Justwords Turns 10: Here Are 10 Lessons We Learnt
Justwords sprang to life in 2010. It’s sort of hard to believe that a decade has passed by since the first website went up. It felt good to launch the website, all yellow and bright (so wrong in terms of SEO today), carrying a pretty image of a piece of paper with punched holes as the background. It felt revolutionary to start a business that was going to be about content – about reimagining content for the digital world. The world felt right and things just seemed to fall together.
When entrepreneurs start a company, they do not think of the troubles and problems that lay ahead. They think of victories, and wins, and how they are about to change something in the world – irrespective of whether they can or will ever do.
It’s probably this courage, passion, and enthusiasm that led us to win our first big client – Nokia. They were looking for a young company that did good content and could help them execute an ambitious project. A friend had told a friend, who told another friend and that’s how the word got around that there was this startup in the market called Justwords – it did really good content.
And that’s how it all started. It was kind of being swept up by a big wave into the sea when you have just learnt to swim. But that’s the beauty of it all. You gasp for breath, you come up for air, you remember what you are supposed to do and then just know what you have to do. And that was it. We were a small team, all sitting in our homes, and burning the midnight oil. We finished the whole project by 2011. It was a success. We had hit the ball right out of the park and got one happy client. Word got around and projects started trickling in.
In 2012, we added a new product line, moved to a coworking space, added a tiny sales team. We focussed all our efforts in making that work. In doing so, we ignored what we were already doing well – content. In 2013, we almost failed and shut down. It was a dark phase but we survived. It taught us a lesson – focus on what you are good at. We returned to content and that saved us.
Soon we found ourselves fascinated with content marketing. We focussed more and more on the combination of content and SEO and how it could drive up page views and traffic and change a company’s online presence and pull up its bottom line. Our whole business was getting built on one marketing strategy – Content Marketing.
Over the years, we have kept growing. We were fortunate to work with some really good brands, who kept their faith in us and allowed us the opportunity to show some solid results. We feel incredibly indebted to all our patrons, especially the early ones who trusted us when we were not even a name. Without that trust, it would not have been possible for us to reach where we are today. So Thank You.
As we turn 10, we feel happy, excited, and humbled by all the love, support, and honour we received over the years.
We also feel fortunate since 90% of all startups fail, despite the hard work, passion, right product, and everything else. That has also given us the confidence to say that we are really good at what we do.
As a celebration of this decade-long journey, we thought of putting down a list of things we learnt in these 10 incredible years. So here you go.
1. Focus on the thing that you do best –
If you play to your strengths, you increase your chances of winning the game. Be committed to what you believe in and make that work. Work on improving the strength of your brand;test it again and again, and make it stronger with knowledge and the right resources. We knew how to make content work and that saved us.Content marketing drove in leads, clients, and revenue. Even to this day, almost all our conversions come from inbound marketing. We offer what we know really well. And that is why we have been able to make it work. We built on that strength and almost closed when we ignored it.
2. Work hard to ensure customer satisfaction-
It’s amazing what a happy client can do for your brand. If your customer is not happy, you are doing something wrong – well most of the times that is. Work hard on fixing that. If you have signed up a client, you need to work as a team and deliver on the results. A lot of business comes to Justwords through referrals from other clients. Also, we have a great track record of clients coming back to us for more and more. So work on your clients, and you wouldn’t have to worry about revenue.
3. Turn your failures into learnings-
No one likes a failure. But when you fail it’s important to get back on your feet and get ready to start again. If you risk, failure is just something that can happen. Yes it sucks, yes it can be devastating but you simply cannot take failure as the end. Failure, almost inevitably, teaches you something. It tells you that you are going wrong. So you need to tweak that and start again. When we almost failed in 2013, it taught us that we should change our business strategy. If we would have shut shop then, we would never have reached this point. Here is a nice quote that I found recently that drives this point home. It’s from the founder of a company called Stella and Dot.
She says “You have to see failure as the beginning and the middle, but never entertain it as an end”.
4. Believe in what you do –
There is no straight cut path to success. What we achieved today was a result of real hard work and a lot of sleepless nights. But we could go through all that because we believed in what we were doing. We believed that we could do better content and help clients get better results. And that kept us going. If you believe in what you do, if you love what you do, you won’t mind sticking up for it.
5. Be honest with your clients and they will appreciate it –
Telling your clients what you can and cannot do, or could not do is always better than telling half a thing, over promising, and covering up. If you have made a mistake, be honest about it and ensure that it does not happen again. This always helps.
6. Hire a team that is ready to work together and shares the same passion –
Over the years, we learnt that attitude and hard work is more important than talent in the long run. So when you hire a team, don’t only look at the degrees and talent. Look at the attitude of the people. Do they share the same passion for work as you do? Are they willing to serve the clients in the same manner as you do – with honesty, care, patience, and integrity. Most importantly – are they hungry to learn and adapt.
It is also important to look after your people. You look after them and they look after you. It’s a simple equation.
At the same time, you need to remember that this is not your family. You need every team member to bring their A-game to the board. So at times, you also need to take the hard decision of keeping out the mediocrity. Because finally when you have to succeed, you need a brilliant team.
At Justwords, we were lucky to find some amazing people who worked hard, shared the same passion and hunger. As we grew, we made sure we hired more people who shared the same values – people who were ready to learn and grow with us.
It’s the team that will execute the vision of a brand – so pick your people carefully. Needless to say, without our awesome team, we would not have been here today.
7. Don’t stop tweaking and improving. Don’t get used to being comfortable –
Constant improvement is the only recipe for success. You need to keep tweaking and improving the final product/service and make it better and better. The day you stop exploring and adapting, you are helping others get better than you.It’s like what Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox, says.
“If you start thinking you are good at something, that’s often the day you stop trying to be better and open the back door for someone to come after you.”
At Justwords, we are constantly trying to improve our craft through better tools, data, knowledge, resources, and ideas.
We have learnt over the years to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. And that is the only way to doing something better. We always aim higher, so that when we land we know we have achieved something good, if not excellent.
8. Don’t ignore the details –
It’s the smaller details that matters finally. It’s the details that make you different. What has helped us grow so far is the keen attention to ‘how things can be done better’. We like to look into the details, make things better, make things different. If you ignore the details, you become like everyone else.
9. You will need Luck –
Sometimes you can be doing everything right and still wonder why things are not going the right way. Sometimes, all that you need is some pure luck. Luck has been called different things – serendipity, chance, providence, coincidence. Whatever it might be, there will be a lot of times in business that luck will save your life.
We were lucky to get Nokia in the first place. We were a startup, practically no one knew us, and yet a friend went out of his way to post about Justwords on his ISB alum group. Two business offers came along after that. Nokia was one of them and we would not have survived without that initial kickstart.
Well, luck is random. But what we have understood is that luck comes to those who work hard. As Samuel Goldwyn puts it – “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Absolutely true.
10. When you are at your wits’ end, laugh it out.
There will be occasions when you will feel things are ganging up against you and there is no way out. During those times, make sure you take a deep breathe, clear your mind and laugh it out. Even though that might not solve the whole situation, it will help you relook at the whole situation from a different angle. Sometimes, our worry prevent us from looking at a situation in its full perspective. When we make light of the situation and laugh it out, we are able to think differently. It always helps.
So in the end, here is to Justwords. We are incredibly proud and honoured to be celebrating 10 years in business. We also want to take this opportunity to thank all our clients, business colleagues, service providers, families, and trusted advisers who have supported us all these years.Without that believe, we would not be here.
So this is what we feel at the end of a decade – grateful, honoured, confident , amazed, humble and thankful.
Let the journey keep going.