What I’ve Learned in 15 Years of Running my business

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in 2009 I started a digital marketing agency called All Inclusive Marketing (AIM). I was six months pregnant and totally broke, but I had a vision and purpose of what I wanted to do.

Driving growth and challenging status quo has always been part of my disposition. Mediocracy and the concept of “good enough” has always been my biggest pet peeve. I am a true believer that if you’re going to do something, do your absolute best and make it count.

Here we are 15 years later, celebrating what has become one of the most recognized and well respected affiliate and partner marketing agencies in the industry. We have become a Growth500 and Profit500 company in Canada, won Company of the Year out of 400,000 small businesses in British Columbia, and won the Global Excellence Award for setting the standard of excellence in affiliate and partner marketing worldwide back in 2018.

Today, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned along the way in the hopes that you can take from it some pieces of what worked (and maybe what didn’t), and how you might implement some of my learnings into your own business to help move it forward.

Key Learning 1: You Don’t have to have all the answers

In the beginning I thought I had to have all the answers. I thought I had to be the smartest person in the room. This came from the thought that I would only be respected if I had all the answers and could solve everything for everyone else. This idea was not at all correct.

Over time I learned to let my ego go, hire people smarter than me, and empower my team to find solutions to problems together so the company could thrive, not just survive.

Therefore, I learned:

  1. You don’t have to have all the answers.
  2. Hire people smarter or more skilled than you, then give them direction and let them run.
  3. Trust your people to do great work. When you hire well, the results will come.

Key Learning #2: Invest in tools, systems and Processes Early on

The challenge with hiring great people is that they are high performers. Why is that a challenge? Because if you don’t have systems in place, they will all do great things their own way. As you grow and scale this creates challenges in operations and efficiencies. When you hit a certain size, this can create confusion, disgruntled team members, miscommunication and errors in execution, resulting in client and team turnover and stunted growth.

What I learned over time was that despite having incredibly talented, intelligent and skilled people on my team, even the highest performing people could not operate as a high performance team without systems, tools and processes in place.

Therefore, I learned:

  1. Invest in tools, systems and processes early on.
  2. Document everything.
  3. Work with your team to find solutions together that create the best possible results for the greater whole, not just the individual player.

Key Learnings #3: Invest in training and education

As you scale and grow your company, and your team and systems are in place, you need to focus on building a strong culture of collaboration, transparency and humility to build a sustainable high performance team.

This means frequent check ins, collaborative strategic planning, constant communications and continued alignment planning. It also means having the right bums in seats and having an accountability system so team members know what’s expected of them, and they have the resources and tools they need to do their best work.

To do this, investing in new areas of the business above and beyond hiring the right talent and building systems and technology into your operations means leveraging data-driven insights to make informed decisions, creating continuous learning opportunities, and prioritizing employee well-being.

Therefore, I learned:

  1. Invest in training and education systems and create an open and encouraging environment where people can continue to learn and grow.
  2. Provide your team with tools, systems and opportunities where they can innovate and collaborate to push the company forward together.
  3. Implement a clear accountability framework that provides clarity of roles and expectations, so team members can feel a sense of ownership, responsibility and purpose.

Key Learnings #4: be ready to reinvent yourself constantly

As all of these things come into place, the world changes. Again and again you reinvent your business, products and services and strategic offering to stay ahead of the curve and compete in an ever changing market.

Companies who become satisfied with status quo, who become stuck in doing what they have always done, and who neglect to push their team forward fall behind.

At AIM, we know that if we stop pursuing excellence, whether in the form of our product or service offering to our clients, the problems we solve for the industry, the tools and technology we use to execute and scale results, or the learning and development we invest in as a team, not only will we fall behind, but we will eventually become stagnent and die out.

Therefore we continuously push boundaries, we stay agile to adjust to industry and customer trends, we push through glass ceilings and we constantly elevate each other and those around us. In doing so we have been able to become and remain a leader in our space.

Therefore, I learned:

  1. Embrace continuous reinvention by consistently innovating and adapting your business, products, and services in response to market changes to stay competitive.
  2. Avoid complacency, as companies that settle for the status quo and resist pushing their teams forward risk falling behind and becoming obsolete.
  3. Pursue excellence relentlessly by continuously pushing boundaries, staying agile, and investing in learning and development to maintain leadership and avoid stagnation.

Key Learning #5: Celebrate successes and take responsibility for failures.

When I look back at how far we’ve come in 15 years, from day one, sitting on a medicine ball in my dining room awaiting the arrival of my son and thinking, “How can I take immaculate care of people?”, I came to realize a few things.

I came to realize:

  1. I was meant to be here. Initially, I struggled with imposter syndrome, doubting my abilities as a founder and CEO. Over time, I realized that I’m stronger than I think and more capable than I ever imagined.
  2. Your team will make or break you. Hiring well is the secret to success. Bring in talent that aligns with your vision and core values. You can train skills, but you can’t train a person’s values or natural disposition. Attitude and value alignment are everything.
  3. Celebrate successes and take responsibility for failures. Success is a team effort, and celebrating wins together is what keeps morale and a sense of camaraderie strong for high performance teams. When things go wrong, take responsibility as the leader. This builds trust and strengthens the team so they can focus on doing their best work and push forward together.

Thank you and Final Thoughts

To My Team

To every AIMer past, present and future, you are the reason we are here today. It’s your heart, mind, grit, spirit, attitude, contribution and energy that continue to propel us forward. Thank you for all your love and effort and for choosing to spend your professional journey and livelihoods with us.

To Plus Company

To Plus Company who choose to invest in AIM in 2020 and acquire us entirely, thank you for your faith in us, for your continued support, advocacy and belief in us. Together, we will continue to provide exceptional value and innovation to our clients, teams, partners and the industry as a whole.

To Our Clients

We are profoundly grateful for the trust and confidence you have placed in us. Thank you for choosing AIM as your partner in growth and for entrusting us with your brands, campaigns, partnerships, and well-being. Your unwavering support fuels our passion and inspires us to strive for excellence every single day.

To Our Partners

To all our affiliate, influencer, creator, technology and industry partners, thank you for choosing to work with us. Thank you for giving us your time, energy, opportunities for our clients, and the continued collaborative relationships that we get to enjoy and pursue together. We look forward to many more years of growth, partnership and excellence with you.

To The Industry

We remain steadfast in our commitment to driving industry innovation and pushing boundaries to benefit everyone. Together, we will continue to elevate the industry and celebrate the incredible innovation and value that each of us can bring to the table.

Here’s to a future filled with endless possibilities and continued success together!