempting – don’t continually give away freebies

On a few occasions we have given out new services for free as added value. In reality, as soon as we have given a service away for free the client hasn’t valued it and it has prevented that area from becoming important to the client. We do give away the odd introductory audit, but we do it less and less these days.

8 Don’t try to do it all yourself

This is the most obvious of all points, but if you don’t delegate, you won’t grow. A major part of our success can be attributed to our core senior management team. Without them running our day-to-day activity, we wouldn’t have time to develop the business.

9 Realise the importance of your customers and staff

Your business is nothing without either. Love them, hold them and cherish them.

10 Get a life

Enjoy your weekends. Have a few beers on a Friday night and then switch off. Although I sometimes find this hard, not focusing on the business at weekends enables me to come back fully refreshed on Monday.

Matthew Phelan of 4PsMarketing

A version of this post originally appeared on the 4Ps Marketing blog